This article, and distribution, was paid for by Visit California and produced in conjunction with POWDER.
In many ways, Mammoth Mountain represents the skier's version of the California dream: a kid grows up in L.A. and pursues their love for skiing to become a self-made business person. In the late '30s and '40s, Dave McCoy, who was born in El Segundo, worked as a hydrographer for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. Since L.A. was getting most of its water from the Owens River Valley, his job allowed him to traverse the Sierra Nevada on skis. He always said Mammoth held the best snow in the Eastern Sierra, which is why he installed a rope tow here in 1942.
Take in the full breadth of McCoy's vision from the top of the gondola, which unloads skiers and snowboarders at an elevation of 11,053 feet. From there, the view is 360 degrees to domes on the western slope of the Sierra, the jagged Minarets, and the Long Valley Caldera—the latter is a volcanic crater just east of the Sierra. Today, Mammoth Mountain Ski Area is more than 3,500 acres of sprawling terrain that is mostly above tree-line. Thanks to its exposure, every morning the mountain wakes up with smooth, wind-buffed slopes. Its high elevation also means that Mammoth often gets more snow than anywhere else in the state. So, while it's raining in Tahoe, it's snowing in Mammoth.
Like all the big ski resorts in California, Mammoth likes a party, especially on holidays and weekends. The resort’s sheer size (the name is no pun) effectively spreads the crowds out, but if you’re seeking a little more solitude, come mid-week or later in the season, when Mammoth’s remote location means you can ski up to the chair and have long solo rides. Laps off Chair 23, which takes skiers to the precipice between two chutes—Dropout and Wipeout—are especially classic.
In Mammoth, you’ll find good, satisfying fare at spots like Roberto's Mexican Cafe and Mammoth Brewing Company. For something that's more upscale, try Campo for wood-fired pizzas. The best tacos in town are in the bar underneath the Alpenhof Lodge, called the Clocktower Cellar. Also a favorite of POWDER Senior Correspondent Hans Ludwig (aka the Jaded Local), the Clocktower's kitchen serves up cheap, authentic, and savory street tacos (and Tuaca). Put it on the Jaded’s POWDER tab. Get to the Clocktower early. As soon as the clock strikes 10pm, it's packed with thirsty skiers.
Avoid the temptation to join the crowd on the deck of Mammoth's Main Lodge, near Chair One. Instead, head over to the Yodler, which has just as good of a deck but with less people and a better selection of beers. Its specialty are the lighter pilsners from Austria, which taste really good after a long day of skiing in the sunshine, especially if you order a huge pretzel to go with it.
For the most part, lodging at Mammoth is an array of condos and second-homes that get listed on AirBnB. But the ski resort owns a smattering of hotels, too. The newer hotels are located around the Canyons Lodge or in the Village, which is close to town. But for something classic that embodies McCoy and old ski culture stay at the Mammoth Mountain Inn. It's across the street from the Main Lodge and is an old A-frame style hotel. Cozy and rustic, this is the type of ski lodge that is becoming rare at resorts around the country, and the Mammoth Mountain Inn is as good a version of it as you’ll find anywhere. One more option: Do what the dirtbags do and park the camper van next to one of the hot springs off Highway 395.