Snowboarding Heaven

Mammoth Mountain is one of the more down-to-earthy ski areas. It’s also one of the best ski resorts in North America.

When planning your ski trip for the year, you might not see the middle of California as a destination. When most think of California, they think of beaches, palm trees, and oceanside bars with year-round t-shirt weather. However, if you head inland, just a 5 hour drive East from San Francisco, you’ll meet Mammoth Mountain in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, which gets 400+ inches of snowfall a year.

Years ago, in 1953, Mammoth Mountain founder David McCoy was awarded a permit by the United States Forest Service to operate Mammoth as a ski area. McCoy found the area in the 1930s as a member of the Eastern Sierra Ski Club, when he noticed that the area consistently received and kept more snow than other mountains in the area.

What was once a humble portable rope tow placed in the mountains has evolved into Mammoth today: a 3500 skiable acre resort serviced by a system of 28 lifts, featuring more terrain parks than you can ski in a single day, a laid back culture, impressive après, and terrain variability to suit every kind of rider.

Let’s dive in on Mammoth Mountain and see why you should head for California this ski season!

4.5

Things we like:

  • check-mark
    Mammoth really caters to every type of rider. Beginners seem to get stuck with the scraps more often than not, but not at Mammoth. Beginners and intermediates get over 60% of the mountain to themselves.
  • check-mark
    Mammoth Mountain is huge! There’s no shortage of new terrain to explore.
  • check-mark
    The snow is better than most California resorts because of the high elevation. It’s more comparable to light Colorado powder than the “California concrete” you may have heard about.
  • check-mark
    There are more terrain parks than you can count. Everyone from beginners to professionals will have plenty of opportunities to develop their freestyle riding!
  • check-mark
    The season is one of the longest in the country, from November to June!

Things we don't like:

  • check-markIt can be obscenely expensive to get day passes for the whole family.
  • check-markThough this is only a con depending on how you look at it, Mammoth is on the Ikon Pass. While this equates to lift ticket savings, mega-passes like Ikon tend to bring in crowds on peak season dates.
  • check-markIt’s a bit out of the way. There are no major cities near Mammoth Mountain. The closest major city is San Francisco at 5 hours. Reno is a bit closer at only 3 hours away.

Where to Book:

mammoth-mountain-cable

Mammoth Mountain Ski Area 2023 Guide

Resort Profile

  • Chairlifts: 25 lifts incl. 3 gondolas, 2 high-speed six packs, 9 high-speed quads, 1 fixed-grip quad, 6 triple chairs, and 4 double chairs.
  • Avg. Snowfall: 400+ inches
  • Season: mid-Nov to mid-June (projected)
  • Runs: 150
  • Beginner: 15%
  • Intermediate: 48%
  • Advanced/Expert: 37%
  • Vertical: 7,953 – 11,053 feet
  • Kids Ski School: from 3-14 years old.
  • Accommodations: Multiple hotels and rentals located in the village and on the mountain.
  • Daycare: Yes
See the complete list of the best Ski Resorts here!

Resort

Though Mammoth Mountain, like many ski areas, got its name from the Mammoth Mining Company during the mining booms of the late 1800s, it’s easy to believe that the name came from the sheer size of the ski area. The acreage isn’t the only mammoth part of Mammoth Mountain, the snow totals are too!

The Sierra Nevada range in which Mammoth Mountain is located is subject to the maritime climate snowpack. Without getting too in the weeds on snow science, this just means that Mammoth Mountain is DEEP. Coastal snowpacks are often the deepest in America and the most stable regarding avalanche conditions. Mammoth is well known for this, as it’s California’s highest elevation lift-served ski area, meaning better, deeper snow, and of course incredible views of the Sierra Nevadas.

Spanning from 7,953 feet at the base to a peak elevation of 11,053 feet, Mammoth offers a 3,100 foot vertical drop coated in over 30 feet of snow. With over 300 days of sun hitting Mammoth annually, and an average season of over 250 days, it’s hard to beat what Mammoth Mountain is offering. This is made even more true by the great value of visiting Mammoth Mountain on the Ikon Pass.

Mammoth Mountain offers 150 marked runs ranging from easy greens to gripping double blacks. Of these 150 runs, 15% are beginner, 48% are intermediate, and 37% are for advanced/expert riders.

Mammoth Mountain is great for beginners and experts alike. Beginners will find approachable terrain around the Main Lodge and Canyon Lodge areas. This lower mountain area holds the majority of the beginner terrain.

As you move up the mountain, away from the base area, intermediate riders will find terrain to enjoy and challenge themselves off the Gold Rush or Cloud 9 lifts. Here you’ll be exposed to enough intermediate and advanced intermediate terrain to be able to find a new way down the mountain for days.

mammoth-mountain-resort

Experts will know immediately where the mountain is calling them: above the treeline. Hopping on the Panorama Gondola, expert riders can find themselves standing on the summit of Mammoth with a wide range of options for several thousand feet of fall-line bowl skiing. Seek out expert challenges by skiing the alpine bowls off Chair 9, or the even more challenging double-black avalanche chutes off Chair 22.

