Los Angeles

Have the Best Weekend in Mammoth Mountain!

snowboard in mammoth

To be able to pack up my car in 75 degree Los Angeles and drive 5 hours to reach a mountain consistently rated high for best ski conditions?  Well that is just magic.   What isn’t so magical is figuring out the logistics once you get there.  But fret not, I got’chu covered.

{  G E T T I N G    T H E R E }

Sure, you can fly.  And yep, Alaska Airlines will even give you a free lift ticket if you take their flight. But you risk the high probability of your flight being canceled in the event of a snowstorm.  This is half the reason I always suggest driving.  The other half is that the drive is absolutely jaw dropping gorgeous and there are a few fun stops along the way.

Why you should drive to mammoth

T h e   D r i v e

Leave LA after rush hour and you’ll be smooth sailing for the 5 hour cruise to Mammoth. Mandatory stops are:

Mahogany Smoked Meats. Honey elk jerky anyone? The jerky selection here is impressive and delicious and the employees are liberal with samples. Stock up on my personal favorite the habanero turkey and have your taste buds swelter.

Schat’s Bakery in BishopRight, I get it.. there’s a Schats in Mammoth. But this one’s… different.  This is the Schat’s emporium if you will. Sample the monkey bread, buy a cookie, and indulge in their signature sandwich. If you really want to be the trip hero, pick up a loaf of the bacon cheese bread for the house. Or two.. (get two).

Wild Willy’s Hot Springs.  About 45 minutes south of the mountain, you’ll find a little old dirt road that winds you out to a handful of natural hot springs pools

Hot Springs in Mammoth

{  S K I I N G  }

Pinch yo pennies and order your Mammoth ski passes at www.costco.com to save $50 per pass.  The passes come in four packs, but never expire and are transferable.

skiing mammoth mountain

As for the actual skiing, here are my tips:

Always try to avoid skiing on Saturdays unless you feel like waiting with a bunch of snow zombies for 1 hour + to hop a chairlift at Canyon or Main Lodge.  Oh, and the Gondola on a Satuday?? Forget. About. It.

-Same goes with long weekends. Spend the sick days and get at least one non-holiday Sunday-Friday ski day in and see the difference yourself if you don’t believe me.

-Park at Eagle Lodge whenever possible to avoid crowds.

-If you didn’t listen and you’re skiing Saturday… hug the far right side of the mountain, there are three double lifts that move quite fast and have a variety of trail levels.

The Mill is my favorite place to grab a drink and relax on a lounge chair.  This should be your group meeting point fo’ sho’.

Best drinks in Mammoth

-Don’t let the blacks intimidate you.  Mammoth blacks are typical mountain blues.  Plus the skiing conditions are always superb fresh powdery goodness.

mammoth mountain skiing

-Also, this is still California… and significantly warmer than anywhere else I’ve ever boarded.  Go easy on the thermals.

tips for mammoth mountain

  {  F O O D  }

Let me start by saying: Overall, the food in Mammoth sucks.  No really, it is pretty horrendous and probably the only place in the world I don’t look forward to dining at.  But fear not my little foodies, I have done my research and learned my lessons to come up with this list of acceptable places to spend your money.

C o f f e e 

Black VelvetAll the comforts of a hipster hotspot with superb drip coffees and frothy almond milk lattes to back it up. The minimalistic and industrial decor gives way to a posh three-level space begging for heated discussions on environmental issues.  On the second floor is a wine bar worth mentioning, but the first is a perfect coffee shop with a selection of pastries and gluten free goodies.  Oh, and waffles made to order that smell like Christmas morning.

Looney BeanI adore this cozy coffee shop offering up a wide variety of teas and coffees and a health-conscious selection of treats. Mocha almond latte by the fireplace anyone? Yes please.

B r e a k f a s t 

I’m one of those annoying ‘can’t waste any mountain time’ people who will have a quick bowl of cereal at home before hitting the slopes… but the morning before the big drive home?  Here are my roundups:

Shea Schat’s Bakery.  You absolutely have to visit this adorable, quaint, touristy, local gem once on your trip to Mammoth.  Get the jalapeno & cheddar bagel and the baklava to go as the dining area isn’t particularly inviting.  Also great for sandwiches, as the breads are definitely the crown jewel of this sweet bakery.

