FOR over half a hundred years, Angelinos have flocked for this secluded corner of California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. It’s easy to understand why. Despite the 8,000-foot altitude, houses for sale in mammoth sprawl of splashy condos and strip malls features a distinct L . A . feel. Although the surrounding frozen lakes and granite peaks, immortalized with the photographer Ansel Adams, are decidedly un-Los Angeles, and may hold their very own with any landscape in Colorado or Canada. And with expanded daily flights through the San Francisco Bay area and L . A ., not to mention a flurry of the latest après-ski offerings, Mammoth is hoping to draw skiers from past the Golden State.
1) SIBERIAN SPA
Imagine an enormous white expanse of what appears like frozen Siberian tundra, dotted with natural hot springs and flanked by soaring peaks. Hilltop Hot Spring is popular with locals, however, you can join in, too. There are no formal signs or footpaths – just stick to the S.U.V.’s past the airport 5 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 requires a 20-minute trek and a pair of snowshoes.
2) From The FIREPLACE
On the reverse 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, with its bark-wood ceiling fixtures and 1920s-era fireplace, also happens with an impressive wine collection and 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, have got a mulled wine ($5) or hot cider ($4) through the fire.
3) PANCAKES AND BISCUITS
Before striking the slopes, fill up 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. More than 4 decades, 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, get a homemade pie ($13.95) – apple, apricot, cherry. Arrive there early since 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 case the boots don’t feel snug by midday, Colin Fernie with his fantastic team will meet you on the slopes and exchange your gear, or switch your snowboard for some skis. Pretty good for less than $40 (at the very 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). You will find three lodges: Eagle, Canyon and Main. Skiers in search of soft powder and fresh-groomed runs begin Eagle and follow the sun onto Main or perhaps the backside of your mountain (to prevent lift lines, turn back the order). Or go ahead and take gondola from Main to the summit, 11,053 feet above sea level, to find a restful destination 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, off of the summit’s less crowded backside, which provides scattered glades along with gorgeous views of the Minarets, a majestic combination of jagged granite peaks.
6) SOUTH Of Your BORDER
Lunch on Mammoth typically involves Mexican fare. If you can’t get the new Roving Mammoth, a bright orange snowcat that doubles as being a food cart, serving up burritos ($5.50) – you can also track the snowcat’s whereabouts on Twitter – you can 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, go to the Yodler (10001 Minaret Road; 760-934-2571), a Swiss-style chalet away from the Main Lodge. Gomez’s (100 Canyon Boulevard; 760-924-2693; gomezs.com), a Mexican place with over 200 tequilas and fittingly mammoth margaritas, relocated to your spot in the center of the village last year.
7) ART PARK
Take Chair 10 approximately ski down a number of wide-open runs like Easy Rider or Solitude that stay powdery throughout the day. Or try Quicksilver, a nicely-groomed trail with gently sloped glades and variable terrain. Snowboarders should go 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 full of jumps, jibs as well as 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 along with the backyards of condos, linking the mountain together with the village.
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8) GROWLERS AND PASTRIES
Thankfully, après-ski at Mammoth is not going to involve bad cover bands. If anything, it revolves around its eponymous microbrew. Insiders make their method to a warehouse converted many years back to a beer-tasting room to the 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), the local 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, much like 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), that can take up almost half of your cafeteria at McCoy Station, a midmountain gondola station up through the 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 the tacky TV Yule log fireplace. Yet at 9,600 feet, it is reachable by only snowcat, which picks people up at the Mammoth Mountain Inn (10001 Minaret Road; 760-934-2581; mammothmountain.com). Hop aboard a heated snowcat that seems like a spaceship while you gaze up at the mammothllakes through its glass roof. Then feast on dishes including a rack of brand new Zealand lamb to grilled chicken with risotto (foods 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 above the bar. Hyde Lounge (6201 Minaret Road; 760-934-0669; sbe.com/hydemammoth) lives up to its Sunset Boulevard forefather. There are bottle-service-only booths (from $200), lasers everywhere and Mammoth’s version of the strict door policy (“No snowboard gear”). The group sipping pricey cocktails is a mixture of slovenly clad snowboarders and dressed-to-impress partygoers, all crammed within its fire-engine red walls. Warm up by using a burning mango ($12), a jalapeño and vodka concoction, and settle in for an evening of individuals watching.
11) OLYMPIC WORKOUT
In recent years, Mammoth Lakes has developed into a year-round hub for Olympic and pro athletes interested in our prime altitudes and easygoing ethos. A fantastic byproduct is definitely the state-of-the-art facilities at the Snowcreek Athletic Club, which resembles a huge 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 may even bump in the New York City Marathon winner Meb Keflezighi exercising 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) around town. His color photos (prints start at $149) of nearby canyons, lakes and mountain vistas are ubiquitous out and about, as is the man himself. Vern’s scruffy yellow jacket and unruly hair have already been a familiar presence at Mammoth considering that the early ’70s. He is a contemporary-day version of Ansel Adams, who greater than anyone put this corner of California around the map.