Best Bets: Top 10 Runs To Do with Your Kids at Mammoth Mountain
One of the real advantages of Mammoth Mountain is that the terrain offers something for skiers of every ability, from the beginner just learning to stop and turn to local Olympians Stacey Cook and John Teller. Figuring out where to start can be daunting with over 150 trails and 27 lifts from which to choose! Trails and lifts at Mammoth are clearly marked, and ski instructors can provide guidance and helpful tips about what trails are best suited to your child’s ability level. Here are ten suggestions suitable for progressing skiers that can provide fun for the whole family.
10. Chair 11 (Discovery Chair)
Chair 11 offers the shortest lift-served beginner terrain on the mountain, but because it is located at Main Lodge at nearly 9,000 feet it is generally open throughout the mountain’s legendary long winter seasons. Sesame Street and Sesame Street West have wide open, gentle terrain perfect for new skiers learning how to “pizza” and “French fry,” but this area also offers some fun surprises like the easy tree trail through Woolly’s Woods as well as mellow jumps when Disco Park is set up.
9. Wonderland park/pipe
There are longer runs with a bit more variety for beginners over at Canyon Lodge that can be accessed via Chair 17 (Schoolyard Express) and Chair 7. Wonderland Park can be accessed from either of these chairs, but it’s a bit easier to lap from Chair 7 and give small legs a break on the 6-minute ride up. Just be aware that Chair 7 is an older triple, so don’t hesitate to ask the liftie to slow it down for you. They are used to kids and beginners and will happily comply and help your kids load safely. It’s a great little area with a beginner-friendly halfpipe in addition to small jumps and boxes that adults can use to sharpen their skills. I always really enjoy skiing here with my daughter.
8. Chair 15 (Eagle Express)
Chair 15 is probably the best chair on the mountain for accessing a variety of beginner and lower-intermediate terrain. Take a left at the top of the chair for Holiday, a long, flat cruiser that leads to either Pumpkin or Sleepy Hollow—be sure to keep some speed as you pass by Chair 25 and then watch out for skier/rider traffic as you pass the SLOW sign returning to the Eagle base area where several trails converge. Ready for an intermediate trail? Bridges is a lot of fun and rarely crowded, and softens up nicely on a sunny day. Try the short, steeper pitches of Juniper and Manzanita for more of a challenge. When my daughter was a younger, budding intermediate I often picked her up after school and headed straight to Eagle for a few runs. The parking lot is relatively flat and easy to navigate and we could get on the trails quickly since Chair 15 is a 6-passenger lift that takes less than 5 and a half minutes to ride.
7. St. Moritz
I have to confess that I’m not a huge fan of the St. Moritz trail (probably because I prefer its neighbors described in #6), but my daughter insisted I include it on the list! Even though she’s now an advanced skier who recently skied Dave’s Run off the top of the mountain, she still loves this St. Moritz and insists it’s “really fun” with kid-friendly terrain features along the side of the trail. Fair enough. It’s a good trail for kids who are skiing at Main Lodge and are ready for something harder than the Chair 11 terrain. Take a left at the top of Chair 6 (Thunderbound Express), bypassing the entrances to Main Park and Forest Trail Park, and follow the “Easiest Way” signs back to Main Lodge. During the recent U.S. Olympic team Slopestyle snowboarding qualifier, it was pretty amazing to see pros catching huge air in Main Park right beneath the chair.
Also accessible via Chair 6 or Chair 2 (Stump Alley Express), these are classic groomed cruiser trails offering an increasing level of difficulty and the bonus of some nice tree skiing when conditions are right. Mambo is fun for kids who have mastered St. Moritz, and Patrolmen’s is just steeper and narrower enough to merit a black diamond rating and associated bragging rights for your kids. Don’t be fooled into thinking it matches the difficulty of other black diamond trails on the mountain, though. The “blue-black” advanced intermediate terrain off Chairs 3 and 5 is actually longer and considerably more difficult than the short, moderate pitch of Patrolmen’s.
Aptly named and accessible from either Chair 4(Rollercoaster Express) or Chair 16 (Canyon Express), Rollercoaster is perfect for kids who are building their stamina toward longer runs. It’s also a good place to find some protection from the wind on a stormy day, as well as some nice powder stashes in the trees and under Chair 4. If you need a break before finishing the lower half of the trail, you can pause to check out the action over in South Park. Once kids have mastered Rollercoaster, they can move on to Downhill and the trails in-between, some of which get bumped up and are fun for kids and adults learning to ski moguls.
4. Ski Back Trail
The Ski Back Trail is a relatively new addition to the mountain that received significant grading improvements a couple of summers ago to make it more navigable. It still has flat enough pitches that I wouldn’t recommend it for snowboarders, but once your kids are comfortable using ski poles it’s surprisingly fun when it’s open. I’ve never seen more than a handful of people on it, and kids will enjoy the necessity of straightlining all but one or two pitches that require a turn to check their speed. Follow the signs from the lower Rollercoaster/upper Schoolyard area and enjoy the long, wooded cruise to the bridge leading to the Village at Mammoth, a great place to grab lunch or end your day. Just be aware that the trail closes early, so you need to be heading down it before 3:00pm.
3. Twilight Zone
You’ll find this favorite of local kids by cutting over to the lower half of Forest Trail Park from Mambo and looking for the large sign just outside the woods. It’s a great step up for kids who are enjoying Woolly’s Woods and ready for the next challenge, but a real quad burner for parents on adult-sized skis trying to keep up!
2. Lower Dry Creek
If you ride up Chair 10 (Goldrush Express) and look down, you’ll see people skiing and riding the gully formed by Lower Dry Creek. You can get there by skiing Solitude down from Chair 10, or taking Chairs 16 or 4 out of the Canyon area. It’s not a bad idea to assess the conditions from Chair 10 before proceeding, but this is a great place for kids ready to explore ungroomed terrain and many of them especially enjoy the experience this trail offers.
1. Road Runner
Road Runner is a cat track offering the easiest route down from the top of the mountain and is very well signed. On the right day the vistas are incredible and it’s great to give young skiers a taste of the terrain high on the mountain and off the backside. Road Runner is designated an intermediate trail on the map, however, be aware that it’s rather narrow and conditions can change rapidly above 11,000 feet making it more difficult to ski. Also know that it gets very flat at the bottom as you make your way back to the Main Lodge base area.
Know the Code! Always ski within your ability and obey the Responsibility Code at all times. Never pressure your kids to ski something above their ability level. Be aware of changing conditions and understand that the mountain environment brings something new each day.
Take a Pleasure Ride. If it’s a pleasant day and your kids aren’t ready to ski Road Runner down from the top of the mountain, but would like to take in the views from the top, you can take a Scenic Gondola ride with a valid ticket/pass, check out the Top of the Sierra interpretive center, and grab a photo next to the Mammoth Mountain sign before riding the gondola back down.
Don’t neglect the areas served by older lifts. Some of the best intermediate terrain on the mountain is off Chair 12, but you and your child need to be comfortable loading, riding, and unloading the double chair to get there.
Consider visiting June Mountain. Mammoth Mountain’s sister hill is a great place for families, offers amazing views, and has a great vibe that reminds me of some of the small areas I grew up skiing back East.
Take a trail map home. When my daughter started skiing more trails around the mountain, we began highlighting each trail she skied. Studying the map and planning which trails she wanted to try next provided great motivation for her, and it’s also a great souvenir.
What are your favorite trails to ski with your kids? Have any advice for a terrific family ski day? Leave a comment below; I’d love to hear your thoughts!