Mammoth’s incredible terrain choices are served by a system of 25 lifts, which includes 3 gondolas and 11 high-speed chairs. This lift system helps beat the crowds by moving over 50,000 skiers per hour, meaning you can quite easily find your way out of the pile-up at the base area.

If skiing off-piste and away from the masses is more your speed, rest easy knowing that you will have backcountry options at Mammoth. There are backcountry tours available that will point you in the right direction, as well as a plethora of information online. Take heed though, skiing outside the resort means that there is no ski patrol. The great stability of the maritime snowpack holds no promise of safety, and avalanches in this terrain can be catastrophic. If you don’t know, don’t go.

Only ski in the backcountry if you have the gear and experience to do so safely. If you’re itching for a big mountain adventure and don’t have avalanche training, consider going with one of the many licensed guide companies in the area!

Terrain park riders rejoice in Mammoth! Mammoth’s Unbound Terrain Parks are some of the best in California. Mammoth offers so many industry leading park options that it wouldn’t do them justice to try and describe them all here. They have everything from confidence building “playgrounds” like Disco and Wonderland, all the way to a professional level park with massive jumps and a super-pipe.

No matter if you’ve never ridden a box or gone off a jump before, or if you’re prepping for your X-Games debut, you’ll be able to find a park to suit your riding ability and challenge you at Mammoth.

Mammoth Mountain Cable Cars

Getting There

Mammoth Mountain is located smack dab in the middle of California, more inland than coastal, bordering Nevada. About 260 miles, or a 5 hour drive, from San Francisco; or 160 miles, a 3 hour drive, from Reno, so access isn’t too bad.

It’s no secret that Mammoth is a little out of the way. There is only highway access on the US-395 so depending on where you’re coming from if road tripping, you may find that the drive takes quite some time for the distance you’re traveling.

If you’re flying into California to visit Mammoth, don’t worry too much about the access, as you’re able to get semi-private chartered flights into the Mammoth Yosemite Airport, which is just 15 minutes outside the town of Mammoth Lakes. Slightly easier than this, visitors can fly into Bishop Airport which will put them 45 minutes away from Mammoth skiing.

Once you make it to Mammoth Lakes, access to the mountain is made simple by a system of free public transit shuttles. These shuttles will take you to and from the 3 base lodges and the Mammoth Village.

Mammoth Mountain Getting There

Accommodations

Lodging in Mammoth is a bit less consolidated than in many other ski towns. There are a couple of distinct areas you can stay in, but it’s worth noting that you can’t really go wrong with any of them.

As expected there is a full complement of standard lodging options. You’ll find hotels, condos, and rental properties. These options also appeal to the various ranges of budgets. Mammoth Village offers both ski-in and ski-out slopeside lodging, and options in the village. Ski-in Ski-out options like the Mammoth Mountain Inn or Juniper Springs Resort provide incredibly convenient stays. Access to the base area by walking out the door, onsite childcare, and simplicity of planning make these accommodations favorites amongst groups and families.

Also popular are the Mammoth Village options like the Village Lodge and the Westin Monache. These options are connected to the base area by a short walk to the Village Gondola which will put you right at the Canyon Lodge. Lodging options like studios and 3 bedroom condos make the Mammoth Village a great place to stay with visiting groups.

The above options are of course going to have their price reflected by their access. These options are likely to be very expensive during ski season. Fear not though, budget visitors are able to find lodging in Mammoth Lakes. While there are upscale options in Mammoth Lakes, there are also inexpensive hotels and motels from reputable chains.

Mammoth Mountain Accommodations

Facilities

The accommodations at Mammoth provide for all your needs and more. Expect to be met with amenities like heated pools, hot tubs, gyms, and laundry services. As you might expect, with more expensive accommodations, you’ll have access to more amenities. Some of the nicest lodging options at Mammoth can include free shuttles, boot drying services, bars, and restaurants onsite.

With the nature of the terrain at Mammoth, you might find yourself feeling a little sore after a day of skiing. There are multiple options for spas in town that provide a full range of services.

Check out the Elysium Day Spa for a great experience that’s sure to help you relax during your trip to Mammoth!

Mammoth Mountain Spa

Families and Kids

Mammoth Mountain is generally regarded as a great family mountain. The diversity of terrain makes finding fun or challenging riding for every member of the family easy. In addition to this, Mammoth is an extremely easy place to get around, car free! No need to worry about transporting the whole family around. Visitors find that the easy accessibility of things in Mammoth with its free transport system allows for a far less stressful experience. Not to mention the Village Gondola going straight to the base area removes the hassle of parking and organizing the whole family.

