In excess of half a century, Angelinos have flocked to this secluded corner of California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. It’s easy to understand why. Inspite of the 8,000-foot altitude, mammoth real estate sprawl of splashy condos and strip malls has a distinct Los Angeles feel. However the surrounding frozen lakes and granite peaks, immortalized through the photographer Ansel Adams, are decidedly un-L . A ., and might hold their own personal with any landscape in Colorado or Canada. Along with expanded daily flights through the San Francisco Bay area and La, not to mention a flurry of the latest après-ski offerings, Mammoth is seeking to draw skiers from past the Golden State.
1) SIBERIAN SPA
Imagine a huge white expanse of what looks like frozen Siberian tundra, dotted with natural hot springs and encompassed by soaring peaks. Hilltop Hot Spring is popular with locals, however, you can join in, too. There are no formal signs or footpaths – just follow the S.U.V.’s past the airport 5 minutes east of Mammoth Lakes and savor a steaming soak, free of charge. For further privacy, cross the road to Wild Willy’s, an even more secluded spring, which requires a 20-minute trek and a pair of snowshoes.
2) From The FIREPLACE
On the opposite side of town is Tamarack Lodge and Resort (163 Twin Lakes Road, off Lake Mary Road; 760-934-2442; tamaracklodge.com). The rustic log cabin, featuring its bark-wood ceiling fixtures and 1920s-era fireplace, also happens with an impressive wine collection and also the area’s best chef: Frederic Pierrel (cheffrederic.com). The intimate Lakefront R Restaurant serves up a mixture platter of elk medallions, grilled quail and pork marinated in wine on a bed of spicy mashed potatoes ($30). Before being seated, possess a mulled wine ($5) or hot cider ($4) by the fire.
3) PANCAKES AND BISCUITS
Before showing up in the slopes, fill up on pancakes and black-and-white memorabilia with the Stove (644 Old Mammoth Road; 760-934-2821), a cozy spot with long wooden booths and old pictures of cattle ranchers on its walls. For more than 40 years, the Stove has served hearty meals like the Sierra Sunrise (a heap of fried potatoes, peppers, onions and ham topped with eggs and cheese for $9.95). On the way out, get a homemade pie ($13.95) – apple, apricot, cherry. Arrive there early since the place fills up fast.
4) BLACK TIE SKIING
Experts from Black Tie Ski Rentals (760-934-7009; blacktieskis.com) can come in your condo and fit you for skis or snowboards. Heck, in case the boots don’t feel snug by midday, Colin Fernie with his fantastic team will meet yourself on the slopes and exchange your gear, or switch your snowboard for a pair of skis. Pretty good for less than $40 (at least for beginner skiers).
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5) FRESH TRACKS
With more than 3,500 acres of trails, Mammoth has more variable terrain than most mountains (mammothmountain.com). There are actually three lodges: Eagle, Canyon and Main. Skiers trying to find soft powder and fresh-groomed runs start on Eagle and keep to the sun over to Main or perhaps the backside of the mountain (in order to avoid lift lines, turn back the order). Or use the gondola from Main on the summit, 11,053 feet above sea level, to find a relaxing location for hot cocoa. Marvel on the daredevils who ski off Hangman’s Hollow. Or brave the steep and icy chutes of Dave’s Run or Scotty’s. A safer alternative is Santiago, off the summit’s less crowded backside, which provides scattered glades as well as gorgeous views of the Minarets, a majestic group of jagged granite peaks.
6) SOUTH In The BORDER
Lunch on Mammoth typically involves Mexican fare. If you can’t discover the new Roving Mammoth, a bright orange snowcat that doubles as a food cart, serving up burritos ($5.50) – you can even track the snowcat’s whereabouts on Twitter – there are pulled-pork nachos ($11.42) with the Mill Cafe (760-934-0675), a festive après-ski spot in the base of Chair 2 (in true California fashion, its entrance is scattered with beach chairs). Or, for overflowing plates of nachos and fish tacos, go to the Yodler (10001 Minaret Road; 760-934-2571), a Swiss-style chalet off of the Main Lodge. Gomez’s (100 Canyon Boulevard; 760-924-2693; gomezs.com), a Mexican place with over 200 tequilas and fittingly mammoth margaritas, relocated to your spot in the midst of the village last year.
