Mammoth Mountain. It’s one of California’s best-known snow resorts. And it’s not as far away as you may think.
Every time I begin to plan a weekend trip away, I mostly search for destinations I can reach on a single tank of gas.
From Santa Monica, Mammoth Mountain is only a couple of clicks over 300 miles away with basically no traffic once you leave the 5 Freeway to follow the 14 to the 395, exiting at 203. Plan for about five hours behind the wheel, a little longer if you plan on taking breaks along the way.
When you arrive, it doesn’t take long to realize Mammoth Mountain is relaxed; it’s full of travelers from beginners to expert looking to embrace the most winter-like experience you can find in the state.
There are plenty of slopes to suit everyone’s ability. In fact, there are 150 named trails where the terrain is approximately 15 percent expert, 20 percent advanced, 40 percent intermediate, and 25 percent beginner.
As there is so much terrain (3500 + acres), you can occasionally stumble upon a trail that you have all to yourself.
At 11,053 feet, Mammoth boasts the highest summit of any California resort, making for deeper, higher quality snow, and stunning views.
With an average of 300 days of sunshine per year, it is possible to make the drive without having to invest in snow chains, but definitely check road conditions before making that decision.
Mammoth Mountain has everything you need to enjoy a break away from Los Angeles. It is home to four day lodges, 10 sport shops, 12 rental/repair shops, two on-hill snack bars, four food courts/cafeterias, a comprehensive ski and snowboard school, slope side hotel and condominiums, five restaurants, seven bars, and child care facilities.
The season, which started in early November, is expected to run through June with daily hours of 8:30am to 4pm. The long season is made possibly by the average snowfall of over 400 inches (33 feet) each winter.
There are 28 lifts spread across the mountain that have an uphill capacity of 59,000 rides per hour.
In the 2011/12 season, Mammoth Mountain implemented a Radio-frequency identification lift-pass system. Each pass has a microchip in it, so skiers/snowboarders simply make their way to one of the gates at the entrance to a lift and the gate will swing open automatically. The pass can remain zipped inside one of your pockets, which cuts out the hassle of the traditional manual scan system.
This new technology definitely cuts down long lines at the lifts so you can make the most of your day on the slopes.
When looking for accommodation, one central location is the Mammoth Mountain Inn across the street from the Main Lodge.
A landmark since 1959, the Inn is a stylish mountain lodge ideal for family vacations, ski club getaways, and anyone else forever in search of the cool mountain rush.
Inside the rooms you will find craftsman style décor with your choice of sleeping arrangement: one queen bed or two double beds in the standard rooms.
There are also one- and two-bedroom condo and loft options available as well.
All rooms are smoke-free, there is underground parking, a heated outdoor swimming pool and jacuzzi, and a free shuttle bus to the main village area that’s about four miles away.
A regular one-day lift pass is $99; accommodation packages are also available.