For those visiting with children who don’t ski, Mammoth has a state-licensed child care facility in Mammoth Village for children ages 2-6. For children ages 3-4 you can bundle a lesson and child care package that provides a ski lesson, lunch, rest time, and a fun, non stressful environment for your child to learn to ski!

Mammoth Mountain Families

For Beginners

If you’re new to skiing or snowboarding, check out the Mammoth ski school! The Mammoth ski school is staffed with professional instructors who can take on any age and any level of rider.

Children ages 3-14 are eligible to take small group lessons based on skill and age. Adults (age 13+) are also able to take lessons such as the Discovery Lesson which focuses on building confidence once you are able to ride, or the Intermediate or Advance clinics. These clinics are for anyone who can ride easy intermediate slopes. For all the lessons options, you can schedule online as well as bundle packages to include rentals!

For Snowboarders

Mammoth is accepting and welcoming of snowboarders, as is the norm with resorts these days. The terrain at Mammoth is great for both skiers and snowboarders, and snowboarders will especially enjoy the wide open rolling groomers that are great for that surfy feeling snowboarders love.

Mammoth Mountain Snowboarders

Après-Ski/Shopping

Mammoth isn’t quite as ritzy as some other ski towns, but that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on world class après! With 3500 acres of skiable terrain, you’ll have plenty of time to work up an appetite. You’ll find that appetite satiated easily by a wide variety of on-the-mountain options. With multiple lodges and several choices, you can take your pick of anything from grab-and-go chow to sit down options!

In addition to restaurants, there is a variety of on-the-mountain bars to stop off and grab a drink to break up your day. Locales like Tusks Bar and Talons Bar have great happy hours and post lift-closing après. You won’t even have to leave the mountain to kick back with friends and recount your day on the mountain.

If you’re ready to get off the mountain, head down to the Mammoth Village. In one location you’ll find 14 restaurants and 10 shops to enjoy! Stop in at one of the various distilleries, bars, wineries to have a drink and relax with your friends or family. If you’re looking for something to do with the young ones, you’ll find options like Hugs Ice Cream, Mammoth Pizza Co., and the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory.

If you’re looking to shop around a bit, the Mammoth Village has you covered. Everything from gear shops and clothing, to art, jewelry and decor. Check out a listing of what’s on offer in the Village so you can find your niche!

Pro Tip: If you’re so inclined, it would be well worth your time to check out the Whitebark Restaurant, Bar & Lounge. Located at the Westin Monache as their in-house restaurant. They have a high-end offering of wines, mixed drinks, and seasonal restaurant offerings. The restaurant is elegant but keeps with the laid back atmosphere of Mammoth.

Mammoth Mountain Apres Ski

The Bottom Line

Mammoth is a great resort overall. It’s more down-to-earth than the best ski resorts in Colorado like Aspen. There is a huge amount of skiable terrain that has consistent snowfall totals. The weather in Mammoth is perfect as well. It’s not often you find a resort with great snow that also has consistent bluebird days.

Families will love Mammoth due to the wide variability of terrain and everyone will be able to find enjoyable riding. It’s easy to avoid the crowds with a great system of lifts and diverse mountain areas. Mammoth is also renowned for its relaxed atmosphere. Many resorts can make some visitors feel ostracized as they don’t feel they fit in with the ritzy culture. Mammoth provides a great experience with a mix of casual and elegance that avoids feeling pretentious.

When you consider the great riding, weather, après, and amenities of Mammoth, it seems like a no brainer for your next ski trip! The only downside is the access. Flights are expensive, and road trips can be too. Mammoth is a bit more isolated than other resorts, but considering the quality of visit, it’s well worth the effort!

4.5

Things we like:

  • check-mark
    Mammoth really caters to every type of rider. Beginners seem to get stuck with the scraps more often than not, but not at Mammoth. Beginners and intermediates get over 60% of the mountain to themselves.
  • check-mark
    Mammoth Mountain is huge! There’s no shortage of new terrain to explore.
  • check-mark
    The snow is better than most California resorts because of the high elevation. It’s more comparable to light Colorado powder than the “California concrete” you may have heard about.
  • check-mark
    There are more terrain parks than you can count. Everyone from beginners to professionals will have plenty of opportunities to develop their freestyle riding!
  • check-mark
    The season is one of the longest in the country, from November to June!

Things we don't like:

  • check-markIt can be obscenely expensive to get day passes for the whole family.
  • check-markThough this is only a con depending on how you look at it, Mammoth is on the Ikon Pass. While this equates to lift ticket savings, mega-passes like Ikon tend to bring in crowds on peak season dates.
  • check-markIt’s a bit out of the way. There are no major cities near Mammoth Mountain. The closest major city is San Francisco at 5 hours. Reno is a bit closer at only 3 hours away.

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FAQ

Frequently asked questions

Where is Mammoth Mountain?

Mammoth Mountain ski area is located in the middle of California, toward the border with Nevada. It’s on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, about 5 hours from San Francisco, or 3 hours from Reno.

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