More than half a hundred years, Angelinos have flocked for this secluded corner of California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. It’s easy to see why. Regardless of the 8,000-foot altitude, homes for sale in mammoth lakes sprawl of splashy condos and strip malls features a distinct L . A . feel. Nevertheless the surrounding frozen lakes and granite peaks, immortalized through the photographer Ansel Adams, are decidedly un-L . A ., and can hold their own personal with any landscape in Colorado or Canada. And with expanded daily flights from your San Francisco Bay area and La, not forgetting a flurry of brand new après-ski offerings, Mammoth is trying to draw skiers from past the Golden State.
1) SIBERIAN SPA
Imagine a vast white expanse of what appears to be frozen Siberian tundra, dotted with natural hot springs and surrounded by soaring peaks. Hilltop Hot Spring is favored by locals, nevertheless, you can take part in, too. You can find no formal signs or footpaths – just stick to the S.U.V.’s past the airport five minutes east of Mammoth Lakes and enjoy a steaming soak, free of charge. For more privacy, cross the direction to Wild Willy’s, a much more secluded spring, which needs a 20-minute trek and a pair of snowshoes.
2) With The FIREPLACE
On the other 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, having its bark-wood ceiling fixtures and 1920s-era fireplace, also happens with an impressive wine collection as well as the area’s best chef: Frederic Pierrel (cheffrederic.com). The intimate Lakefront R Restaurant serves up a mixture platter of elk medallions, grilled quail and pork marinated in wine over a bed of spicy mashed potatoes ($30). Prior to being seated, use a mulled wine ($5) or hot cider ($4) by the fire.
3) PANCAKES AND BISCUITS
Before hitting the slopes, top off on pancakes and black-and-white memorabilia on 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 forty years, the Stove has served hearty meals such as 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. Get there early as the place fills up fast.
4) BLACK TIE SKIING
Experts from Black Tie Ski Rentals (760-934-7009; blacktieskis.com) can come in your condo and fit you for skis or snowboards. Heck, in the event the boots don’t feel snug by midday, Colin Fernie with his fantastic team will meet yourself 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 well over 3,500 acres of trails, Mammoth has more variable terrain than most mountains (mammothmountain.com). There are actually three lodges: Eagle, Canyon and Main. Skiers in search of soft powder and fresh-groomed runs begin Eagle and stick to the sun onto Main or maybe the backside in the mountain (to protect yourself from lift lines, turn back the order). Or take the gondola from Main to the summit, 11,053 feet above sea level, where you can find a calming destination for hot cocoa. Marvel with 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, from the summit’s less crowded backside, which provides scattered glades in addition to gorgeous views from the Minarets, a majestic group of jagged granite peaks.
6) SOUTH OF THE BORDER
Lunch on Mammoth typically involves Mexican fare. If you can’t obtain the new Roving Mammoth, a bright orange snowcat that doubles like a food cart, serving up burritos ($5.50) – you may also track the snowcat’s whereabouts on Twitter – you will find pulled-pork nachos ($11.42) on 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, head to the Yodler (10001 Minaret Road; 760-934-2571), a Swiss-style chalet off of the Main Lodge. Gomez’s (100 Canyon Boulevard; 760-924-2693; gomezs.com), a Mexican place with more than 200 tequilas and fittingly mammoth margaritas, relocated to some spot in the midst of the village just last year.
7) ART PARK
Take Chair 10 up to ski down several wide-open runs like Easy Rider or Solitude that stay powdery during the day. Or try Quicksilver, a well-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 as well as an Acrobag – which resembles a giant blue moon bounce – to apply flips. Nonsnowboarders should go ahead and take newly carved Village Ski Back Trail, a scenic path that meanders past pine trees and the backyards of condos, linking the mountain with all the village.
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8) GROWLERS AND PASTRIES
Thankfully, après-ski at Mammoth does not involve bad cover bands. If anything, it revolves around its eponymous microbrew. Insiders make their approach to a warehouse converted a few years back in a beer-tasting room for that 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), a neighborhood favorite, or grabbing kegs and cases to travel. 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 store 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), which takes up up to 50 % of the cafeteria at McCoy Station, a midmountain gondola station up from your Main Lodge. Its modern décor and Asian-themed trimmings, including white bark walls, would not look out of place 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 in the Mammoth Mountain Inn (10001 Minaret Road; 760-934-2581; mammothmountain.com). Hop aboard a heated snowcat that feels like a spaceship when you gaze up at the mammothllakes through its glass roof. Then feast on dishes starting from a rack of New Zealand lamb to grilled chicken with risotto (meals are prix fixe at $89, including snowcat ride). For optimal views, arrive there as night falls.
10) ROCKIES MEETS HOLLYWOOD
Never mind the gondola D.J. booth and vintage lanterns over 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 any strict door policy (“No snowboard gear”). The group sipping pricey cocktails is a mix of slovenly clad snowboarders and dressed-to-impress partygoers, all crammed within its fire-engine red walls. Heat having a burning mango ($12), a jalapeño and vodka concoction, and settle set for an evening of men and women watching.
11) OLYMPIC WORKOUT
Lately, Mammoth Lakes has changed into a year-round hub for Olympic and pro athletes interested in our prime altitudes and easygoing ethos. A good byproduct may be the state-of-the-art facilities on 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 and a yoga studio. You could possibly even bump into the Ny City Marathon winner Meb Keflezighi working out 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) around town. His color photos (prints start at $149) of nearby canyons, lakes and mountain vistas are ubiquitous around town, as is the person himself. Vern’s scruffy yellow jacket and unruly hair are already a familiar presence at Mammoth ever since the early ’70s. He or she is a modern-day version of Ansel Adams, who greater than anyone put this corner of California in the map.