Welcome to the unofficial guide for Mammoth Mountain in the Eastern Sierra Mountains of CA. The resort has a great website at http://www.mammothmountain.com Be sure and visit it for detailed information on conditions, to view the web cams and to plan your next vacation to Mammoth.
Getting to Mammoth is about a 15 minute ride from the local airport (MMH). It is possible that during periods of heavy snow or winds, flights may be diverted elsewhere, so another airport to use is in Reno NV (RNO) . The drive south on Highway 395 from Reno is 2.5 - 3 hours depending on road conditions. In CA the highway patrol will require chains, awd or possibly both in extreme conditions, so plan accordingly.
Lodging is plentiful in the Mammoth Lakes area and there is Mammoth Mountain RV Park when you first come into town by the McDonalds. From there a short free shuttle ride can get you up to the mountain in about 10 minutes. The camp ground website is http://www.mammothrv.com
In that same area are four great businesses to rent / buy equipment from. On the corner of Main and Old Mammoth road is Footloose Sports, across the street behind the Shell gas station is the Ski Renter, just a few blocks south of Footloose is Command Performance and up Main Street is Kittredge Sports. Google all of them. I have patronized all four companies and would highly recommend any of them.
When staying in Mammoth, some people may prefer more of a mountain side location, myself I prefer in the center of town, so I can walk to the Vons for groceries and to the many restaurants in that area. A few of my favorites are The Stove for great home style meals, Tai'd Up for really good Thai food, Roberto's for Mexican food, the Chart house for a great but more pricey meal and if you have the energy to dance all night, your a short walk /stumble home from Rafters.
Mammoth has a great free bus service serving the 4 base lodge areas of the mountain. The easiest spot to ski out of for beginners or weaker intermediate skiers is Eagle Lodge. Eagle Lodge does open later in the season and is the first to close due to its lower elevation and slope orientation being more towards the sun. It is a great area to build up your technique and confidence.
Going up Eagle Express, if you get off to the left there are the green runs Holiday, Sleepy Hollow and Pumpkin. When I was first working on my Powder skiing, I would ski the lower blue runs of Water Tank, Manzanita and Juniper. It is also fun to ski under the chairlift when first getting your powder skilz going. Once you have a little more confidence, go up chair 25 and come down Back for More and Haven't the Foggiest. Both of those runs are longer and give you plenty of easier tree skiing opportunities down by Quicksilver and Gold Hill. If your an Advanced / Expert skier, be sure and go over to chair 9 (Cloud Nine Express) when there is powder on the mountain. Come off the lift and go left to come down the Ricochet area. There are lots of wide open smaller trees to ski through and for my skill set, that area is a blast. To ski the double black runs off the Dragons Back, go up the Main Gondola and when you exit, head over towards Dave's Run. Go pass Dave's to eventually drop into Dragons Back, Wazoo and Dragons Tail for some off of the top goodness that isn't as heavily traveled.
If you go Right off of Eagle Express, there are a number of blue runs that will take you down into Canyon Lodge. If your an Expert skier, go that way and get on chair 22. That will take you up the face of Lincoln Mountain where you can ski some of the best runs (IMO) at Mammoth.
Coming off chair 22 go around and back to the right to access the Avi Chutes and Viva. To the left you will get to the Sunshine Glades, Grizzly and Shaft. Some of these runs are steep and much more technical. If you don't feel it once at the top, just go straight off the lift and come down any of the blue runs. I am not sure why Spook is a black run as it is pretty easy. If you want to get an easy taste of the Avi Chutes without committing to the entrance from the top, at the top of Spook traverse in from skiers right. You will come in about half way down Avi 3 (the easiest) and you can traverse to Avi 2 (it takes skill to enter at the top of 1 & 2). Look up and see what you think. Skiing down from the mid point is within reach of a strong intermediate skier.
Below the Avi Chutes are a bunch of great runs for improving an intermediates technique without committing to the longer, steeper runs off the top. For bump skiing hit the lower front of Lincoln Mountain. These are all marked as black runs. Just take the traverse run Follow Me to drop into The Acts, Encore, etc. Need it a little easier? Stick with Downhill, Side Show, etc
Out of Canyon Lodge you can go up Chair 8 to get over to the runs at Eagle lodge. Put your beginners on the magic carpet or over on the School Yard Express. To get to the good stuff, take Canyon Express and head down to Chair 5. Off the top of Chair 5 going to the left is a great and long groomer called Solitude. Use Solitude to ski back down into the Canyon Lodge runs or cut over to skiers left into The Face of 5 area. Great powder skiing when it has snowed and some of the best firm chalky snow a few days after a storm I have ever skied on.
The snow at Mammoth gets really dried out from the wind (if you don't come to like the wind, you may not like Mammoth) and consequently Mammoth offers up some of the best firm off piste skiing I have ever encountered. The snow is hard and fast, but you can easily get an edge into the winter snow, as it is so chalky. Also, with the wind blowing around, all the depressions can get filled in by "Wind Buff" which is the lightest, driest powder around. Powder days are great at Mammoth, but with the 300 sunny dry days a year the mountain enjoys, high speed carving off piste and on is a blast at Mammoth.
Coming up the lift and off to the right of the High Five Express (Chair 5) is great off piste skiing. Sanctuary, Sliver and Triangle are all very fun areas that can challenge an Advance skier and are still do-able for the strong intermediates. Dry Creek can get some large moguls, so if that isn't your forte, maybe give that run a pass. From the top of 5 I like to ski down to the Mill Lodge area. No ski rentals at the Mill, like the other three areas, but it is the home of some of the best Tri Tip around and is a great spot to stop for a cold one at days end.
