A Perfect Weekend of Skiing and Riding at Mammoth Mountain

With 3,100 skiable acres, 150 trails, and 28 chairlifts, you won’t be able to ski it all at Mammoth Mountain, but you can certainly have fun trying. The 11,053-summit is the highest ski area in California, which almost guarantees the best snow conditions in the Golden State. Pair that with an average of 300 sunny days a year and your weekend of skiing and snowboarding is bound to be epic. But there’s more than just awesome skiing and snowboarding to make for a perfect weekend at Mammoth Mountain. From après ski and fine dining to ice skating, bowling, and sledding, there is a lot of fun to be had off the slopes too. This is your hour-by-hour, day-by-day guide to three perfect days skiing and riding at Mammoth.

Friday

3PM

Your first afternoon in Mammoth is an ideal time to settle into your epic winter weekend in Mammoth Lakes with some fresh air. Get your legs moving and your blood flowing at the Mammoth Ice Rink. Bring your own skates, or rent a pair. Join a figure skating lesson, a youth learn to skate program, or just enjoy the time to free skate. You’ll enjoy the mountain views as you circle the rink and the sun sets below the horizon.

6PM

Plan ahead and make dinner reservations at Restaurant Skadi where you’ll feast on Alpine-inspired cuisine prepared with classic French cooking techniques. The new Berner Street location is an intimate setting in walking distance of the Village. Chef Ian Algerøen prepares dishes that will fuel your active winter weekend. On the menu, you’ll find game meats like duck, lamb, and venison, which are accompanied by sides like gnocchi, polenta, and spaetzle. Head to bed early and get some rest for your big ski day

Saturday

7AM

Rise and shine to get your day off to a bright and early start. You’ll want a solid breakfast before you hit the slopes for a full day of skiing and riding. Order the early riser bagel with bacon, egg, and cheese at Old New York Deli and Bagel. Wash it down with a cup of coffee and ride on Village Gondola to Canyon Lodge.

8:30AM

Whether you are in search of powder turns or fresh groomers, be on first chair and take a tour of Mammoth Mountain. You’ll want to follow the sun around and enjoy the mountain as it warms up. Little Eagle and Canyon Lodges are lower elevation than Main Lodge, which means they will be warmer in the morning. From Canyon Lodge ride up Chair 8 and take an easy run down Holiday to Cloud Nine Express – Chair 9. Enjoy the views as you ride up. In a few minutes you’ll be making nice wide-open turns on the freshly groomed Gold Hill. It’s the perfect pitch for an early morning run in the sun and rated intermediate. Find your way back to Chair 9 or 25 and enjoy a few more laps on this east-facing side of the mountain before the rest of the skiers wake up.

11AM

It’s midmorning, so it’s time to start making your way over to Main Lodge. Ride High 5 Express – Chair 5 up and take a long run down Solitude to Stump Alley Express – Chair 2. Now that you are warmed up and at mid-mountain it’s time to make a run off the top. Take the Upper Panorama Gondola to the summit. Enjoy the 360-degree view of the Sierra Nevada mountains and snap a few photos in front of the trail sign. If you are brave and skilled enough to try a black diamond, start with Cornice Bowl. Feel the wind in your face as you make turns down the steep and groomed expert slope. If you loved it and want more, head back up and try another one of the many advanced runs on the face. If you are more akin to a long intermediate run, take Road Runner off the back and wind your way around the west face. Enjoy the views of the Minarets and Ritter Range as you slide back to Main Lodge.

12PM

After a few laps from the summit, you’ll be ready for a break. This is where the tough decisions are made. Each lodge has a cafeteria offering multiple food options. Main Lodge has a few great healthy offerings including salads and smoothies, as well as cheeseburgers and fries on the outside grill. You can sit on the sun deck and enjoy the halfpipe and terrain park views. Or head up to McCoy station for a mid-mountain lunch by the window. There’s even a small café at the top where you can follow your lunch with a tour of the interpretive center. Wherever you decide to eat, be sure to fuel up well and hydrate so you are ready to go for the second half of your day.

1PM

Since you’ve toured around the mountain east to west and taken a few laps off the top, it’s time to explore Mammoth’s backside. From the Upper Panorama Gondola, Chair 23, or Chair 12 you can access the west facing slopes that meander and roll through hemlock pines. The intermediate slopes are a respite from the leg burning top to bottom black diamonds you’ve just done. The old two-seater Chair 14 will give you a little extra time to recover, relax, and enjoy the view.

