Mammoth may not be mammoth in Alpine terms - from end to end it's less than one-third of the size of Val d'Isère-Tignes, in area more like one-sixth. But in American terms it's a decent size, with enough to keep most visitors happy. These days there is something resembling a village to stay in - The Village, a typically careful Intrawest confection of lodgings, restaurants and shops. But most people stay elsewhere - in hotels, condos and houses spread around the vast wooded area of Mammoth Lakes - and never go near it. Pick your location carefully, and you can walk to a lift; get a car, and you open up lots of options. The mountain is set above Mammoth Lakes, a small year-round resort that spreads over a wide area of woodland and is close to Yosemite National Park (local entrance road closed in winter). The drive up from Los Angeles takes around five hours (more in poor conditions). You pass through the Santa Monica mountains close to Beverly Hills, then the San Gabriel mountains and Mojave Desert (with the world's biggest jet-plane parking lot) before reaching the Sierra Nevada. The place is almost entirely geared to driving, with no discernible centre - hotels, restaurants and little shopping centres are scattered along the four-lane highway called Main Street and Old Mammoth Road, which crosses it. Two lift bases are both a mile or two from most of the hotels and condos. The major one is Canyon Lodge, with a big day lodge and hotels and condos in the area below it. A green run (very flat in parts) from here goes down to The Village, a typical car-free Intrawest development that opened in 2003; there's a gondola back up to Canyon Lodge. The minor base is Eagle Lodge (aka Juniper Springs, the adjacent condos). A road skirts the mountain to two other lift base areas: Mill Cafe, and Main Lodge, a mini-resort with a big day lodge. You can stay here, in the Mammoth Mountain Inn. June Mountain is half an hour away from Mammoth and is covered by the lift pass; it is spectacularly underused and well worth a visit when Mammoth's slopes are crowded.
Pros

Slopes to suit all abilities

Mix of open Alpine-style bowls and classic American wooded slopes

Impressive snowfall record

Uncrowded trails most of the time

Cons

Mammoth Lakes is a rather straggling place with no focus, where life revolves around cars

Most, though not all, lodgings are miles from the slopes

Weekend crowds in high season

Wind can be a problem

Getting there

  • Los Angeles airport: 5 hours
  • Reno airport: 3 hours

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