The Mill and Main Lodge
I normally park at the Mill. I should have already mentioned that Mammoth Mountain runs free buses all season long to the four Lodges. If you want to get over to Canyon Lodge or Chair 5, take chair 10 (Gold Rush Express) from the Mill.
Whether you are at the Mill (accessing Chair 2) or Main Lodge (accessing Chair 1), the choices of runs can be very similar. To get to Chair 3, the Upper Gondola or over to Chair 23 take either Chair 1 or 2 up to have access to the best parts of the mountain (IMO). I like to take a warm up run down the high speed groomers of the left side of Chair 2 (Stump Alley into Patrolman's). Back up the lift to Chair 3. Once to the top of chair 3 drop in on skiers left down the face of Center Bowl. This is typically groomed, but a little steeper at the top before easing off into Exhibition. Another favorite is the same run down Center Bowl, but before going skiers left on Exhibition, go right under China Bowl and make your way to Coyote. Coyote is a fun run that drops you off at Chair 5. Go to the top of 5 and race back down to the Mill for a good leg burner. Once your back up to the top of Chair 2 you have a bunch of options. Go right to access chair 23 to the top of the mountain or a bit past Chair 23 are some fun, typically groomed runs called Agees Run, Blue Ox, Andy's Double Gold and Fascination. Really fun runs to just let it rip, but some times the racers may be using one or two for training. If you go down those runs you do end up down at Main Lodge which is the furthest from town. If you park at Main Lodge, everything you need is there (lockers, restaurants, ski rental and tuning and of course the outdoor deck for Apres Skiing Libations). From Main Lodge there is a good learning area off Discovery Chair. Also, use Discovery Chair to access the Chair 12 area. On a powder day I will head there as quickly as possible, as the terrain off the top of chair 12 really suits my comfort level. Hike up to White Bark Bowl and ski down through all of the lower runs and the trees. That area is a lot of fun.
From Chair 12 you can ski into the back of the resort.
Once you have skied down from Chair 12 to chair 14 (Chair 13 brings you back to the front of the mountain), go up chair 14. From there you can either start down the traverse trail heading off to skiers right which will allow you to drop into a number of fairly low angle runs before getting a little steeper around Ariba, Rigley's Bowl and Santiago or you can take Road Runner and drop into the Outpost Glades which isn't to difficult, but will have moguls if not covered by powder.
If you don't mind a short hike, right off Chair 14, hike up skiers left and drop into Scotty's. Scotty's will often be groomed, but like Cornice has a steeper entrance. While I love blasting down Scotty's groomed surface back to chair 12, I often traverse out of Scotties to ski the upper mountain runs, as I am to chicken to start the Wipe Out Chutes or Monument from the top, but from Scotties, with a short traverse either direction, you can have a blast skiing the off piste back down to Main Lodge or back over to Chair 12.
If you don't mind a longer hike, from Chair 14 take Red Lake Run until you need to start hiking along the upper part of Santiago Bowl to the Hemlocks. I hope your a expert skier as the Hemlocks are steep and technical terrain.
The top, what makes Mammoth, well Mammoth
Are you a really good skier? Then your going to love skiing off the top at Mammoth Mountain. To access the top use either the Lower Gondi station at Main Lodge, the Mid Gondi Station at McCoy Station or Chair 23. Starting with Chair 23, you can come off to the left to hit the Dropout Chutes or the Cornice Bowl. The Cornice Bowl is usually groomed, is a steeper drop at the entrance and if it hasn't snowed for awhile, give it a few hours to soften up, as the entrance early on can be pretty icy feeling to this jong. If you go to the right of chair 23 you have access to the Wipeout Chutes, Scotty's Monument, Paranoid Flats, etc. What these runs all have in common are a steeper entrance that can be narrow and heavily moguled. Once your past the initial 100 to 200 feet, they all open up and are do-able by an Advance skier. As I said earlier, traversing in from Scotty's or Cornice Bowl is a great way to access many of these runs without dealing with the scary entrances and is a smart way to go on a powder day, for the off the top experience without hurting yourself.
If you come up the Gondola, then you can access Climax, Hangmans, MJB's and Cornice to one side and Huevos Grande, Dave's and the Dragonsback runs to the other. Climax is the only double black I have skied at Mammoth, from the top. It is easier to traverse into and then get going than the other double black runs. Dave's is well within the reach of a strong intermediate skier (although it is never groomed).
Previously I mentioned the "Wind Buff" at Mammoth. At times the wind howls from west to east, stripping the backside of the mountain and depositing the snow as wind buff off the top. It really can be quit an amazing sensation to ski a bunch of wind buff, days or a week after the last storm.
Where to eat? McCoy Station is the largest area for people to eat, followed by Main Lodge, Canyon Lodge, The Mill and Eagle Lodge. It all is pricey (lunch is normally about $16) so to take some of the sting out of the pricing, Season Pass holders can load Mammoth Bucks onto their pass. A Standard pass gets a 20% bonus for money deposited on it and the Mountain Collective option pass gets you a 25% bonus for the cash deposited on it.
There is a lot more info on Epic Ski about Mammoth Mountain. Check out this link also: http://www.epicski.com/products/mammoth and if you have questions, need a Buddy Pass (your my buddy right??) or anything else regarding Mammoth, drop me a pm.
A few photos. More will be added to in the future.
A deep powder day
Off Chair 12
Rainbow pic courtesy of Mindy Smith