For more than half a century, Angelinos have flocked to the secluded corner of California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. It’s easy to understand why. In spite of the 8,000-foot altitude, houses for sale in mammoth sprawl of splashy condos and strip malls includes a distinct L . A . feel. Although the surrounding frozen lakes and granite peaks, immortalized through the photographer Ansel Adams, are decidedly un-Los Angeles, and may hold their own personal with any landscape in Colorado or Canada. Along with expanded daily flights from your San Francisco Bay area and Los Angeles, along with a flurry newest après-ski offerings, Mammoth is seeking to draw skiers from beyond the Golden State.
1) SIBERIAN SPA
Imagine an enormous white expanse of the items looks like frozen Siberian tundra, dotted with natural hot springs and encompassed by soaring peaks. Hilltop Hot Spring is favored by locals, however, you can join in, too. You can find no formal signs or footpaths – just follow the S.U.V.’s beyond the airport 5 minutes east of Mammoth Lakes and revel in a steaming soak, free of cost. To get more privacy, cross the road to Wild Willy’s, a much more secluded spring, which demands a 20-minute trek and a couple of snowshoes.
2) With The FIREPLACE
On the opposite 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, featuring its bark-wood ceiling fixtures and 1920s-era fireplace, also happens to have impressive wine collection and 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). Before being seated, use a mulled wine ($5) or hot cider ($4) by the fire.
3) PANCAKES AND BISCUITS
Before hitting the slopes, fill 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. More than forty years, the Stove has served hearty meals just like the Sierra Sunrise (a heap of fried potatoes, peppers, onions and ham topped with eggs and cheese for $9.95). On the road out, pick up a homemade pie ($13.95) – apple, apricot, cherry. Arrive early as 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, in the event the boots don’t feel snug by midday, Colin Fernie and his team will meet you on the slopes and exchange your gear, or switch your snowboard for a couple of skis. Pretty good for less than $40 (at least for beginner skiers).
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5) FRESH TRACKS
With over 3,500 acres of trails, Mammoth has more variable terrain than most mountains (mammothmountain.com). There are three lodges: Eagle, Canyon and Main. Skiers looking for soft powder and fresh-groomed runs begin Eagle and stick to the sun up to Main or even the backside in the mountain (to protect yourself from lift lines, turn back the order). Or use the gondola from Main for the summit, 11,053 feet above sea level, where you can find a soothing location for hot cocoa. Marvel in 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 along with gorgeous views from the Minarets, a majestic series 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 can even track the snowcat’s whereabouts on Twitter – you can find pulled-pork nachos ($11.42) in the Mill Cafe (760-934-0675), a festive après-ski spot at 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, visit 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 more than 200 tequilas and fittingly mammoth margaritas, relocated into a spot in the middle of the village a year ago.
7) ART PARK
Take Chair 10 approximately ski down a couple of wide-open runs like Easy Rider or Solitude that stay powdery during the day. Or try Quicksilver, a highly-groomed trail with gently sloped glades and variable terrain. Snowboarders should visit the new terrain Art Park, which made its debut in December and showcases funky artworks affixed to its rails and steel structures. Mammoth also recently opened the Stomping Grounds, a terrain park packed with jumps, jibs and an Acrobag – which resembles a huge blue moon bounce – to train 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 using 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 approach to a warehouse converted many years back into a beer-tasting room for your Mammoth Brewing Company (94 Berner Street; 760-934-7141; mammothbrewingco.com). Still in ski gear, they down free samples before filling up their growlers with IPA 395 ($13), a neighborhood 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 within 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), that takes up nearly half of your 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 unnatural in downtown Manhattan, save, perhaps, for your tacky TV Yule log fireplace. Yet at 9,600 feet, it is 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 is like a spaceship as you may gaze up at the mammothllakes through its glass roof. Then feast on dishes ranging from a rack of the latest 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 higher than the bar. Hyde Lounge (6201 Minaret Road; 760-934-0669; sbe.com/hydemammoth) lives up to its Sunset Boulevard forefather. You can find bottle-service-only booths (from $200), lasers everywhere and Mammoth’s version of a 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. Heat using a burning mango ($12), a jalapeño and vodka concoction, and settle set for an evening of folks watching.
11) OLYMPIC WORKOUT
Recently, Mammoth Lakes has become a year-round hub for Olympic and pro athletes interested in the high 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 along with a yoga studio. You may even bump in to the New York Marathon winner Meb Keflezighi hitting the gym in 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 around town, as is the person himself. Vern’s scruffy yellow jacket and unruly hair have been a familiar presence at Mammoth because the early ’70s. He is a modern-day version of Ansel Adams, who over anyone put this corner of California around the map.