7) ART PARK
Take Chair 10 approximately ski down a few wide-open runs like Easy Rider or Solitude that stay powdery throughout the day. Or try Quicksilver, a properly-groomed trail with gently sloped glades and variable terrain. Snowboarders should visit the new terrain Art Park, which made its debut in December and showcases funky artworks affixed to its rails and steel structures. Mammoth also recently opened the Stomping Grounds, a terrain park loaded with jumps, jibs plus an Acrobag – which resembles a giant blue moon bounce – to apply flips. Nonsnowboarders should use the newly carved Village Ski Back Trail, a scenic path that meanders past pine trees along with the backyards of condos, linking the mountain together with the village.
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8) GROWLERS AND PASTRIES
Thankfully, après-ski at Mammoth is not going to involve bad cover bands. If anything, it involves its eponymous microbrew. Insiders make their method to a warehouse converted quite a while back in a beer-tasting room for the Mammoth Brewing Company (94 Berner Street; 760-934-7141; mammothbrewingco.com). Still in ski gear, they down free samples before completing their growlers with IPA 395 ($13), a local favorite, or grabbing kegs and cases to visit. Another favorite spot among Mammoth’s growing international crowd is Shea Schat’s Bakery (3305 Main Street; 760-934-6055), which feels, and smells, just like the inside of a gingerbread house. The store serves up steaming hot chocolate and stocks rows of pastries – cinnamon nut bread, ginger cakes and bread pudding.
9) MIDMOUNTAIN DINING
This winter Mammoth remodeled its swanky restaurant Parallax (800-626-6684; mammothmountain.com), that can take up nearly half from the cafeteria at McCoy Station, a midmountain gondola station up from your Main Lodge. Its modern décor and Asian-themed trimmings, including white bark walls, would not look unnatural in downtown Manhattan, save, perhaps, for the tacky TV Yule log fireplace. Yet at 9,600 feet, it really is reachable by only snowcat, which picks people up on the Mammoth Mountain Inn (10001 Minaret Road; 760-934-2581; mammothmountain.com). Hop aboard a heated snowcat that feels as though a spaceship as you may gaze up on the mammothllakes through its glass roof. Then feast on dishes including a rack of the latest Zealand lamb to grilled chicken with risotto (foods are prix fixe at $89, including snowcat ride). For optimal views, get there as night falls.
10) ROCKIES MEETS HOLLYWOOD
Never mind the gondola D.J. booth and vintage lanterns above the bar. Hyde Lounge (6201 Minaret Road; 760-934-0669; sbe.com/hydemammoth) lives around its Sunset Boulevard forefather. There are actually bottle-service-only booths (from $200), lasers everywhere and Mammoth’s version of the strict door policy (“No snowboard gear”). The competition sipping pricey cocktails is a mix of slovenly clad snowboarders and dressed-to-impress partygoers, all crammed within its fire-engine red walls. Warm up having a burning mango ($12), a jalapeño and vodka concoction, and settle in for a night of men and women watching.
11) OLYMPIC WORKOUT
In recent times, Mammoth Lakes has changed into a year-round hub for Olympic and pro athletes fascinated by the top altitudes and easygoing ethos. A nice byproduct is definitely the state-of-the-art facilities at the Snowcreek Athletic Club, which resembles a huge barn just outside town. The club recently opened the Double Eagle Spa (51 Club Drive; 760-934-8511; snowcreekathleticclub.com), with earthy massage rooms, Vichy showers plus a yoga studio. You could possibly even bump to the New York Marathon winner Meb Keflezighi exercising within the weight room.
12) MOUNTAIN MAN
To appreciate the Sierra Nevada range’s jaw-dropping beauty, drop by Vern Clevenger’s gallery (220 Sierra Manor Road; 760-934-5100; vernclevenger.com) in town. His color photos (prints start at $149) of nearby canyons, lakes and mountain vistas are ubiquitous out and about, as is the person himself. Vern’s scruffy yellow jacket and unruly hair have already been a familiar presence at Mammoth since the early ’70s. He or she is a contemporary-day version of Ansel Adams, who more than anyone put this corner of California around the map.