For more than half a century, Angelinos have flocked to the secluded corner of California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. It’s easy to understand why. Regardless of the 8,000-foot altitude, mammoth mountain homes for sale sprawl of splashy condos and strip malls features a distinct Los Angeles feel. Nevertheless the surrounding frozen lakes and granite peaks, immortalized from the photographer Ansel Adams, are decidedly un-La, and may hold their own with any landscape in Colorado or Canada. With expanded daily flights from your San Francisco Bay area and L . A ., not to mention a flurry of the latest après-ski offerings, Mammoth is looking to draw skiers from beyond the Golden State.
1) SIBERIAN SPA
Imagine an enormous white expanse of the items looks like frozen Siberian tundra, dotted with natural hot springs and encompassed by soaring peaks. Hilltop Hot Spring is favored by locals, nevertheless, you can join in, too. There are actually no formal signs or footpaths – just keep to the S.U.V.’s beyond the airport a few minutes east of Mammoth Lakes and enjoy a steaming soak, free of charge. To get more privacy, cross the direction to Wild Willy’s, an even more secluded spring, which requires a 20-minute trek and a pair of snowshoes.
2) With The FIREPLACE
On the reverse 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 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). Prior to being seated, have 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 in 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. More than four decades, the Stove has served hearty meals just 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, get a homemade pie ($13.95) – apple, apricot, cherry. Arrive there early as the place fills up fast.
4) BLACK TIE SKIING
Experts from Black Tie Ski Rentals (760-934-7009; blacktieskis.com) will come for your condo and fit you for skis or snowboards. Heck, in the event the boots don’t feel snug by midday, Colin Fernie with his fantastic team will meet you on the slopes and exchange your gear, or switch your snowboard for a couple of skis. Pretty good for under $40 (a minimum of 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 three lodges: Eagle, Canyon and Main. Skiers searching for soft powder and fresh-groomed runs start on Eagle and follow the sun over to Main or the backside in the mountain (to prevent lift lines, turn back the order). Or use the gondola from Main to the summit, 11,053 feet above sea level, where you can find a soothing spot for hot chocolate. Marvel with 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, that offers scattered glades as well as gorgeous views in the Minarets, a majestic combination 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 like a food cart, serving up burritos ($5.50) – you can also track the snowcat’s whereabouts on Twitter – there are actually pulled-pork nachos ($11.42) on the Mill Cafe (760-934-0675), a festive après-ski spot at 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 away from 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 into a spot during the village this past year.
7) ART PARK
Take Chair 10 up to ski down a number of wide-open runs like Easy Rider or Solitude that stay powdery through the day. Or try Quicksilver, a properly-groomed trail with gently sloped glades and variable terrain. Snowboarders should go to the new terrain Art Park, which made its debut in December and showcases funky artworks affixed to the rails and steel structures. Mammoth also recently opened the Stomping Grounds, a terrain park filled with jumps, jibs along with an Acrobag – which resembles a giant blue moon bounce – to train flips. Nonsnowboarders should consider the newly carved Village Ski Back Trail, a scenic path that meanders past pine trees and the backyards of condos, linking the mountain with all the village.
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8) GROWLERS AND PASTRIES
Thankfully, après-ski at Mammoth does not involve bad cover bands. If anything, it revolves around its eponymous microbrew. Insiders make their way to a warehouse converted a few years directly into 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 filling up their growlers with IPA 395 ($13), the local favorite, or grabbing kegs and cases to travel. 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 shop 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 takes up up to 50 % in 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 out of place in downtown Manhattan, save, perhaps, for that tacky TV Yule log fireplace. Yet at 9,600 feet, it is actually 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 seems like a spaceship while you gaze up at the mammothllakes through its glass roof. Then feast on dishes which range from a rack newest Zealand lamb to grilled chicken with risotto (meals 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 as much as its Sunset Boulevard forefather. You will find bottle-service-only booths (from $200), lasers everywhere and Mammoth’s version of the 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 people watching.
11) OLYMPIC WORKOUT
Recently, Mammoth Lakes has become a year-round hub for Olympic and pro athletes drawn to the top altitudes and easygoing ethos. A great byproduct will be the state-of-the-art facilities in 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 and a yoga studio. You could possibly even bump in the The Big Apple Marathon winner Meb Keflezighi training 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) around. His color photos (prints start at $149) of nearby canyons, lakes and mountain vistas are ubiquitous out and about, as it is the person himself. Vern’s scruffy yellow jacket and unruly hair are already a familiar presence at Mammoth ever since the early ’70s. He is a contemporary-day version of Ansel Adams, who a lot more than anyone put this corner of California in the map.