Mammoth Mountain: Beginning mountain bikers welcome

By Richard Irwin, Staff Writer

Beginning mountain bikers should head over to the Discovery Zone to learn the skills they’ll need on Mammoth Mountain. The Pioneer Practice Loop is an easy quarter-mile loop that can build riders’ confidence in being able to handle the mechanical marvels that are today’s mountain bikes.

The Adventure and Discovery trails match a mellow slope with smooth turns and surfaces. Both are great beginner trails served by the Discovery chairlift behind the Main Lodge.

Once the beginner trails are mastered, riders move up to the Explorer Trail with its banked paver turns, slightly steeper pitch and skills park. This park introduces riders to the man-made features on the trails, from small drops to rainbow bridges.

Every Saturday, Woolly, the mountain-biking mascot — joins the riders on the Discovery Trail headed for the Adventure Center. How the rider in the bulky woolly mammoth costume can see where he is going is beyond me, but it is hilarious fun.

The Bike Park closes in late September, but it goes out with a bang with the Mammoth Kamikaze Bike Games Sept. 18-21. The ultimate mountain biking event features pro GRT downhill, the Kamikaze Downhill, enduro, gravity fed cyclo cross, cross country, dual slalom and kids races.

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Mammoth Mountain: Bike park offers 80 miles of single track

By Richard Irwin, Staff Writer

Mammoth Mountain’s Bike Park boasts 80 miles of single track. With a vertical rise of more than 3,000 feet, the resort offers 3,500 acres of riding.

More than half of the 42 named trails can be handled by beginner and intermediate riders. Another third are reserved for advanced riders, while 20 percent is recommended for professional riders only. They can all be reached from the Panorama Gondola.

Some of the downhill trails have developed a cult following. Some brave riders take Kamikaze, the first trail dating back to 1987, which sends them barreling down 2,000 feet of fire road from the summit to the Main Lodge.

The Twilight Zone ski trail has carved-out berms and pavers. Then there’s Pipeline, a trail with many man-made features including dirt jumps, wooden ramps, trestles gaps and a great step-up jump.

A little less harrowing is Beach Cruiser, a wonderful 4-mile intermediate track. It climbs through large Lodgepole pines before looping around Reds Lake for a long roller coaster ride back to the Main Lodge.

Then there’s Paper Route/Skid Marks/Manzanita, the intermediate course used for the resort’s 8/24 Endurance Race. This rolling loop offers fast downhills and technical sections, as well as a couple switchbacks at the far end. (This year’s race, originally scheduled for this weekend, was cancelled.)

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Mammoth Mountain: Ventura family rolls Off the Top

By Richard Irwin, Staff Writer

Visitors can take the gondola up to the peak for the scenic view, and some passengers bring their mountain bikes along. Once on the top, mountain bikers can go rolling down the steep slopes, navigating around the boulders that are usually hidden deep in the snow.

A Ventura family rolled their bikes off the gondola, ready to tackle the mountain. The Boudreaux clan, including mom Tina, her husband and their two teenage sons, Tyler and Trevor, had spent the morning riding around the lower trails and were ready for a big ride.

“It’s really, really fun so far,” said Tina Boudreaux. “The weather is perfect.”

The adventurous family was going Off the Top. That’s the name of the intermediate trail zigzagging down the back of the mountain. Just as it does for ski trails, the resort has classified the bike trails from beginner to expert.

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Mammoth Mountain: Dodger the Bulldog frolics in the snow

By Richard Irwin, Staff Writer

Mammoth Mountain can be a lot of fun in the summer if given a chance. I’ve only been there skiing in the winter — it is one of my favorite ski resorts — so I didn’t have a clue about what it offers in the sunny summer months.

To my surprise, there were still patches of snow on the 11,000-foot summit. Which made for some fun for Dodger, a burly English bulldog, who hadn’t seen snow before.

The Shryne family of Whittier brought Dodger along with their sons, Nathan and Brady. The family of four was vacationing at nearby June Lake to get some trout fishing in, and decided to take a break and visit the mountain.

“I wanted to show them the great views, and show Dodger some snow,” said Joe Shryne.

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Soar like an eagle with SkyTime Air Tours over the Eastern Sierras in Mammoth

Aerial view of a lake in Mammoth. (Photo courtesy of Skytime Air Tour)

Aerial view of a lake in Mammoth. (Photo courtesy of Skytime Air Tour)

By Richard Irwin, Staff Writer

If you want to get a fresh perspective of Mammoth, try the new helicopter tour. I’m using to seeing the Sierras from ground level or even 11,000 feet on top of Mammoth Mountain.

