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 Mammoth Mountain one-day itinerary.

Hitting the Slopes Early

At Mammoth Mountain, the early bird gets the worm. While the rest of the skiers are having a leisurely breakfast, you’ll enjoy the freshly groomed powder on the slopes.

The free Eastern Sierra Transit Authority (ESTA) bus line is the fastest, most convenient way to get to the hill. (You can even bring your skis and snowboards on the shuttle!) Catching the first bus of the day means you’ll experience fewer crowds and be all but guaranteed first chair.

To find the best conditions, follow the sun around the mountain by starting at Eagle Lodge or Canyon Lodge. The ESTA Green and Yellow lines service Eagle Lodge, while the ESTA Blue Line services Canyon Lodge. You can also take any ESTA bus line to The Village at Mammoth and hop on The Village Gondola to Canyon Lodge.

NOTE: Eagle and Canyon lodges typically open in mid-December and close early-to mid-April.

Early Morning Skiing at Mammoth Mountain

If you are starting your day at Canyon Lodge, skip the line at Canyon Express (Chair 16) and ride the old three-seater Chair 8. From the top of Chair 8, take Follow Me past the top of Eagle Express (Chair 15). From Eagle Lodge, you’d take Eagle Express and end up here as well. Continue on Holiday to Cloud Nine Express (Chair 9). Enjoy the early morning sun and views of the Mammoth Crest to the south (on your left) as you ride the high-speed six-seater chair to the top.

Gold Hill offers some of the best intermediate early morning corduroy. Continue down the trail as it turns into a gully and enjoy the natural half-pipe-like feature all the way back to Cloud Nine. After a few laps on chair 9, continue on the cat track past the top of Gold Hill to Solitude, where you can catch High Five Express (Chair 5) and enjoy that part of the mountain for the rest of your early morning laps.

Take a Break and Rehydrate

With a summit elevation of 11,053 feet, Mammoth Mountain is the definition of a high-altitude climate. 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.

When you’re ready for a mid-morning break, continue past the bottom of High Five Express on the Comeback Trail all the way down to The Mill, where you can access drinks, snacks and bathrooms. If you need courage for the upper slopes, belly up to the bar and order a moring drink as well!

Late-Morning Skiing at Mammoth Mountain

Now that you’re warmed up and ready to go, ride Stump Alley Express (Chair 2) and ski to Face Lift Express (Chair 3). From the top of this mid-mountain chair, you’ll have one of the best views of the resort and access to some more advanced terrain. 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!

The Panorama Gondola to the summit of Mammoth Mountain offers 360-degree views of the Eastern Sierra and the classic Mammoth Lakes skyline—the Minarets. From the summit, all of the runs off the face of the mountain 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. Or you can venture off the backside for. an easier ride down Upper Road Runner and down toward Chairs 13 and 14.

Where to Grab Lunch on the Slopes

At the Outpost, located at the base of Chairs 13 and 14, you’ll find a laid back vibe reminiscent of a small family-owned ski resort. The outdoor seating is perfect to spread out and enjoy lunch in the sunshine. You’ll even have front row seats to the backside slopes and Hemlock Ridge as your lunchtime entertainment.

While you refuel, take some extra time to rest your legs, rehydrate, reapply sunscreen and use the restroom before heading back up for a few more hours of skiing.

Afternoon Skiing at Mammoth Mountain

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. The less crowded two-seater Chair 13 is a good option for more mellow intermediate-to-advanced runs. Ride Whitebark Ridge to Lower Road Runner and continue along the low-angle slope all the way back to Main Lodge.

From Main Lodge, take Broadway Express (Chair 1) up and ski some of the wide-open runs in this area. Or take  Stump Alley down to The Mill, where you can catch Gold Rush Express (Chair 10). Drop into Roller Coaster and explore the area around Roller Coaster Express (Chair 4) before heading back toward Canyon Lodge.

Cheers to the Best Day Ever

The thing about skiing is you always want to quit while you’re still feeling good, so you can call it a day at any time. But if you’re up for it, take a few more runs in the Canyon Lodge area. Then when your legs are done, grab a drink and an outdoor table for slopeside après-ski.

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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 monicaprelle.com and connect on twitter @monicaprelle

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