Resort Guide: Mammoth, United States

Mammoth Mountain, located on the side of an ancient volcano caldera in the Eastern Sierras of California, has long been legendary amongst snowboarders. The resort is well known for its great snow records, fast modern lift systems and its habit of producing the greatest terrain parks in the world. Investment into a new village has brought centralised modern hotels, bars, shops and the village gondola that whisks you up to Canyon Lodge ski area. With the recent update to the Mammoth airport and the introduction of cheap flight packages, a resort that was five hours’ drive north from LA has become that bit more accessible to international tourism.

After a rocky year - the local council filed for bankruptcy in July 2012 - mammoth seems to have weathered the storm, and its sister resort of June Mountain will be re-opening after a season off. It's a safe bet that the Mammoth freestyle set-up will continue to lead the world, and with its numerous open bowls, cliffs and couloirs, a visit to this original Californian shred mecca remains a must for the bucket list. 

Did you know?

The local Hot Creek hydrothermal vent is so hot, you could boil your Thanksgiving turkey in it – that is if you like your meat a little sulphury and stinking of rotten eggs.

 

The Parks
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The nine Parks boast around 200 combined features, which should ensure that there is plenty for all abilities. The Canyon Lodge Family Park has small boxes and a mini pipe with 10ft walls that provides a safe area for beginners away from the busy Unbound Park. South Park provides a long trail with boxes, kickers, wall rides, jibs and pole jams for intermediate to advanced riders. Accessed by the high-speed chair 4, this tree-lined area is usually less icy than the main park due to its sheltered aspect. Alongside South Park is the tree-lined Jib Park trail, a haven for rail riders and park addicts when the visibility is bad.

The Unbound Park above Main Lodge has the largest kickers, accessed by a chairlift that runs above it, providing great views of the action below. In the top half of the park, street rails drop into kickers with tables up to 30 meters long, as well as wall rides and step-ups. Rider’s left is a superpipe, in the centre, a line to the bottom kickers and to the right the super-duper pipe with 22ft walls. To the side of the main park is another mini park with a line of three or four kickers and a hip, more rails and some boxes. in short it's a freestyle feast.

The Powder
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With a snow base that regularly tops 5 metres, Mammoth has its fair share of the fluffy white stuff. But be warned, you must be on the mountain early for firsts lifts, and it’s a good idea to ask ski patrol about which lifts are opening first to stay one step ahead of the crowds. In bad weather, the tree lines off chairs 4 and 12 are great. Once the top opens, either head back down the couloirs of the face for quick laps on the gondola, or head off into the back bowls and enjoy the Wrigley drop on the way to chairs 13 and 14. Once the crowds arrive, it’s worth the 10 minute hike up hemlocks to get some fresh tracks. Off to skier’s right at the top of the gondola is the access to chair 9 and Dragons.

The way back is a long traverse for snowboarders but worth it for those wind-protected tree lines. With a local guide check out 'Hole in the Wall' and the 'Sherwins' to get fresh lines a few days after the storm. Or you can rent sleds and discover the backcountry up to Devil’s Post Pile.

The Pistes
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Some of Mammoth’s 150 trails can stay open until July, snow permitting, and they provide carvers with a groomed paradise during the week. Try the Saddle Bowl trail for a long, tame blue run.

There are few really steep areas but intermediates will love the varied terrain. Sesame Street off chair 11 at the main lodge is perfect for beginners as it’s away from other pistes. And when you have your confidence up there are even small bumps and boxes to try. The local snowboard school has a good reputation, with packages starting at a reasonable $87 – so well worth the money.

The Parties
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Nightlife in Mammoth is not exceptional, but there are some good local bars offering themed nights during the week. Grumpy’s is a downtown American sports bar where you can play pool and spill your popcorn all over the floor whilst watching the game. Try Petra’s across the village for a great little wine bar, or head downstairs to the Clocktower to find the ski-bums. Whiskey Creek often does nights with live music or comedy, and the Mammoth Brewing Company has a fantastic tasting room in the village. 

Or if you are looking for a little more action, The Underground Lounge will provide entertainment well into the wee hours.

Lakanuki’s has a vibrant atmosphere, but it’s worth checking out the rockin’ karoke night in the week before the LA crowds arrive for the weekend invasion.