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Mammoth LakesJosh Wray | Mammoth Lakes Tourism

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If the idea of California brings to mind sandy beaches and swaying palm trees, think again. The aptly-named Mammoth Lakes, a few hours east of San Francisco, is a winter wonderland on a major, major scale. For skiers, snowboarders, or anyone who loves winter, this alpine paradise is a must-visit.

Record snowfallJosh Wray | Mammoth Lakes Tourism

Not only does Mammoth Mountain regularly have the most snowfall in the country (they’ve had 925 cm of snow as of February 2019), but they also have the longest ski season in the country, usually opening in early November and spinning the lifts until – wait for it – early July. That’s a nine-month ski season. That may be why Mammoth is a training mountain for the U.S. Olympic Snowboard and Freestyle ski teams, and why it’s included in the multi-resort seasons pass: IKON Pass

Whether you’re a pro skier or don’t really even know how to put on a pair of skis, this is an adventurous destination worthy of at least a few days of your vacation time. And to prove it, here are 15 amazing things to do during a Mammoth Lakes winter trip.  
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Learn about geology on a naturalist ski tour

One of the pleasures of skiing can be taking in new scenery, especially in a place with peaks as jaw-dropping as the Eastern Sierra. That’s why the naturalist ski tour offered at Mammoth Mountain is a must-do for intermediate-level skiers and above. A guide will take you across the mountain, pointing out geological features, flora and fauna along the way. The tour is totally free, as long as you have a valid lift ticket. Since Mammoth Mountain has 1,420 hectares of skiable terrain (whew!), there’s plenty of ground to cover.

Mountain and naturalist ski tours are also available on June Mountain and on snowshoe tours departing Tamarack Cross-Country Ski Center. See a complete schedule here


Shred some pow-pow (beginners welcome!) 

Snowboarding Mammoth LakesCourtesy of Mammoth Lakes Tourism

Have you always wanted to try snowboarding? Try it at Mammoth Mountain where adult-only beginner classes are offered. That means you and your ski buddies can take a snowboard class without worrying about being schooled by children as you make your way down the bunny hill. Classes can be booked for a half-day, so if it’s not your thing, you can get back on your skis for the afternoon. And if it turns out you’re a natural, Mammoth Mountain has a huge amount of beginner terrain accessible from 28 different ski lifts.

Break a sweat on a snowshoe tour

snowshoe minaret vistaMammoth Lakes Tourism

If you’ve tried your skills at downhill winter sports, why not try a cross-country one? Snowshoeing is accessible for all ages and skill levels and has just about no learning curve. You can sign up for tours (like a full-moon snowshoe tour), or go out on your own. I love the family-friendly trail to Minaret Vista, which has stunning views of the sharp peaks of Ritter Mountain range at the end of an easy 4-kilometre route.


Soak in natural hot spring

wild willyJosh Wray | Mammoth Lakes Tourism

Mountains as huge as the ones around Mammoth Lake are caused by tectonic activity which releases excess energy and heat. Fortunately for travellers, that means the area around Mammoth Lakes is full of natural hot springs – hundreds of them, literally!

Popular springs include Wild Willy’s, The Crab Cooker, Hilltop Hot Springs and The Rock Tub – just look them up on mapping apps before making the trip. Some are harder to find, while others are more or less on the side of the road. Snowfall can impact accessibility, so check road conditions before you head out.

Take an après-ski snowcat tour

Snow cat tourCourtesy of Mammoth Mountain 

What's better than sunset views, snowy peaks, and a scrumptious spread of charcuterie and wine? How about getting there by riding up the mountain in a giant snow grooming machine? There's also a lunchtime snowcat tour, in case you prefer to enjoy a gourmet spread with midday views.

Jump around!

If you need a break from the slopes, I recommend heading to Mammoth Trampoline Club, which has huge, indoor trampolines for your bouncing pleasure. It’s a great place for kids and families to play on a rainy day and even has auto-harnesses in case anyone wants to try a back flip or two.


Taste the best bread you've ever had 


Mammoth boasts loads of tasty restaurants ranging from laid-back to gourmet, but I love Shea Schat’s Bakery – and if you look at the online reviews, you’ll see that just about everyone else does too. The baked items are fresh-made every morning and beyond good. Stop by on your way back from skiing for a loaf of their famously tasty bread (and some chocolate chip cookies, of course.)

