For the Love of Spring in the Eastern Sierra

As the spring sun begins to shine, rising above the White Mountains on the horizon, Mammoth skiers and snowboarders wake to a frosty morning. They begin their coffee and breakfast rituals while gearing up for the day.

Before heading up to the mountain to snowboard, I take a walk with my dog. King stretches his legs and rolls in the dirt before taking off in hot pursuit of a black bird. Behind him, the towering peaks of the Sierra Nevada mountain range glow in the early morning light.

Like most snow bums that migrate to the mountains each year, King appreciates the finer things in life like powder romping, running on trails, and chasing birds. But after his morning walk, King is resolved to rest on the couch for a few hours while his humans go skiing.

For Mammoth locals and their four legged furry friends, the biggest dilemma each day is not deciding what to do, but how to pack in multiple adventures after a morning riding on Mammoth Mountain.

Home to Winter Olympians

At 11,053 feet tall, there is no higher ski resort in California. It’s no wonder so many Winter Olympians like Kelly Clark, Greg Bretz, Stacey Cook, Trevor Jacob, and John Teller call Mammoth home.

Mammoth Mountain offers eleven terrain parks including the Unbound Main Park where professionals hone their competition skills and the Wonderland Playground where beginners can learn new tricks. Though the parks are world-class, Mammoth also has a wide variety of terrain for free riding. From the steep runs off the summit like Climax and Dave’s Run to the off-trail tree runs on the backside and Lincoln Mountain, there is something for every rider.

High Altitude Training

The town of Mammoth Lakes is not just a training destination for winter athletes. Deena Kastor, the American record holder in the marathon and an Olympic bronze medalist, moved to Mammoth in 2002 to run with the Mammoth Track Club, which her husband Andrew is currently the head coach.

Mammoth has since become a training destination for world-class runners who come for the high altitude training and stay for the inspiring mountain trails. Deena leads a team of elite distance runners including Josphat Boit, Shadrack Biwott, Lauren Jimison, and Lauren Kleppin—who are all gearing up for the 2016 Olympic marathon trials.

Plenty more to do than just ski and snowboard, or run.

After a good morning ride on the hill, there’s still plenty of daylight to go fishing or for an afternoon bike ride. Hot Creek, the Upper Owens, and East Walker are open year-round for catch and release fly fishing with barbless hooks. And while anglers are casting a line on their favorite river, cyclists will enjoy Benton Crossing Road for a bike ride. The views to the south towards Esha Peak and Mount Morrison are spectacular, and the rolling terrain is mellow enough for a post-ski pedal.

In the spring months, the Eastern Sierra is also a top destination for climbers. The Owen’s River Gorge offers a wide range of moderate to advanced climbs and is home to the largest concentration of sport climbing routes in California. There are also the high-ball boulders at the Buttermilks in Bishop, which is considered one of the most impressive bouldering regions in the world.

While the spring sun warms up the snow, the first decision of the day is where to ski. We enjoy the freshly groomed trails before adventuring off piste into the trees. While we make our way from Canyon Lodge around to the backside, the chairlift conversation quickly shifts to the post-ski afternoon adventure.

Should we hike, bike, run, fish, or climb in the evening? While the options are good and plenty, if King has a say—the next adventure will be dog-friendly and include a second round of bird chasing.

Monica Prelle

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 and connect on twitter @monicaprelle

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