California's Mammoth Mountain is a bit of an anomaly amongst the USA's West Coast ski resorts: for a start it's very remote, located way out on the far eastern flank of the Sierra Nevada range facing out towards the Nevada Desert, it's closer by road to Las Vegas and Los Angeles than it is to San Francisco, yet still over 500km away from the nearest of them; secondly it's the only major ski resort in this region, with only the small neighbouring June Mountain ski area for company.
Despite being in the middle of nowhere, Mammoth Mountain is actually a very well-established and popular big resort, which together with its adjacent town of Mammoth Lakes forms a sizeable community that attracts many second-home owners and weekend visitors from the distant big Southern Californian coastal cities.
The mountain itself is a huge lava dome, still volcanically active, which sits proud of the surrounding valleys and forms part of the south-western sweep of the massive Long Valley Caldera, one of the world's largest such volcanic features.
The ski area at Mammoth Mountain is indeed mammoth, extending over almost 1,500 hectares and still expanding; the area actually takes its name from the original Mammoth Camp settlement established by the Mammoth Mining Company here at the start of a mining boom in the mid-1800's, although the sheer scale of the modern resort certainly matches its moniker.
Mammoth Mountain has three separate base areas: the central Canyon Lodge is the principal base closest to the resort village and connected by gondola with an off-mountain commercial village development closer to the adjacent town of Mammoth Lakes; Eagle Lodge sits at the south-western Juniper Springs suburb of the resort; and Main Lodge (actually the area's minor base) sits at the northernmost edge of the ski area, furthest from the resort village.
There are beginners zones at all three bases, all of which offer straightforward access to easy progression pistes out on the main slopes; the range of low to mid-range intermediate runs also eases the progress of novices moving out on to the slopes of the main mountain.
Intermediates have a huge range of routes and terrain to enjoy across this huge area, all the way from peak to creek, with more testing terrain readily accessible when they're ready for it.
Over a third of the mountain is classified as advanced level terrain, making Mammoth Mountain a great playground for more experienced skiers and snowboarders too; offering steep and deep chutes (couloirs), exciting boulder drop-offs, relentless mogul runs, wide powder bowls and glorious glades.
Mammoth Mountain is also renowned for its excellent terrain parks; there are nine in total, with three different sized halfpipes including a superpipe, attracting season-long attention from many resident and visiting world-class pro riders.
Off the slopes and apres ski
Mammoth Mountain Resort and the adjacent town of Mammoth Lakes blend seamlessly together and cover a wide area spreading out and away from the central slope-side Canyon Lodge base area. All ski-area bases are served by an efficient free shuttle bus service; Canyon Lodge and The Village are also connected by gondola, plus there's a pretty woodland trail along the northern edge of the resort that provides an easy home run to The Village.
There are lively bars and good full-service restaurants at all three slope-side base areas, plus similar ongoing developments at The Village. The apres-ski scene on and off the mountain is very lively at the weekends when Mammoth Mountain receives an influx of weekenders up from the cities, but the biggest venues can lack atmosphere on quieter weekday afternoons/evenings; Canyon Beach Bar, Grizzly Bar and Tusks Bar are the key venues for apres ski with live bands most afternoons and evenings during the season.
The majority of off-slope entertainment and nightlife is found in the adjacent town of Mammoth Lakes, just a few hundred metres from The Village: the town has a good number of lively music-bars and disco-bars, sophisticated lounges and café-bars, along with a wide selection of restaurants, snack bars and diners; other amenities include a good range of shops, a cinema, two theatres and an ice rink; the town's Snowcreek Athletic Club has swimming pools, steam rooms, whirlpools and a large gymnasium.
Bars and clubs