How to Survive A REAL Mammoth Lakes Winter
Mar 06, 2023
March 6 update – It looks like Mammoth Lakes will be in the midst of an active weather pattern for the foreseeable future. Please check the weather prior traveling. We have seen our main traffic routes impacted through this last storm, and given how much snow we have it is possible that further accumulation could lead to additional impacts and delays. Please check road conditions before traveling and while traveling, be prepared for delays and closures, carry chains, blankets, plus extra water and food. Also remember that your GPS and traffic apps are not always up-to-date of road conditions. If the main routes are closed, it’s likely the side roads are in much worse condition.
Mother Nature is at it again and has covered our region with another extremely healthy dose of snow. Winters like this one don’t happen all the time, but when they do they take a toll on our entire community.
Locally, we are doing our best to keep up with this wild winter weather and locals are working hard to dig out, but it’s going to take a bit of time to get everything cleaned up. We ask that you continue to consider the following while we try to catch our breath.
Be Patient. Be Considerate. Be Kind. (and Put Yourself in a Local’s Shoes)
We know the powder panic is real, but please take your time when making travel plans to our area. There is PLENTY of snow to go around and traveling with patience will go a long way.
Also remember that this ski season is going to be ridiculously long (spring skiing is going to be UNREAL!) so there is plenty of time to plan a visit over the course of the next few months.
Not only have locals been shoveling non-stop once again, but they have been stuck inside during a blizzard trying to keep themselves and their families safe. They are tired, but they are here for you! Please put yourself in their shoes and consider what they’ve been through whenever you are in town.
With this amount of snow, town continues to feel tight. Snowbanks are HUGE and often tough to see around whether you are driving or walking and parking lots have limited space. Please use extreme caution and be patient when looking for parking spots and when driving to and from the mountain. Being patient helps everyone stay safe.
The town is doing its best to create space for everyone to get around as best they can. Help others if you have a chance and be considerate in town and on the mountain. Remember that we operate on mountain time up here (i.e., a slower pace of life), so don’t worry about taking things slow. Better to arrive in one piece at your destination.
And finally, kindness goes a long way when it comes to situations like the one we are in. Extend your kindness to our hardworking locals and give them a shout of thanks when you see them.
*DO NOT pass snow removal equipment on the roads
*DO follow @mammothmountain for live and hourly mountain updates
*DO remember that traffic rules still exist even if it is snowing
*DO clear all the snow off your roof
*DO take public transit whenever possible
*DO put chains on your vehicle as soon as you enter a chain required area
*DO give yourself 3x the stopping room at lights, stops signs and when following other vehicles
*DO wear bright, reflective clothes if you are walking around town. It is difficult to see people walking in a snowstorm.
*DON’T create your own parking spot
*DO pack extra blankets, food and water in your vehicle in case you end up stranded in it for an extended period of time.
*DO NOT abandon your cars, even just briefly overnight, it creates plowing issues and likely damage to your vehicle
The U.S. 395 between Bishop and Mammoth Lakes, as well as Hwy 203 into Mammoth Lakes reopened this morning, but the 395 between Mammoth Lakes and Bridgeport remains closed. Please continue to be respectful of any road closures that are in place. DO NOT try to get around them!
We are all in this together so please help us to help you!
What to Pack in Your Car for Mountain Travel
If you are driving to Mammoth Lakes for a winter vacation, be prepared for snowstorms. The region can have treacherous storms with rain, hail, and snow even in the summer. It’s best to be ready for weather anytime you are traveling in the mountains, but even more so in the winter months. You’ll want to pack a few things in your car in case of weather delays.
Always carry snow chains for your vehicle in the winter months – It’s the LAW. Even if you own a four-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive vehicle, snow chains are sometimes required, and the Highway Patrol will check to make sure you have them. Have an ice scraper and shovel handy in your vehicle, so you can clear your windshield of ice and snow and dig your car out of the snow.
Pack warm blankets, extra clothing, food and water in your car when driving in the mountains. The extra warmth will make a delay or road closure more comfortable. Water and snacks are also nice to have handy for delays and in general during winter travel. The speed of travel can be slow and there are long distances between amenities on Highway 395.
Tips for Winter Travel
Before you set out on your mountain adventure, check CalTrans for road conditions. If a storm is happening, check back often as conditions can change quickly in the mountains. Call 800-427-7623 or visit CalTrans online for up to the minute highway conditions. You can also download the CalTrans Quick Map app for use on your mobile device.
There are different categories of road conditions and chain controls issued by CalTrans used to communicate the degree of hazard on the roads: R1: Chains are required, snow tread tires allowed; R2: Chains are required on all vehicles except four-wheel-drive vehicles with snow tires on all four wheels; R3: Chains are required – all vehicles – no exceptions.
Do not try to take side roads to get around road closures. If the highway is closed, there is a reason for it. CalTrans does a great job of maintaining the road and clearing it of snow. Chances are Highway 395 is in better condition than any detour routes you may try, and heading off on alternate routes can be dangerous or deadly.
Many mountain passes are closed in the winter. If you are planning on crossing the Sierra Nevada, check the highways before you go. Tioga Pass, Sonora Pass, and Monitor Pass are all high elevation mountain routes that are closed seasonally. Plan accordingly if you want to travel to Mammoth from Yosemite or the Bay Area.
Anytime you travel in the mountains you are advised to slow down and enjoy the experience of mountain travel. Driving in snow or icy conditions can be stressful and will only be more dangerous at higher speeds. Even if there is not a storm, shaded or north-facing areas can have snow or ice on the roads. Be sure to read all road signs as speed limits are changed during weather events and travel advisories are often posted.
Keep your car fueled when driving in the mountains. There are long distances between gas stations on some sections of the highway. When driving in the winter you may experience travel delays or may be turned around.