New at The Crib: Year-Round Access for Winter Training

Oct 20, 2020

“Mammoth Lakes” and “winter” have been synonymous ever since the town’s patron saint, Dave McCoy, hooked his first rope tow up on McGee Mountain in 1942. And pro snowboarders have been sleeping six to a room in Mammoth’s “ghetto” (the four, local-centric blocks between Joaquin and Manzanita Streets) since before Mammoth Mountain even welcomed their kind on the slopes.

But there’s a game changer on the scene in the winter of 2018/19—. And it’s free for elite athletes. For real.

Year-Round Training at the Mammoth Lakes Crib

“We’re open to any sport now,” says the Mammoth Lakes Tourism (MLT) Director of PR & Communications Lara Kaylor (MLT, funded by a 1% tax on tourism services within the town limits, sponsors the space where athletes can stay for the low price of hyping up Mammoth Lakes and The Crib on their own blogs and social media feeds). “We’ve had triathletes, runners, cyclists… we’re open to whatever, as long as they’re professional and elite athletes.”

Before this season, MLT had rented a condominium for its visitors, so The Crib was a summer-only deal where pro cyclists and runners trained during their high seasons. But this year, MLT dived in the real estate market to purchase a more permanent home for The Crib.

The pad is perfect for athletes who want to train at high altitude in the rugged terrain that Mammoth Lakes offers, whatever their sport of choice. “Ski mountaineers, cross-country skiers… we’ve started reaching out to the United States Ski and Snowboard Association to see about working with their athletes,” says Kaylor, “because we know they’re legit.”

Until now, athletes have found out about The Crib mostly by word of mouth—but it’s unlikely this sweet spot will fly under the radar for long.

Endurance Athletes at The Mammoth Lakes Crib

“The people who run The Crib are really deeply enmeshed in this community,” says Crib alumni-turned-Mammoth resident (and Olympic distance runner) Alexi Pappas. “You’re going to meet people you don’t expect to.” During one of her stints at The Crib, Pappas lived with a team of cyclists. They traded training tips, shared family dinners, and are now part of a network of elite athletes with members all over the world. “It’s amazing to meet all kinds of athletes at the top of their game from different sports,” says Pappas.

Cyclist Katie Hall, whose season spans May-October, loves training in Mammoth Lakes for the ability it affords her to “live high, but train low.”

“I can’t get that much intensity with [the low oxygen at 8,000 feet, where Mammoth Lakes is located], so we pretty much always ride out of [the 4,000-foot-high town of] Bishop. There are not that many places that you can live that high and get that low in 20-30 minutes. That’s what makes Mammoth Lakes so spectacular for training.”

The only other place Hall could think of that rivaled Mammoth Lakes in that regard is Tenerife (the largest of the Canary Islands off the coast of Morocco), but “there are not that many roads and it’s not that exciting of training. There’s just so many good roads out of Bishop… really epic loops. It’s so fun.”

Mammoth Lakes—A High-Altitude Training Mecca

Just as Yosemite Valley evolved into a climbing mecca, Mammoth Lakes is developing in its own right as a high altitude training mecca. There are plans for a high altitude training center in the future (The Crib 6.0?), and renowned athletes like Meb Keflezighi and Deena Kastor have put Mammoth Lakes on the map with their wholehearted endorsements of the benefits of training in low-oxygen environments.

“I go to altitude, because when I come back down, I feel so good,” says Hall. “And it’s pretty clear that if you need to perform at altitude, you need to train at altitude.” The proof? Hall has crushed it in the Tour of the Gila in New Mexico and the Amgen Tour of California this past cycling season. Or ask Des Linden, who came out of nowhere to finish first in the 2018 Boston Marathon (the first American woman to win that race since 1985). Linden trained in the Eastern Sierra to make it happen.

“Ultimately, The Crib’s goal is to spread the message that Mammoth Lakes is the high altitude training center that you want to be at,” says Kaylor. However, while high altitude was the initial focus, The Crib’s new year-round status opens the door to a multitude of other training possibilities.

“As we’re growing the program and developing it, some of the sports we may look at tapping into may not be endurance sports that need high altitude training. We just want to seed that message of elite athlete training in Mammoth Lakes.”

Are you an elite athlete looking to train at high altitude? Apply for a spot during The Crib’s inaugural winter season here.

Sarah Rea

Sarah Rea has lived in the Sierra for 20 years (eight in Yosemite and seven so far in Mammoth Lakes), but has been eating cast iron skillet pancakes for most of her life. She learned how to make soap from bacon grease when she was four and has always loved picking wild berries. She thinks…

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