3PM

Before you get too tired, start making your way down the hill. You have another full day of skiing ahead of you, so you’ll want to save something in your legs for tomorrow. And it’s time to après anyway. The outside bar at the Mill Café is the local’s favorite spot for après ski. Try a local June Lake Brewing beer on draft or the Mill’s signature Bloody Mary. Sip your drinks by the fire pit and watch the last few skiers come down the slopes. After a drink or two, take the shuttle down the mountain. It’s time to clean up for a night on the town.

6PM

Mammoth Tavern on Old Mammoth Road doesn’t take reservations, but it’s a popular spot so don’t go too late if you want to get a table. Nightly fish specials compliment the house favorites on the menu. Try the Tavern Burger with sweet potato fries and order the fondue to share. A regularly changing cocktail menu showcases seasonal ingredients and is likely to entice you to try something new.

8PM

After dinner walk across the street to Mammoth Rock and Bowl for a night of fun and games. With 12 lanes, large overhead screens showing sporting events, arcade games, and a golf simulator, you’ll easily spend the next few hours entertained. If a late night hunger strikes, order the poutine, gravy topped French fries, from the bar restaurant.

11PM

Good skiers and snowboarders go to bed, but the night owls and party animals head to the Lakanuki in the Village for dancing.

Sunday

8-9AM

Let’s be real –You’re tired from skiing all day Saturday and you may have stayed up a little later than expected. It’s okay to sleep in on Sunday. Before you head up to the hill, swing by Black Velvet Coffee for a strong cup of pour over coffee or cappuccino. You’ll want the caffeine jolt to get you going. Since you are getting a later start, take the Red Line shuttle to Main Lodge. Ride Broadway Express – Chair One and burn a quick one to get going. The intermediate slope is gentle and wide, so you’ll be feeling ready to roll once you have a lap under your legs. If you like a steeper pitch, take a few quick laps on Fascination to get the legs ready for the day.

10AM

Saturday was dedicated to the full tour of Mammoth Mountain, so Sunday will be about repeating your favorite runs and ticking off a few ski area highlights. Face Lift Express – Chair 3 is a favorite for it’s relatively easy black diamond runs, and rolling backside terrain. The mid-mountain chair is situated on a peaklet below the summit and is centrally located to help you get anywhere on the mountain. Take a few laps here before moving on to the top.

11AM

You may have braved a few laps on the face yesterday, but now is the time to try the classics. Head out to Dave’s Run to ride the black diamond slope named for the ski area’s founder, Dave McCoy. Next, ride the steep and rock shrouded Climax directly beneath the Gondola. Now try the long steep gullies looker’s right of Chair 23, Paranoid Flat. Choose your favorite line and hold on.

1PM

Have a quick lunch at your favorite lodge and realistically assess your legs for the rest of the day. It’s been a great weekend of skiing and you may be feeling fatigued. Take a few more laps if you are feeling good, and repeat some of your favorite trails before calling it.

3PM

If your legs are protesting another hour of skiing but you are still up for some outdoor adventure, head to Woolly’s Tube Park. The lift serviced groomed lanes are fun for bombing down on a high-speed snow tube. It’s fun for children and adult kids too. The heated deck serves snacks, hot chocolate, and adult beverages.

5PM

It’s been a full weekend, so you are probably going to be ready for an early dinner. Mammoth Brewing Company and the Eatery share a space on the corner of Main Street and Minaret and offer a unique dinning and drinking experience in town. The regularly changing menu features classic pub fare with a twist like the Not Your Average Philly Cheese Steak, which is served with shishito peppers. While you wait for your food, make your way through a flight at the tasting bar. You’ll find seasonal ales, and barrel aged sours, in addition to the regular selection of locally brewed ales on draft.

8PM

Finish your winter weekend with a nightcap at 53 Kitchen and Cocktails. Order a drink from the specialty list like the signature Giggle Juice of mint-infused rum mixed with hand-pressed blackberries, or try one of the bartender’s nightly drink specials. Toast to three awesome days of playing, skiing, snowboarding and start planning your return.

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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