“The Mountains Are Calling and I Must Go”
These words by famous explorer John Muir greet the traveler upon entering Mammoth Lakes, California. Nestled in the Eastern Sierras, about 35 minutes south of the eastern entrance to Yosemite National Park, Mammoth Mountain is a world-class winter wonderland. This quaint alpine town at about 8,000 feet in elevation boasts a world renowned ski resort, more than 45 restaurants, live entertainment and plenty of cold weather activities such as, cross country skiing, snowmobiling, snow shoeing, sledding and ice skating. Here are several insider tips on how to enjoy winter in Mammoth Mountain like the locals do.
Food & Drinks:
- Groceries: If you didn’t bring your own food and need to plan for dinner, snacks etc…remember there is only one major grocery store in Mammoth, so plan ahead. Locals know to get to the store before 8am or before the slopes close at 4pm—and Friday’s steer clear if you can—as they are as packed as the SoCal freeways at rush hour. Natural food can also be found at Sierra Sundance Whole Food Market.
- Coffee: Stellar Brew and Natural Café serves up fresh roasted coffee in a cozy, homespun atmosphere. They make foods from whole natural ingredients (including vegan and gluten free) and sell local crafts.
- Breakfast: Good Life Cafe offers delicious comfort food that tastes like grandma made it.
- Lunch: The Latin Market on Tavern Road offers the best authentic and inexpensive burrito in town.
- Happy Hour: Locals favor the Outlaw Saloon for their weekly appetizer specials and pro game watching. Slocums offers reduced appetizers and a collection of signature cocktails.
- Friday Nights: Most locals frequent Roberto’s for tasty Mexican fare. The chips are made from flour tortillas and are incredible fluffy and tasty. Upstairs sports a great view. Across from the north village and tucked downstairs, Clocktower Cellar has a great beer selection, 160 different whiskeys, a pool table and foosball table.
- New: Bleu offers wine and craft beer tasting and an exquisite menu of farmstead cheeses, grass fed and wild game meats, sustainable seafood and freshly baked artisan bread.
- Hidden Gem: Tom’s Place, located 20 minutes south of Mammoth, has been a local’s favorite for nearly 100 years. The setting of this fishing hot spot is rich with crusty character(s).
- Beer: Mammoth Brewing Company offers a steady supply of staple and seasonal craft beer, made on-site, often with hops grown nearby. Growlers are half-off the first Wednesday of the month, and you can bring in a growler from your home town and have it filled up here.
Hitting the Slopes:
- The locals get to the Main Lodge by 8am, to ensure a close parking spot, which doesn’t require lugging yourself, equipment and crew aboard the bus and you get ahead of the traffic both coming and going. It’s best if you can park at Chair 2 or 4 for the smoothest time.
- The Mill at Chair 2 is a great spot for a quick snack or drink or just a chance to just rest and put up your feet.
- Sledding: The best free sledding can be had at the top of Deadman’s Summit off Hwy 395, just north of Mammoth Lakes.Woolly’s Ski Park is located on Highway 203 on the right heading to the ski resort that features a heated deck, tube lift, adult drinks and snacks.
- Ice Skating: The Mammoth Ice Rink is awesome for outdoor skating.
- Snowmobiling: Ride through the trees with either Snowmobile Adventures or DJs at Smokey Bear Flats.
- Cross Country Skiing and Snowshoeing: Tamarack Lodge is your connection to experience the serene beauty of alpine lakes and ancient forests.
- Gondola Rides: Check out stunning views at the summit of Mammoth at 11,053 feet.
- Live Entertainment: The North Village features live music and a packed schedule.
- Hot tubs: There is nothing better than soaking in the natural hot springs created by ancient volcanic activity. Check out themaps for directions. Be certain to be respectful of others in the tub, park a fair distance from the tubs and clean up after you leave.
- There is a free bus service to transport you throughout town running every 20 minutes throughout the day. There are five different bus lines with different stops and the hours vary depending on the line.
- Driving to Mammoth: From SoCal, the least expensive gas is at Fort Independence, just north of the city of Independence, even includes a casino run by the local band of Native Americans. If you are traveling south into Mammoth, fuel up at Topaz Lodge. Highways 120, 89 and 108 are typically closed all winter. Road conditions change quickly, so be certain to have chains with you this winter, and know how to put them on as the chain installers may or may not be working. Have water and non-perishable food in the car as well. Drive 20-30 miles an hour in snowy conditions.
- Flying to Mammoth: The airport is conveniently close to the city of Mammoth Lakes and easy to navigate. Make sure to check weather conditions as the plane will not land if the wind or viewing conditions are too severe and will return back to your original destination.
Dave Mc Coy, who turned 100 this year, brought his portable tow line to Mammoth Mountain in 1941 and opened the first chair lift in 1955. Mammoth now has more than 150 named trails and 28 lifts (includes 9 high speed quads, 2 high speed six-packs and 3 high speed gondolas).