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Check Off this Iconic (and Ikon-ic) Resort Off Your Bucket List This Season with Ease

After such an epic news-making season this past year, you have probably jotted “ski at Mammoth” down on your to-do list, just a little bit higher up. I did the same thing last year, and finally got to check this iconic destination off my ski bum checklist. 

You’ll learn more about Dave McCoy and the Eastern Sierra Ski Club once you’re in the Mammoth Mountain Inn bar having a beer, but I was blown away by the experience and loved delving into Mammoth mountain ski culture. Given the accessibility of the Ikon Pass, I thought some of my Front Range-based friends might like to know that you can hop a new flight from DIA and fly right into Bishop, easing some of the previous unpredictability of flying into Mammoth while still retaining a very small-town airport feel. For the same amount of time it takes you to sit in traffic on Floyd Hill you can take a direct non-stop on United — and be eating bratwurst slopeside at the Yodler before dark, ready to hit the slopes for a ski tour and epic day the next morning. Just one sporty little flight from the B terminal wafts you from one mountain range to another familiar yet otherworldly snow-covered landscape in a vast, high desert, and it’s difficult to believe the coast and hustle and bustle of LA is just five hours drive to the west. Yosemite is only about an hour away, the John Muir Wilderness is right there, with Tahoe a few hours north, and you’ll likely have a few dirtbag climbers on your flight as well. 

Wikipedia makes a good point that although Mammoth is physically closer to SF and the Central Valley, most mountain passes along the Sierra crest close after the first major snowfall. Many lifelong skiers and riders say Mammoth is their favorite mountain, along with little sister June Mountain adjacent, and touring in between. You’re really in the heart of the old west, with views of the White Mountains to the east and 13,600-foot Mount Tom (Winuba/Paiute lands) in the background as well.

McCoy worked as a hydrologist in the area, and purchased his first tow rope for 85 dollars in the early 1930s, according to the menu at the Mammoth Mountain Inn, and moved it around the base of the mountain, based on the snow conditions. It was powered by his car. Warren Miller is also part of the history of Mammoth.

I don’t know if it’s the laid back So Cal vibes, the Vail-esque village, the stellar up-hill routes, or the sheer scope and variety of terrain, but this was one of my favorite mountains I’ve had a chance to visit, and I hope I can come back and spend more time. Fellow journalist Stephen Krcmar, a long-time Mammoth passholder and part-time local, agrees: “Mammoth is my favorite mountain in the world for a handful of reasons: It’s really easy to navigate. It skis bigger than its 3,500 acres, and it has abundant terrain for all. The crowds are typically mellow on weekdays, all winter. And they get a lot of snow. Sure, it’s windy. But there aren’t a lot of storm skiers, so those weather days can be great. And if the wind is blowing right, it fills in your tracks,” he explains. “I also love the vibe. It’s a true melting pot.” I felt the same way.

Mammoth Mountain boasts 175 named trails across more than 3,500 skiable acres and 3,100 feet of vert, as well as 10 terrain parks —  accessed by 25 lifts. Like Colorado, Mammoth boasts 300 sunny days per year but more than 400 inches of annual snowfall, and one of the country’s longest seasons stretching from November to June. 

New this year, the Canyon Express Chair 16 will be upgraded from a quad to a state-of-the-art Doppelmayr D-Line Series 6-Pack detachable high-speed chairlift, featuring an enclosed top and bottom terminal. The upgraded lift will boost uphill capacity by 25 percent and allow faster reopening after weather events, important because 16 serves as a portal to the trail network out of the Canyon base area. 

Mammoth will also debut one of the longest mountain coasters in North America this November, after introducing expanded and improved winter tubing lanes this past season at the revamped Woolly’s Adventure Summit. Future phases of the Woolly’s will include the addition of a zip coaster, adventure ropes courses, and the relocation of Snowmobile Adventures, making it a year-round activity center. 

Off mountain, the Community Rec Center (located at Mammoth Creek Park) is set to open with a 40,000 square-foot Sprung Performance Arena. The CRC will be open and available to the public year-round, with the new ice rink, named LA Kings Ice at Mammoth Lakes, operating annually between October and April. During the summer months the Olympic-sized rink will be transformed into a fully programmable, multi-use RecZone, the hub for the expanding Parks and Recreation Department’s summer camps and programs.

Check and for more information.

Definitely Wild is a column by EO Contributing Editor Aaron Bible. He has been writing for Elevation Outdoors and Blue Ridge Outdoors, among other outdoor publications, for more than a decade, covering cycling, skiing, gear and mountain life. The opinions expressed here are his own. Follow him on Instagram at @DefinitelyWild.

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