An Epic One-Day Itinerary for Navigating Mammoth Mountain’s Trails and Lifts
The vast variety of terrain—open bowls, steep chutes, friendly groomers and off-piste trees—is why many skiers visit Mammoth Mountain time and again. With 28 chairlifts accessing 3,100 skiable acres and 150 named trails, there’s a lot of terrain to explore. Make the most out of your day on the mountain with this epic one-day itinerary.
Start Your Day at Canyon Lodge
One of the most convenient things about visiting Mammoth Lakes is the free, accessible public transportation. (You can even bring your skis and snowboards on the shuttle.) Start your day at Canyon Lodge. The Blue Line services Canyon Lodge but there are a variety of other ways to get here. If there is a shuttle stop near you, hop on and ride to the lodge. For those closest to the Red Line, ride to the Village and then take the Village Gondola to Canyon Lodge. If the Green Line is out your front door, take the shuttle to Little Eagle Resort, ride the high-speed six-seater Little Eagle Express-15 and start the tour of the mountain from there.
Hit the Slopes Early
The early bird gets the worm in Mammoth. While the rest of skiers are having a leisurely breakfast, you’ll enjoy the freshly groomed powder on the slopes. To find the best conditions, follow the sun around the mountain. Skip the line at Canyon Express and ride the old three-seater Chair 8. From the top take Follow Me past the top of Eagle Express (this is where you join in if you started at Little Eagle Lodge) and continue on Holiday to Cloud Nine Express-9. Enjoy the early morning sun and views of the Mammoth Crest to the south (your left) as you ride the high-speed six-seater chair to the top. Snap a photo from the chair and share your bird’s eye view of the range.
Gold Hill offers some of the best intermediate early morning corduroy. Continue down the trail as it turns into a gulley and enjoy the natural half-pipe like feature all the way back to Cloud Nine; ride the same chair up again. This time continue on the cat track past the top of Gold Hill to Solitude. Take High Five Express-5 and ride Solitude again.
Take a Break and Rehydrate
If you love the fresh groomers, burn a few more laps on Solitude and when you’re ready for a mid-morning break, continue past the bottom of the chair on the Comeback Trail all the way down to the Mill Café. Take a quick bathroom stop and have a cup of water from the fountain. Situated at 8,000 feet in the Eastern Sierra, Mammoth Lakes is a dry, high altitude town. With a summit elevation of 11,054 feet, you’ll quickly realize the air is thin up here, which means you need to drink a lot of fluids to stay hydrated, especially when you’re exercising. If you need courage for the upper slopes, belly up to the bar and order a Bloody Mary with a water back.
Late-Morning Skiing and Snowboarding
Now that you’re warmed up and ready to go, ride Stump Alley Express-2 and ski to Face Lift Express-3. From the top of this mid-mountain chair, you’ll have one of the best views of the resort. Snap a quick photo of yourself with the face of Mammoth Mountain in the background because soon you’ll be standing on top of those black diamond slopes. Drop off the back to Saddle Bowl and ride the trail around to the bottom of the chair. Then head over to McCoy Station. It’s time to go to the top.
Ride the Upper Panorama Gondola to the summit of Mammoth Mountain. Enjoy the 360-degree view of the surrounding mountains and take a photo next to the Mammoth sign. From here, all face runs are black and double black diamond runs. If you’re an advanced rider and ready for it, take either Climax or Cornice Bowl back to McCoy Station and ride back to the top. Now it’s time to venture to the backside of the mountain. From the summit, take Road Runner around past the top of Chair 14 and drop into Santiago. Take the long groomer all the way down to the Outpost.
Where to Grab Lunch on the Slopes
At the Outpost BBQ located at the base of Chairs 13 and 14, you’ll find a laid back vibe reminiscent of a small family-owned ski resort. It’s a sometimes-needed respite from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the mountain, plus you’ll have front row seats to the backside slopes and Hemlock Ridge. Order something from the grill, buy a Snickers bar for a late afternoon snack and enjoy the sunshine on the deck. Snap a quick photo on the sundeck with the slopes in the background. Rest your legs, rehydrate, reapply sunscreen and use the restroom before heading back up for a few more hours of skiing.
Afternoon Skiing and Snowboarding
When you’re ready to go again, take Chair 14 up and drop in to the Outpost Glades or Arriba where you can ride back down to the base of the chair. Now take the less crowded two-seater Chair 13. Ride Whitebark Ridge to Lower Road Runner and continue along the low-angle slope all the way back to Main Lodge. Take Broadway Express-1 up and ski the wide-open groomer Stump Alley down to the Mill and ride Gold Rush Express-10. There are a lot of trail junctions from the top of this lift, so be sure to yield to other skiers. Take Solitude, cross the slow zone and stay to the right heading toward Canyon Lodge. Drop in to Roller Coaster and ride the groomed trail that parallels the South Park on one side and a forested slope on the other. Ride Roller Coaster Express-4 up and follow signs to Canyon Lodge along the Downhill trail.
Après-Ski: Cheers to the Best Day Ever
The thing about skiing is you always want to quit while you’re still feeling good. Take a few more runs in the Canyon Lodge area (if you’re feeling up for it), so you can stop at anytime. When your legs are done, head into the Grizzly Bar at Canyon Lodge and have an après ski toast to the best day ever.
Monica Prelle is an outdoors, wine, and travel writer who would rather be running, climbing, or mountain biking. See more of Monica's posts here, read more of her work at monicaprelle.com and connect on twitter @monicaprelle...