By Richard Irwin, Staff Writer
Mammoth Mountain can be a lot of fun in the summer if you just give it a chance. I’ve only been there skiing in the winter, so I didn’t have a clue about what it offers in the sunny summer months.
So I took some time to visit today during my visit to Mammoth Village. And I’m glad I didn’t poopoo one of my favorite ski resorts just because there wasn’t any snow. In fact, there were still patches of snow on the 11,000 foot summit of Mammoth Mountain.
Just ask Dodger the burly English bulldog. This was Dodger’s first experience with snow and I thought he did RAAATHHEER well, just read that with an English accent in mind. Of course, bulldogs are built rather low to the ground and he showed the typical English reserve the island nation is famous for.
Dodger was visiting with the Shryne family of Whittier. The family of four were vacationing at nearby June Lake. They wanted to get some good ole’ trout fishing in, but they decided to take a break and visit the mountain with their sons, Nathan and Brady.
“I wanted to show them the great views and show Dodger some snow,” said Joe Shryne.
Visitors can take the gondola up to the peak. But you may have to share the gondola with a mountain bike. Yes, mountain bikers drag their fancy rigs on board to reach the top of the mountain.
Then they go rolling down the steep slopes, trying not to hit any of the boulders that are usually hidden deep in the snow. I would have never guessed I skiied over such large rocks and boulders.
A Ventura family rolled off the gondola, ready to tackle the mountain. They stopped to ask me to take their photo.
The Bourdeaux clan brought their teenage sons, Tyler and Trevor, up to Mammoth Mountain for some mountain biking. They had spend the morning riding around the lower trails and were ready for a big ride.
“It’s really, really fun so far,” said mom Tina. “The weather is perfect. They’re taking it easy for me.”
“The gondola does all the work for you. It’s been all downhill, not too much uphill,” the dad said.
The adventurous family was going Off the Top. That’s the name of the intermediate trail zigzagging down the back of the mountain. Just like skiing, the resort has classified the bike trails from beginner to expert.
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 rides. Another third are for advanced riders, while 20 percent should only be ridden by professional riders. You know who you are!
They can all be reached from the Panorama Gondola. Chair 2 opens on the Fourth of July, when the busy season really kicks off with a bang.
Some of the downhill trails have developed a cult following. Think Kamikaze, the first trail where it all began in 1987 with some brave riders barreling down 2,000 feet of fire road from the summit to the Main Lodge.
Or Twilight Zone, a great ski trail where the berms have been carved out and pavers put down to make a unique trail. Then there’s Pipeline, a trail with many man-made features including dirt jumps, wooden ramps, trestles gaps and a great step-up jump.
Of course, these are all double-black diamond, so I would stand a chance. But Beach Cruiser is a wonderful four-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 for the 8/24 Endurance Race. This rolling loop offers fast downhills and technical sections, as well as a couple switchbacks at the far end.
Beginners should head over to the Discovery Zone, where they can learn the skills they’ll need on the big mountain. The Pioneer Practice Loop is an easy quarter mile loop that’s great to build your confidence as you learn how to use the mechanical marvels we call today’s mountain bikes.
The Adventure and Discovery Trails match a mellow slope with smooth turns and surfaces. Both are great beginner’s trails served by Discovery chairlift behind the Main Lodge.
When you’re comfortable, move up to Explorer Trail with its banked paver turns, slightly steeper pitch and skills park. This park will teach you how to handle man-made features from small drops to rainbow bridges.
Every Saturday, kids will be joined by Woolly, the mountain biking mascot. How the rider sees how he is going in such a large costume is beyond me, but it is hilarious fun. The whole family can ride down Discovery Trail with Woolly for some more fun at the Adventure Center.
There, families will find interesting activities such as climbing wall, a small zip line and a bungee trampoline. When we visited, a family from Alberta, Canada, was tackling the towering climbing wall. With the parent’s loud encouragement, two of the three older kids climbed to the top to ring the cowbell.
If that’s not enough, there’s always the special summer events. Mammoth was gearing up for the huge Monster Energy Mammoth Motocross the weekend we stayed.
On July 19-20, the 8/24 hour mountain bike endurance race was all set. Kids can join in the Adventure Games on Aug. 1-2, followed by the Mammoth Festival Wine, Music and Food.
The Bike Park closes in late September, but it goes out with a bang with the Mammoth Kamikaze Bike Games from 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.
So you better get lots of practice in this summer or you’ll be a real kamikaze this fall.