Get crafty: try a new brew

Brewery TourJosh Wray | Mammoth Lakes Tourism

Nothing is better than trying a local brew or two when you’re in a new place, especially in a locale that loves micro-brews as much as California. That said, driving between breweries can put a damper on the tasting experience. Thirsty travellers might let Eastern Sierra Breweries Tours take the wheel as they sample the latest and greatest of what Mammoth has on tap.  

Get a bird’s eye view

Making your way to the top of Mammoth’s peaks is awe-inspiring, but what if you could catch a bird's-eye view? Skytime Helicopter Tours offers fairly reasonably priced tours over the Mammoth Lakes area year-round. You can even charter a private photography tour if you’re obsessed with getting the perfect shot of Mammoth’s mountainscape.

Ride the gondola 

Mammoth MountainMammoth Lakes Tourism

If there’s no time for a helicopter ride, you can still take to the skies with a gondola ride to the top of Mammoth Mountain – and like the snowcat tours, no ski skills are required. As you ascend, you’ll get dazzling views from every side of the gondola, and even better ones when you reach the summit, at an elevation of 3,368 metres. (Just remember to make time to catch your breath.)

Catch a show

Mammoth Lakes may be all about adventure, but it has its share of culture, too. While you’re in town, see what's playing at the Edison Theatre. In addition to hosting plays throughout the year, they host Mountain Culture Month every March, where you can catch lectures and talks from athletes and professional adventurers.

Après-ski like a champ

winter brewDisobeyart

What would a ski trip be without après-ski? Whether you skied all day or took one lap before calling it quits, après-ski is the time to celebrate the day. At Mammoth Mountain, you’ll find everything you’d want for an awesome afternoon: cocktail specials, sake flights, DJs, outdoor fire pits, gear giveaways, and food specials are all standard during après-ski (which starts around 3 p.m.)

Feel like a kid again 

Wooly Tube Park Mammoth MountainCourtesy of Mammoth Mountain

Sledding may be for kids, but tubing is for everyone. So make a stop at Woolly’s Tube Park, where an automatic lift whisks you to the top of course before you go screaming down the hill on a sturdy inflated tube. Woolly’s also has a family-friendly snow-play area for the littlest guests and a heated deck for visitors 21+.

Stretch it out

Mammoth Lakes Yoga LabMinaret Creative

After a few days of cold-weather activity your muscles may be sore, which is why I like to end my ski trips with a stop at Yoga Lab Mammoth.  A hot yoga class can be particularly refreshing for stiff legs, but the donation-based “Karma Classes” are great if you spent all your money on shiny new ski gear the day before.


Winter to waves

mammoth lakesJosh Wray | Mammoth Lakes Tourism

Just because you're done with the slopes doesn't mean it's time to head home. Squeeze in one last morning ride before hitting the surf or slots later that afternoon; SoCal and Las Vegas are roughly five hours driving time from Mammoth Lakes. Folks driving to Las Vegas will have the added bonus of passing through the stunning and often otherworldly terrain of Death Valley National Park.  


Bring your entire entourage

Winter BeachMammoth Lakes Tourism

As they say, the more the merrier. With group-friendly accommodations like chalets and cabins, why not travel with your entire entourage? Whether you're planning a girls trip, boys trip, bachelor or hen party, there are plenty of opportunities for fun shenanigans. Soak up some rays on a winter beach - a.k.a. the slopes - by day and hit the village by night. We hear crisp mountain air is the best remedy for a headache. 


When You Go:

Aframe mammoth lakeJosh Wrap | Mammoth Lakes Tourism

Get there

By air: Mammoth Yosemite Airport (MMH) is located just 10 minutes driving from the centre of town. Fly from Canada with a stopover in Los Angeles, San Francisco or Denver. Taxis and shuttles make it easy for visitors to travel within Mammoth Lakes. 

By road: Canadians can fly into San Francisco, Los Angeles or Las Vegas and arrive by car in five or so hours. (After all, we are a nation of road-trippers!) Note: the drive from San Fran is shorter in the warmer months when Highway 120 reopens


There are plenty of lodging options for all budgets. Want to curl into a cozy chalet? Or perhaps soak up the blaze of a crackling fire in a lodge? Looking for great value for the entire family? Peruse a wide range of lodging options here:


Find everything from casual slope-side bites to formal dining here.
Or keep reading: 

Best desserts in Mammoth Lakes
Where to find the best winter cocktails in Mammoth Lakes
Best bets for family dining



Need a hand planning your getaway?
Let the official visitor bureau lend a hand: 

Lodging | Restaurants | Events


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