But a flight with SkyTime Air Tours out of the Mammoth Airport gave me a whole other view of the beautiful Sierra mountains. I began to appreciate the ruggedness of this vast mountain range.

We were excited to get an aerial view of Mammoth Lakes. And veteran pilot Steve Roski proved an able aviator as well as an interesting tour guide.

“I grew up in Hawaii and flew helicopter tours in the islands for many years,” the amicable aviator explained. “But I got bored and decided to try some place new. That’s when I got the job with SkyTime Tours. Now I see something different every day and live in another beautiful place.”

After signing the required four pages of legal waivers, Roski led us out onto the airport tarmac, where he described the Robinson R66 helicopter we would be flying in.

Family poses with SkyTime Air Tours in Mammoth. (Photo courtesy of SkyTime Air Tours)

Family poses with SkyTime Air Tours in Mammoth. (Photo courtesy of SkyTime Air Tours)

“This helicopter is one of the few that can fly at this elevation. It’s powerful Rolls Royce turbine is especially built for this aircraft and can deliver up to 1,000 horsepower, while the helicopter only weighs 1,000 pounds,” the pilot said. “It is also specially built for tours with large windows for all the passengers.”

Strapping in, we voted to give Los Angeles photographer Ellen Clarke the front seat. She thought she could get the best photos sitting in the glass nose.

My friend Emele from Hawaii joined me in the two back seats. Snapping on our seatbelts, we donned heavy Boss headphones that would cancel out the roar of the mighty turbine right behind us.

We could also talk to the pilot and listen to his fascinating commentary about the Alpine environment. This must be how Eagles feel as they soar through the mountains.

Passing over the thermal power plant, we were soon slipping through the canyons. Glittering lakes dotted the landscape below.

Off in the distance, we saw Mono Lake. It is one of the oldest lakes in North America, forming more than 760,000 years ago.

“Every lake is a different color, depending on the minerals that have seeped into the water,” Roski noted. “Most are different shades of aquamarine, but there’s one lake we call Purple Lake because of its bright purple color.”

Looking down, we found June Lake below, with it’s ski runs cutting through the Pondera pines. This basin had been carved out by glaciers, and was the home of Paiute Indians.  down.

Horsetail Falls spilled over a impressive cliff. It sits just below the 11,000 Carson Peak.

Soon we were climbing toward Minaret Summit. It’s craggy peaks formed a jagged skyline which you’ve actually seen many times before.

“They used the Minaret as the background in flying monkey scene in the ‘Wizard of Oz,” Roski said.

Flying on, we approached a gigantic volcanic dome that I didn’t recognize. But soon, I realized it was the backside of Mammoth Mountain, a place I have skied dozens of times.

Jagged Mammoth Mountains jut up in the air. (Photo courtesy of SkyTime Air Tours)

Jagged Mammoth Mountains jut up in the air. (Photo courtesy of SkyTime Air Tours)

Without its thick mantel of snow, the 11,000 foot peak looked foreign to me. As we circled the gondola station on top, tiny mountain bikers shot off the summit. We watched as they zigzagged down the mountain.

The massive dome was formed in a series of eruptions 57,000 years ago. Even today, it still spews volcanic gases.The ski resort at the base looked like a toy train village.

“One year, a geologist warned that the volcano was going to errupt again and tourists were too afraid to come,” Roski said. “But as you can see, we’re still here.”

Moving on, we ran into Mineral Hill, the place where Mammoth’s gold rush had begun. Thousands rushed to seek their fortunes in the Eastern Sierras.

“They still mine gold there, but they keep it pretty hush hush,” Roski added.

Next up was Convict Lake, so named when a band of convicts robbed local banks and hid out here. You’ve seen the lake in movies such as “How The West Was Won” and “Star Trek: Insurrection.”

Dropping back into the valley, we slowly lost elevation.

“This helicopter loves to climb. It’s hard to get it to fly lower,” Roski said as the airport rolled into view.

Slowly, we sank back onto the tarmac. Ending our thrilling aerial adventure.

“It was great, the mountains were huge,” Emele said. “I’d highly recommend this tour to anyone.”

Clarke was also thrilled by the helicopter ride. The professional photographer couldn’t wait to download the photos she had taken.

The tours are customized for each customer and range from 15 to 90 minutes long. Prices begin at $88 per person in the four-man helicopter for 15 minutes. A 45-minute flight costs $225 per person for four.

For more information, call (321) AIR-TOUR / (321) 247-8687 in Mammoth Lakes. Check out their website at  www.skytime.com.

 

 

 

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