For more than half a hundred years, Angelinos have flocked to the secluded corner of California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. It’s easy to see why. Inspite of the 8,000-foot altitude, houses for sale in mammoth sprawl of splashy condos and strip malls includes a distinct La feel. But the surrounding frozen lakes and granite peaks, immortalized by the photographer Ansel Adams, are decidedly un-La, and might hold their very own with any landscape in Colorado or Canada. And with expanded daily flights from the San Francisco Bay area and Los Angeles, not to mention a flurry of the latest après-ski offerings, Mammoth is seeking to draw skiers from beyond the Golden State.
1) SIBERIAN SPA
Imagine an extensive white expanse of the appears like frozen Siberian tundra, dotted with natural hot springs and in the middle of soaring peaks. Hilltop Hot Spring is loved by locals, however you can take part in, too. You can find no formal signs or footpaths – just stick to the S.U.V.’s beyond the airport five minutes east of Mammoth Lakes and savor a steaming soak, totally free. To get more privacy, cross the direction to Wild Willy’s, a much more secluded spring, which needs 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, with its bark-wood ceiling fixtures and 1920s-era fireplace, also happens to have an impressive wine collection and also the area’s best chef: Frederic Pierrel (cheffrederic.com). The intimate Lakefront R Restaurant serves up a combination platter of elk medallions, grilled quail and pork marinated in wine on a bed of spicy mashed potatoes ($30). Prior to being seated, have got a mulled wine ($5) or hot cider ($4) from the fire.
3) PANCAKES AND BISCUITS
Before hitting the slopes, fill on pancakes and black-and-white memorabilia on 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 over 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 road out, pick up a homemade pie ($13.95) – apple, apricot, cherry. Arrive early since the place fills up fast.
4) BLACK TIE SKIING
Experts from Black Tie Ski Rentals (760-934-7009; blacktieskis.com) can come to your condo and fit you for skis or snowboards. Heck, when the boots don’t feel snug by midday, Colin Fernie along with his team will meet yourself on the slopes and exchange your gear, or switch your snowboard for some skis. Pretty good for less than $40 (a minimum of for beginner skiers).
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5) FRESH TRACKS
With 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 in search of soft powder and fresh-groomed runs start on Eagle and follow the sun up to Main or the backside from the mountain (to protect yourself from lift lines, turn back the order). Or use the gondola from Main to the summit, 11,053 feet above sea level, to find a relaxing spot for hot chocolate. Marvel at 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, from the summit’s less crowded backside, that provides scattered glades in addition to gorgeous views of the Minarets, a majestic series of jagged granite peaks.
6) SOUTH OF THE BORDER
Lunch on Mammoth typically involves Mexican fare. When you can’t get the new Roving Mammoth, a bright orange snowcat that doubles like a food cart, serving up burritos ($5.50) – you may also track the snowcat’s whereabouts on Twitter – you can find pulled-pork nachos ($11.42) in the Mill Cafe (760-934-0675), a festive après-ski spot with 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, head 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 200 tequilas and fittingly mammoth margaritas, relocated to some spot in the midst of the village just last year.
7) ART PARK
Take Chair 10 up to ski down several wide-open runs like Easy Rider or Solitude that stay powdery throughout the day. Or try Quicksilver, a well-groomed trail with gently sloped glades and variable terrain. Snowboarders should head to 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 packed with jumps, jibs plus an Acrobag – which resembles a giant blue moon bounce – to practice flips. Nonsnowboarders should consider the newly carved Village Ski Back Trail, a scenic path that meanders past pine trees as well as the backyards of condos, linking the mountain together with the village.
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8) GROWLERS AND PASTRIES
Thankfully, après-ski at Mammoth will not involve bad cover bands. If anything, it revolves around its eponymous microbrew. Insiders make their approach to a warehouse converted quite a while back in a beer-tasting room to 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 look. Another favorite spot among Mammoth’s growing international crowd is Shea Schat’s Bakery (3305 Main Street; 760-934-6055), which feels, and smells, much like the inside of a gingerbread house. The shop serves up steaming hot cocoa 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 takes up almost half of the cafeteria at McCoy Station, a midmountain gondola station up through the Main Lodge. Its modern décor and Asian-themed trimmings, including white bark walls, would not look out of place in downtown Manhattan, save, perhaps, to the tacky TV Yule log fireplace. Yet at 9,600 feet, it really is reachable by only snowcat, which picks people up in the Mammoth Mountain Inn (10001 Minaret Road; 760-934-2581; mammothmountain.com). Hop aboard a heated snowcat that is like a spaceship as you gaze up in 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, arrive as night falls.
10) ROCKIES MEETS HOLLYWOOD
Never mind the gondola D.J. booth and vintage lanterns higher than the bar. Hyde Lounge (6201 Minaret Road; 760-934-0669; sbe.com/hydemammoth) lives around its Sunset Boulevard forefather. There are bottle-service-only booths (from $200), lasers everywhere and Mammoth’s version of a strict door policy (“No snowboard gear”). The audience sipping pricey cocktails is a mixture of slovenly clad snowboarders and dressed-to-impress partygoers, all crammed within its fire-engine red walls. Warm up using a burning mango ($12), a jalapeño and vodka concoction, and settle set for an evening of men and women watching.
11) OLYMPIC WORKOUT
Recently, Mammoth Lakes has developed into a year-round hub for Olympic and pro athletes fascinated by the top altitudes and easygoing ethos. A nice byproduct is the state-of-the-art facilities with the Snowcreek Athletic Club, which resembles a giant 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 in the New York City Marathon winner Meb Keflezighi working out 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 also the person himself. Vern’s scruffy yellow jacket and unruly hair have been a familiar presence at Mammoth because the early ’70s. He or she is an advanced-day version of Ansel Adams, who greater than anyone put this corner of California in the map.