For more than half a hundred years, Angelinos have flocked to the secluded corner of California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. It’s easy to see why. Despite the 8,000-foot altitude, homes for sale in mammoth lakes sprawl of splashy condos and strip malls features a distinct La feel. However the surrounding frozen lakes and granite peaks, immortalized from the photographer Ansel Adams, are decidedly un-La, and might hold their own with any landscape in Colorado or Canada. Together with expanded daily flights from your San Francisco Bay area and La, in addition to a flurry newest après-ski offerings, Mammoth is trying to draw skiers from beyond the Golden State.
1) SIBERIAN SPA
Imagine a huge white expanse of what seems like frozen Siberian tundra, dotted with natural hot springs and surrounded by soaring peaks. Hilltop Hot Spring is favored by locals, nevertheless, you can join in, too. There are no formal signs or footpaths – just stick to the S.U.V.’s past the airport 5 minutes east of Mammoth Lakes and revel in a steaming soak, cost-free. For more privacy, cross the road to Wild Willy’s, a much more secluded spring, which needs a 20-minute trek and a couple of snowshoes.
2) Through The FIREPLACE
On the reverse side of town is Tamarack Lodge and Resort (163 Twin Lakes Road, off Lake Mary Road; 760-934-2442; tamaracklodge.com). The rustic log cabin, with its bark-wood ceiling fixtures and 1920s-era fireplace, also happens to get an impressive wine collection and also the area’s best chef: Frederic Pierrel (cheffrederic.com). The intimate Lakefront R Restaurant serves up a combination platter of elk medallions, grilled quail and pork marinated in wine on the bed of spicy mashed potatoes ($30). Prior to being seated, have a mulled wine ($5) or hot cider ($4) by the fire.
3) PANCAKES AND BISCUITS
Before showing up in the slopes, fill up on pancakes and black-and-white memorabilia in the Stove (644 Old Mammoth Road; 760-934-2821), a cozy spot with long wooden booths and old pictures of cattle ranchers on its walls. For more than 40 years, the Stove has served hearty meals much like the Sierra Sunrise (a heap of fried potatoes, peppers, onions and ham topped with eggs and cheese for $9.95). On the way out, pick-up a homemade pie ($13.95) – apple, apricot, cherry. Arrive early since the place fills up fast.
4) BLACK TIE SKIING
Experts from Black Tie Ski Rentals (760-934-7009; blacktieskis.com) can come to your condo and fit you for skis or snowboards. Heck, if the boots don’t feel snug by midday, Colin Fernie and his awesome team will meet you on the slopes and exchange your gear, or switch your snowboard for a couple of skis. Not bad for less than $40 (a minimum of for beginner skiers).
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5) FRESH TRACKS
With more than 3,500 acres of trails, Mammoth has more variable terrain than most mountains (mammothmountain.com). There are three lodges: Eagle, Canyon and Main. Skiers in search of soft powder and fresh-groomed runs begin with Eagle and adhere to the sun over to Main or maybe the backside in the mountain (to protect yourself from lift lines, turn back order). Or take the gondola from Main towards the summit, 11,053 feet above sea level, where you can find a restful spot for hot chocolate. Marvel on the daredevils who ski off Hangman’s Hollow. Or brave the steep and icy chutes of Dave’s Run or Scotty’s. A safer alternative is Santiago, away from the summit’s less crowded backside, that provides scattered glades along with gorgeous views of your Minarets, a majestic combination of jagged granite peaks.
6) SOUTH OF THE BORDER
Lunch on Mammoth typically involves Mexican fare. In the event you can’t find the new Roving Mammoth, a bright orange snowcat that doubles like a food cart, serving up burritos ($5.50) – you can also track the snowcat’s whereabouts on Twitter – there are actually pulled-pork nachos ($11.42) at the Mill Cafe (760-934-0675), a festive après-ski spot on the base of Chair 2 (in true California fashion, its entrance is scattered with beach chairs). Or, for overflowing plates of nachos and fish tacos, go to the Yodler (10001 Minaret Road; 760-934-2571), a Swiss-style chalet from the Main Lodge. Gomez’s (100 Canyon Boulevard; 760-924-2693; gomezs.com), a Mexican place with 200 tequilas and fittingly mammoth margaritas, relocated to your spot in the middle of the village this past year.
