It’s hard to believe such a gorgeous mountain town lies just a scenic five-hour drive away from the hustling and bustling and red carpeting city of Los Angeles. Not that there’s anything wrong with LA or Beverly Hills but I never saw celebrity skiers like Jessica Biel, Kim Kardashian or Kate Hudson take a girls’s ski trip to the mountains and I can’t help but wonder why?
It’s so close. And so worth it.
There are a few sparse direct flights directly into Mammoth Lakes Airport, and if given the chance, I highly recommend flying. Not that the drive from other parts isn’t gorgeous, but there’s something about starting a week-long vacation by flying into such a tiny airport that really puts you in the perfect frame of mind. The “waiting area” is literally an insulated igloo, and there is only one gate. It’s cute, it’s quaint, it’s all things Mammoth, ironically enough.
Ironic, because a tiny airport leads you to one of the biggest skiable mountains in North America.
Mammoth Mountain at a glance boasts the most open terrain in the U.S., with the top of the ski area at 11,053ft, and offering the longest ski-in, ski-out season in all of California with seasons starting in November and sometimes lasting all the way through July. Mammoth Mountain Ski Area offers winter activities on over 3,500 acres and is extremely kid friendly.
Here’s a quick Girls Getaway guide where to stay and play and everything else in between at Mammoth Mountain:
Black Tie Ski/Snowboard Rentals – This just might be my favorite discovery on the trip, but surprisingly, this service isn’t just here in Mammoth. Black Tie has 13 total locations and makes renting a board or skis easier than a run down a green mountain.
This company provides online booking, free delivery of equipment, in-room fitting and slopeside service, along with packages that are a perfect fit no matter your ski level.
I’m lucky enough to have my own Burton snowboard, but sometimes traveling with a board is a big pain, especially with these new checked bag fees and if you’re renting a car with other people, forget it. Even some of the nicest ski towns have dirty board rental places, complete with long lines and a detour in your day. Black Tie comes to you – whether your hotel room or the condo you’ve rented with your best gal pals.
They have the best equipment available, and after you fill out an intake form (with information such as height, weight, expert level, etc.), they will come to your room with boots and boards/skis and fit you right there. And the best part, you can leave them with the hotel ski valet or at your condo and they will pick them up for you at the end of your trip. Oh and the other best part – they are pretty much the exact same price as going to a regular rental shop, so you’re getting the extreme convenience without the extreme fee.
Imagine this: you land after a long travel day and all you want to do is grab an ice cold Bud Light or pop a bottle of champagne and call it a day. With Black Tie, you can still do that; just pop the bottle while they are fitting you for your boots in your own space. Perfection.
Lodging in Mammoth
Westin Monache Resort, Mammoth: 50 Hillside Drive
For starters, the Westin brand is always one of the very best, whether you’re on an island soaking in the sun or at the base of a snow-filled mountain. After getting picked up from the airport via the complimentary Westin shuttle, check-in is a breeze, thanks to the efficient and friendly staff at Westin Monache.
They even have great deals like a free lift ticket for each night booked, and some packages including their indulgent breakfast at Whitebark Restaurant. For dinner options inside the Village area, Whitebark, the on-site restaurant of the Westin, was by far my favorite, offering a diverse menu of mountain cuisine and sushi. A pretty rare combo indeed, but both options are perfectly done. At Whitebark, the Chef believes “you eat with your eyes,” so not only are the dishes beyond tasty, the presentation packs just as much punch. And of course, since it’s still located in California, the restaurant obliges by all those buzz words like “gluten-free” “sustainable” “sushi” “organic” and such. Those words are all fine, but words like “elk” and “truffle mac and cheese” really speak to me much clearer.
The rooms are exactly what you’ve come to expect from the Westin brand – ultra comfort, privacy, spacious, and more. My room came with a DVD player and a kitchen area with coffee and tea, and a cozy and romantic fireplace. These (in my opinion) are necessities when taking a Winter Wonderland Vacation.
Other bonuses for Westin: Westin is a dog friendly brand, which means no restrictions and no fees, plus if you’re a Starwood member (loyalty program), you get a complimentary glass of champagne upon check-in.
Mammoth Mountain Inn: 10400 Minaret Rd.
A much different vibe from the Westin, but pretty much at the top of the mountain, the Mammoth Mountain Inn was another great and ultra-convenient location for lodging. At the Mammoth Mountain Inn, guests can request a small fridge, microwave and humidifier at no additional cost, which is nice when you’re staying for more than a few days.
Touted as “California at your doorstep,” you truly are at the perfect place to strap on your snowboard or skis and get to the action and Mammoth Mountain Inn is the only full-service hotel at Mammoth’s Main Lodge.
If you stay at Mammoth Mountain Inn, be sure to check out the heated outdoor pools and hot tubs, where you’ll undoubtedly meet some really cool people from all over. The staff here is extremely helpful and very laid back.
If you’re feeling extremely adventurous, ask one of the locals about the hot springs – they are hidden and you need a car to get to them, but hands-down, one of the best experiences you’ll find on a vacation.
Where to Eat in Mammoth
As mentioned above, Whitebark, the on-site restaurant at the Westin was probably my favorite restaurant (coincidentally this is where I fell in love with my new favorite Pinot Noir, Migration from the Russian River Valley), but a close second would be the newly established Tavern.
The Tavern at Mammoth Mountain is a delicious gastro-pub, which sits at 8,000 feet offering the absolute most stunning views of the mountain, not to mention some of the best specialty-crafted cocktails in the area. Oh, and the food is probably at the top of most people’s list (hint: try the Spinach and Artichoke and Jalapeno dip!) The Tavern is a great gathering spot, whether you’re going with friends or looking to meet new ones. Grab a spot at the bar (if you’re lucky, because it fills up fast) and make friends with the bartenders. The cheeseburger is a must.
Mammoth Mountain is pretty much known as the weekend mountain for LA, and well…if it’s good enough for LA…well, you can finish that sentence.
As a perpetual planner (I already know where I’ll be spending Christmas next year and it’s only February), sometimes waiting to book a ski trip is OK, to ensure there is snow on the ground. Places like Mammoth Mountain may even offer last-minute deals – either because there’s a ton of snow, or because there isn’t as much as they usually get. Whether you book in advance or last minute at Mammoth Mountain, one thing’s for sure – you’ll have an absolute blast. The snow is just an added bonus. This is the ultimate ski town. I just can’t wait to check it out in the summer.
Jayme Lamm is a freelance writer and marketing consultant based in Houston focusing on travel writing and is in a full-court press writing her hugely opinionated sports column, The Blonde Side. Be sure to follow Jayme’s travel and sports adventures on Twitter @jaymelamm.