The Stove.  Think elevated diner in a kitsch country cottage.  I would argue Mammoth’s only legitimate breakfast joint and the atmosphere is on point with mountain coziness.   If you stick to the dense cinnamon swirl french toast, pancakes served with a vile of real maple syrup, and a slice of pie, you will leave raving about The Stove.  If you order one of the mediocre skillets and perhaps the worst cup of coffee I’ve ever choked down, well that’s another story.  And yes, the coffee is THAT bad.

L u n c h 

Eating on mountain defines mediocracy.  Even the chili is seriously lacking flavor.  What lodge has bad chili?!  What is delicious is the drink menu.  The Bloody Marys are perfectly peppery and spicy and at Canyon & Main Lodge you can order a spiked candy cane hot chocolate that will warm back up your bones. After a few cocktails, I suppose Main Lodge is your best bet for dining.  It has the most variety… and is the only place you’ll find an organic juice/smoothie bar.  Although while I live for a good green juice, I can’t imagine myself ever ordering one from a ski lodge.  But anywho, garlic fries are good-ish, pizza and sandwiches are fine, soup is edible.

candy cane spiked cocoa

Off mountain, grab the signature sandwich from Schats or a wrap from PitaPit.  Mammoth Brewing is a good sit down option, or Campo for pizza if it’s warm enough to people watch outside.

D i n n e r

Just throwing it out there… not a bad idea to cook at home one night and play board games!  Besides these four, there aren’t any other restaurants I’d be interested in ‘trying again’ in all of Mammoth Lakes. I don’t know who is leaving these 5 star yelp reviews, but believe me, they are not to be trusted.

Mogul.  Everything you could want in atmosphere for a romantic old fashioned dinner in a mountain chalet. Antique and perfectly dated, this restaurant is the spot for old souls (or just older people for that matter). Get the steak!

53 Restaurant & CocktailsNew kid on the block, that feels much more like an elevated sports bar than a fine dining restaurant. Very ‘chain’ restaurant, without being a chain.  But the salmon with cauliflower ‘risotto’?  Delicious and satisfying.  Also a great drink menu.

CampoWood fired pizzas, American pastas & a bundino dessert worth ordering.  The food is mediocre for the most part, but the vibe is lively, young and inviting.

RaftersGiant cozy fireplace & karaoke on Tuesdays, what’s not to love?  They’ve got a few sophistication points on bar food, like zucchini noodles and ahi tuna salad, but I’d stick to the basics here to have a good meal.  Like the pig wings & a burger.

{  N I G H T L I F E  }

Remember when there was a Hyde in the village? Well, those days are gone. Nightlife in Mammoth is far from riveting but a bar is only as fun as the people you go with… am I right? Or as how much you drink.  That could work too.

….if you’re after some freshly 21 patrons and want to party like you did at your favorite college dive, Clocktower Cellar Pub is the spot for you.  Let the fireball flow.

….for a group dance party in a restaurant with sugary mai tais, Lakanuki Tiki Bar. 

….fireside beers for you and boo, Rafters

…..chatting hops surrounded by two stories of pinewood and a ridiculously friendly staff? Mammoth Brewing is a great place to go with a group.

….you crave a creative cocktail and intimate conversation, 53 Restaurant and Cocktails.

{  C O N C L U S I O N  }

You don’t go to Mammoth for the food or the nightlife.  You don’t go to be seen, or pampered, or stay in a luxury hotel. There isn’t any dog sledding or winter music festivals.  No shopping, luxury or boutique.  It is no Aspen or Vail, no Whistler or Jackson Hole.  Yet… there is something extra special about the fluffy powder that graces the top of Mammoth that you don’t find anywhere else.  And there is this small town mountain air at the base that feels welcoming and warm even on the coldest of days.

Mammoth isn’t meant to be built up to a mini LA, it is, and hopefully forever will be, an escape from the city.  One best enjoyed with friends in a snow lined cabin with too much wine and Schats cheese bread.


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