When RSNG visited world-renowned ski resort Mammoth Mountain, we weren’t expecting to be able to paddle on Lake Tahoe for the sunrise and then shred the slopes on a perfect bluebird day, but it’s all possible, largely thanks to snow resort pioneer Dave McCoy…
Here’s what I discovered about California’s most loved winter resort…
1. The Powder Tree Runs Rip Despite its status as California’s best known snow resort, Mammoth still has a pioneering vibe, its chairlifts carrying no-nonsense monikers like ‘Chair 14’, and the lack of mountainside restaurants and cafes up on the pistes really brings out the drama of the landscape.
This encourages a sense of exploration, so it wasn’t long before I was sat on the Chair 14 lifts, scanning the trees below me and nudging my riding buddy to point out some fast lines, weaving through the towering pines.
It’s easy to drop off the intermediate runs here, on the backside of the mountain, and the trees are well spaced. I’m used to densely packed conifers in the Alps but here you have room to breathe, and threading through the trees really does feel like you’ve boosted a Speeder Bike from some dozing Imperial Trooper.
You can be riding pow and then, a 40-minute drive later, you’re surrounded by the hauntingly beautiful desert environment of Mono Lake
2. The ‘Wind Buff’ Is Kinda Magical Mammoth Mountain is massive enough to make its own weather, which is part of the reason why you can be riding pow and then drive 40 mins out of town and be in the hauntingly beautiful desert environment of Mono Lake.
This also means that freakishly high winds, over 100mph, can spring up to abrade the old, tracked out or sun-affected snow, and dry it out until it turns to carveable ‘chalk’. I even saw a mini twister raking fine powder off the top of one of the mountains, starkly illuminated by the afternoon sun. Of course, the lift was closed, but later on the snow, even on steep blacks, wasn’t icy or too hard to shred. It’s kind of magical when you think about it - the universe provides!
3. There’s A Park To Suit You Whatever Your Level As much I like searching out powder stashes and tree runs, there’s a time and place for dialling in your jumping and freestyle skills, and Mammoth offers a range of jump lines, boxes and rails for exactly this purpose.
I head to the park with my instructor, Jake Slaminski, and we start with some small jumps, to build confidence and jump clean. Once I’ve lapped it a couple of times, we move onto doing some flatland 180s and then frontside 180s off the kickers, refining my technique all the way through, and learning the tripod for good measure, where you place two hands on the deck and ride along on the tail of your snowboard.
The progression available at Mammoth, with its five terrain parks, can take you from newbie to park rat, with no difficulty spikes, which is important for a smooth, injury-free learning curve.
4. The Hemlocks Are A Paradise For Hucking If you’ve got the skills, then a whole hike-only area of the back side of the mountain has been devoted to a freeride paradise of hand-sculpted freestyle features and lines.
You need the snow depth for it to be open but when it does, it fires! Just make sure you are avalanche trained and carrying a transceiver and snow shovel/ probe for any off-piste adventures...
5. It’s All Down To Dave Dave McCoy founded Mammoth Mountain resort – he was an iconic figure who was hiking and skiing in the Sierra Nevadas while working for the water authorities when he realised that, for some reason, Mammoth got more snow than anywhere else.
It wasn’t long before he was using his engineering skills to pioneer ways to build lift stations and get equipment up into the high mountains. I arrived in Mammoth on his memorial weekend, as he had passed away not long before. The whole resort was celebrating his life, and it’s fascinating to see how far Mammoth has come in the lifetime of one man.
He also set the resort up as a place for everyone, giving it an inclusive and loose vibe, which comes out in everything from the design of the riding areas, to the singing chair lift attendant, who reminded us that ‘The only send is full send!’
Driving over the rollers beside the monstrous pro-line kickers at 40° in a piste basher feels exactly like tipping over the edge of a monster rollercoaster
6. Piste Bashers Are Radical! The parks in Mammoth have to be seen to be believed - the resort ploughs real resources into building and maintaining towering and innovative pro lines (as well as beginner and intermediate ones.)
I was lucky enough to see first-hand how these are built and crafted, with a behind-the-scenes, passenger seat tour of the park, inside a piste basher. ‘Driving over the rollers beside the monstrous pro-line kickers at 40° in a piste basher feels exactly like tipping over the edge of a monster rollercoaster!
But the precision with which the driver carves the take offs of these massive kickers, using a huge metal shovel is truly impressive. It’s like icing a cake with a 15ft broadsword...
7. Go Sushi For Apres While it’s unusual to see sushi in the mountains, there’s something about the fresh, tasty fare at Sushi Rei that really refuels tired legs. And the hot sake doesn’t hurt either! The interior is cosy and the kitsch art work in the walls actually adds to the ambience. Food that doesn’t take itself too seriously always tastes better!
And the best thing about the calorie-annihilating nature of a day spent shredding the slopes is that it makes tackling one of those ‘The Rock’ style sushi platters, guilt free!
WHAT NEXT? If you’re thinking of heading to Mammoth next winter, then read about the other Californian ski resort that’s within driving distance – Squaw Valley – here.
Mammoth Mountain is part of the [Ikon Pass](https://www.ikonpass.com/, which connects skiers and riders to 41 destinations around the world. Ikon Base Pass from $699 and Ikon Pass from $999. RSNG travelled with American Airlines and stayed at The Village Lodge where rooms start at $599 per might.
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Comments are for information only and should not replace medical care or recommendations. Please check with your Doctor before embarking on exercise or nutrition regimes for the first time.