By Jerry Rice
This is what winter is supposed to look like.
After an average start to the snow season, a series of storms slammed into the Sierra Nevada late last week and dumped up to 6 feet of snow at Mammoth Mountain. That bounty will allow the resort to open the entire hill — all 28 lifts and 150-plus trails — on Friday.
While the storms were too warm to do much good for resorts in Southern California, it was a different story elsewhere in the state. In the Lake Tahoe area, Squaw Valley reported 48 inches of snow and Mt. Rose-Ski Tahoe welcomed 45 inches. Sugar Bowl received 44 inches, allowing the Donner Summit resort to re-open on Thursday.
Back at Mammoth, after receiving 113 inches of the white stuff since October, the resort is operating on a base of 50 to 70 inches. It’s a much improved story from last winter, when the resort didn’t see any significant snowfall until Jan. 20.
“There’s a lot of pent-up demand,” says Joani Lynch, Mammoth Mountain spokeswoman. “We’re seeing really good visitation, which is a good indicator for the rest of the season. People have an appetite to get back on the mountain since they sat it out last year.”
At www.insidesocal.com/snow, we’ve assembled a guide to many of the mountain resorts in California — with information about lodging, restaurants, après-snow hotspots and more. Here’s our look at Mammoth Mountain:
MAMMOTH MORE THAN LIVES UP TO ITS NAME
Details: Mammoth Mountain has long been a winter sports playground popular with Southern Californians (traditionally, 85 percent of the resort’s 1.3 million annual visitors drive in from counties in SoCal), and it’s no wonder so many make the trek north on the 395. Once here, they’ll find a place that truly is mammoth — with more than 150 trails, accessed by 28 lifts (including nine high-speed quads), spread over 3,500 acres of terrain. With flights from Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego and the San Francisco Bay area, it’s becoming easier for skiers and boarders from throughout the Golden State and elsewhere to access the resort’s slopes.
New for 2012-13: The debut of Progression Park, which has smaller, low-risk features on the top that ease into intermediate- and medium-sized features, so riders can build skills and confidence as they work their way through. The Downtown Collections at Main and South parks have new urban-inspired features that offer fresh challenges. Also, a gentler slope angle at Woolly’s Adventure Summit, a tube park and snow play area, will help kids of all ages to enjoy the experience. And, after a day of tearing up the slopes, there are new digital lounges at Main and Canyon lodges so visitors can recharge electronic devices and upload, edit and share videos from their experience. Each lounge has six work stations.
Snowmaking: While Mammoth receives an average of more than 350 inches of snowfall every year, the resort is able to operate from Main Lodge to the top of the mountain and all the way over to Eagle Lodge with manmade snow.
After dark: No night skiing/riding.
Hidden gems: Coyote, a blue-black diamond trail that starts mid-mountain and drops down to near the bottom of Chair 5. “It used to be a bigger secret, but it’s less of one now after we put in the new Chair 5 last year,” says Joani Lynch, Mammoth resort spokeswoman. “More people are skiing it, but you still have to know where to go to find the run. It’s always impeccably groomed because it’s in the path that our groomers take to get from one side of the mountain to the other.” Some background on Coyote’s name: Kitchen help at the old Mid-Mountain Chalet used to dump table scraps out the back door rather than take the garbage downhill, and hungry canines would wait to take advantage, according to the Mammoth Times. Today, there are no such easy meals, so coyotes are a rare sight for skiers and boarders. Besides Coyote, Lynch also likes Wall Street. “It’s got a really nice intermediate-level pitch, but it’s not heavily used,” she says.
Spotted last season: Game, Tony Hawk, Pink and her husband Carey Hart, LeAnn Rimes, Adam Sandler and Justin Timberlake were on the slopes. Tom Cruise was in town in July shooting the sci-fi movie “Oblivion,” which is due in theaters on April 19.
Address, phone, website: 10001 Minaret Road, Mammoth Lakes, CA; 800-626-6684, www.mammothmountain.com
Where to stay: There are several getaways near the slopes that offer lift and lodging specials, including Juniper Springs Resort (760-924-1102) and Mammoth Mountain Inn (760-934-2581). Information: www.mammothmountain.com. For a more rustic experience in the woods near Twin Lakes, there’s the Tamarack Lodge (760-934-2442, www.tamaracklodge.com), with remodeled one-, two- and three-bedroom cabins that date to the 1950s with amenities that include wood-burning fireplaces. Deluxe cabins are more spacious with hardwood floors, vaulted ceilings and gas-log fireplaces.
Eats at the resort: The Main Lodge food court has been enhanced, so diners this winter will have a broader array of selections including made-to-order pasta dishes, more options at the redesigned soup station (including vegan chili), and a new Pho and Ramen station. Health-conscious eaters can visit the Green V (where Broadway Bakery used to be) for vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options. On the slopes, the old burrito snow cat has been renamed the Little Mill and will serve a variety of casual fare including pulled-pork sliders.
Eats nearby: With this summer’s arrival of Executive Chef Ian Algeroen, the Whitebark Restaurant, Bar and Lounge at The Westin Monache Resort is serving his celebrated alpine cuisine. “My culinary style blends the freshness of ‘hunter-gatherer’ type ingredients typical of the mountains with techniques that I learned and fine-tuned in noted culinary destinations such as Switzerland, San Francisco and Napa,” Algeroen says in a press release. Information: 760-934-0400, www.westinmammoth.com/whitebark
Après-snow hotspots: No Mammoth nightlife experience is complete without a visit to at least one of these: Lakanuki (760-934-7447), a restaurant and tiki bar in the Village serving $5 food specials and pouring mai tais; and Whiskey Creek (760-934-2555, www.facebook.com/whiskeycreekmammoth), the quintessential ski resort bar with microbrews on tap and live music.