7) ART PARK
Take Chair 10 around ski down a few wide-open runs like Easy Rider or Solitude that stay powdery through the day. Or try Quicksilver, a nicely-groomed trail with gently sloped glades and variable terrain. Snowboarders should head to the new terrain Art Park, which made its debut in December and showcases funky artworks affixed to the rails and steel structures. Mammoth also recently opened the Stomping Grounds, a terrain park loaded with jumps, jibs and an Acrobag – which resembles a huge blue moon bounce – to rehearse flips. Nonsnowboarders should take the newly carved Village Ski Back Trail, a scenic path that meanders past pine trees as well as the backyards of condos, linking the mountain with the village.
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8) GROWLERS AND PASTRIES
Thankfully, après-ski at Mammoth fails to involve bad cover bands. If something, it revolves around its eponymous microbrew. Insiders make their method to a warehouse converted quite a while back in a beer-tasting room for the Mammoth Brewing Company (94 Berner Street; 760-934-7141; mammothbrewingco.com). Still in ski gear, they down free samples before completing their growlers with IPA 395 ($13), the local favorite, or grabbing kegs and cases to look. Another favorite spot among Mammoth’s growing international crowd is Shea Schat’s Bakery (3305 Main Street; 760-934-6055), which feels, and smells, like the on the inside of a gingerbread house. The shop serves up steaming hot chocolate and stocks rows of pastries – cinnamon nut bread, ginger cakes and bread pudding.
9) MIDMOUNTAIN DINING
This winter Mammoth remodeled its swanky restaurant Parallax (800-626-6684; mammothmountain.com), that can take up nearly half of the cafeteria at McCoy Station, a midmountain gondola station up in the Main Lodge. Its modern décor and Asian-themed trimmings, including white bark walls, would not look unnatural in downtown Manhattan, save, perhaps, for that tacky TV Yule log fireplace. Yet at 9,600 feet, it can be reachable by only snowcat, which picks people up on the Mammoth Mountain Inn (10001 Minaret Road; 760-934-2581; mammothmountain.com). Hop aboard a heated snowcat that is like a spaceship as you gaze up at the mammothllakes through its glass roof. Then feast on dishes including a rack of New Zealand lamb to grilled chicken with risotto (meals are prix fixe at $89, including snowcat ride). For optimal views, get there as night falls.
10) ROCKIES MEETS HOLLYWOOD
Never mind the gondola D.J. booth and vintage lanterns above the bar. Hyde Lounge (6201 Minaret Road; 760-934-0669; sbe.com/hydemammoth) lives up to its Sunset Boulevard forefather. There are actually bottle-service-only booths (from $200), lasers everywhere and Mammoth’s version of your strict door policy (“No snowboard gear”). The competition sipping pricey cocktails is a mix of slovenly clad snowboarders and dressed-to-impress partygoers, all crammed within its fire-engine red walls. Warm-up having a burning mango ($12), a jalapeño and vodka concoction, and settle in for an evening of people watching.
11) OLYMPIC WORKOUT
Recently, Mammoth Lakes has developed into a year-round hub for Olympic and pro athletes fascinated by the top altitudes and easygoing ethos. A fantastic byproduct is definitely the state-of-the-art facilities at the Snowcreek Athletic Club, which resembles a giant barn just outside town. The club recently opened the Double Eagle Spa (51 Club Drive; 760-934-8511; snowcreekathleticclub.com), with earthy massage rooms, Vichy showers along with a yoga studio. You could possibly even bump to the New York City Marathon winner Meb Keflezighi exercising within the weight room.
12) MOUNTAIN MAN
To appreciate the Sierra Nevada range’s jaw-dropping beauty, drop by Vern Clevenger’s gallery (220 Sierra Manor Road; 760-934-5100; vernclevenger.com) in the city. His color photos (prints start at $149) of nearby canyons, lakes and mountain vistas are ubiquitous out and about, as is also the guy himself. Vern’s scruffy yellow jacket and unruly hair are already a familiar presence at Mammoth considering that the early ’70s. He or she is an advanced-day version of Ansel Adams, who a lot more than anyone put this corner of California around the map.