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Mammoth Mountain, California

Mammoth is, well, mammoth. Everything about this resort’s terrain is big, very big. Plus development of a new mountain village is transforming the resort and making it easier to get around.

No mountain is better named than Mammoth. When you stand at the base lodge and scan the mountain, you can’t even see a quarter of the ski terrain. The encircling ridge, all above treeline, promises dramatic skiing, but what you can’t see is even better. Lower peaks such as Lincoln Mountain, Gold Hill and Hemlock Ridge, all with groomed swaths and moguled canyons, stretch 6.5 miles in width. Mammoth is one of the nation’s largest winter resorts in size, and at times it’s the nation’s busiest, with more than 14,000 skiers and riders swooping over its slopes on an average weekend.

 

MAMMOTH MOUNTAIN HISTORY

Its season runs from early November through June—legitimately. Mammoth often relies on its 430 acres of snowmaking to be open by Thanksgiving, but snow often falls by early November. Skiing and riding here on the Fourth of July is a well-loved tradition among the diehards who haven’t had enough.

Until recently, Mammoth was owned in part by Intrawest, a ski and golf resort company based in Vancouver. Intrawest’s most visible involvement is a slopeside pedestrian village with 275 residential units and 140,000 square feet of retail space for shops, galleries, bars and restaurants. Visitors who stay in one of the three Village lodges, White Mountain Lodge, Lincoln House or Grand Sierra Lodge, can take advantage of the Mountain Center, a 17,000-square-foot skier services building in the center of the Village. It is connected to the Village Gondola, which whisks guests up to Canyon Lodge, eliminating the need for a car once you’re in the town of Mammoth Lakes.

Up the road at the main base area, a labyrinthine base lodge houses the ski school, lift ticket windows, rental shops and hundreds of lockers for locals and visitors. The slopeside Mammoth Mountain Inn recently underwent a $1.5 million renovation, as did the third floor of the main lodge, where $4 million went into a compete cafeteria remodel including the addition of sky box-like lofts that overlook the slopes.

 

At the bottom of the mountain road lies the small but spread-out town of Mammoth Lakes. As the town grew to support the ski area's success, newcomers haphazardly transplanted Southern California sprawl and mini-malls to the mountains. Since the village was built, it has begun to establish the town center Mammoth has never really had. Most visitors come by car from Southern California, but the few who don't will feel the need for wheels—not much is within easy walking distance. However, there is a free town shuttlebus that runs day and night.

 

Mammoth's little sister June Mountain (left), a half-hour drive from Mammoth Lakes, is closed for the 2012-13 season.

Photos courtesy of Mammoth Mountain Ski Area