California’s Hidden Ski Resort Gem

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It’s ironic because this is the time of year that’s usually the most beautiful in San Francisco. Summer is dreadful; I purposely plan to be gone June through August of each year to avoid the city cloaked in fog and the general feeling of dreariness that accompanies it. Yet now—in mid-January—we’re enjoying crystal blue skies, endlessly sunny days and balmy 65 degrees. And all I can do is think about snow. (You East Coasters must hate me right now.)

Lake Tahoe may be California’s best-known ski area, but Mammoth Mountain is the state’s best-kept secret. | CamelsAndChocolate.com

I’ve always been the type who prefers four distinct seasons. That’s one of the things I dislike about living where I do. There’s no crisp fall days when the leaves turn a tapestry of warm hues. Likewise, not a flake of snow falls in the winter months; San Francisco hasn’t seen a trace of snow since 1976.

Lake Tahoe may be California’s best-known ski area, but Mammoth Mountain is the state’s best-kept secret. | CamelsAndChocolate.com

The nice thing about where we live, however, is that we’re within driving distance of all the seasons. I can go to Los Angeles if I crave relentless summer. I can drive to the in-laws’ house in Sacramento for a taste of fall. And I can head to any of the ski resorts that litter the West for a much-needed dose of winter.

Lake Tahoe may be California’s best-known ski area, but Mammoth Mountain is the state’s best-kept secret. | CamelsAndChocolate.com

I like Tahoe a lot, but I love Mammoth Mountain. It’s quieter, more tucked away. Every weekend during the ski season, people descend on Tahoe from the Bay Area and Reno and beyond; whereas, it’s a bit harder to reach Mammoth. It would take you nearly 10 hours to drive from San Francisco, as you have to go through—or more accurately, around—the snowy passes of Yosemite to get there.

Lake Tahoe may be California’s best-known ski area, but Mammoth Mountain is the state’s best-kept secret. | CamelsAndChocolate.com

Actually, you can now fly there from San Francisco, San Jose and Los Angeles for super cheap on United or Horizon Air. But it’s still pretty much California residents who flood Mammoth in winter months. I like to think of it as one of our better-kept secrets.

Lake Tahoe may be California’s best-known ski area, but Mammoth Mountain is the state’s best-kept secret. | CamelsAndChocolate.com

There’s so much to do, too, as SVV noted in a guest post last month. If you don’t like skiing, no problem.

Lake Tahoe may be California’s best-known ski area, but Mammoth Mountain is the state’s best-kept secret. | CamelsAndChocolate.com

You can hop a snowmobile, take a leisurely ride on a snowcat or, heck, sit at the bottom of the mountain in Mammoth Village and taste as many different beers as you can handle at Mammoth Brewing Co.

Lake Tahoe may be California’s best-known ski area, but Mammoth Mountain is the state’s best-kept secret. | CamelsAndChocolate.com

Personally, I prefer the snowcat: This way you get dropped off at the tip-top of the mountain where the snow is fresh and the tracks are few, and it seems as if you own the mountain.

Lake Tahoe may be California’s best-known ski area, but Mammoth Mountain is the state’s best-kept secret. | CamelsAndChocolate.com

(Maybe, in fact, you do.)

Lake Tahoe may be California’s best-known ski area, but Mammoth Mountain is the state’s best-kept secret. | CamelsAndChocolate.com

We’re spending so much time in Tahoe this winter—and maybe even taking a quick jaunt to Colorado to ski, too—that I doubt we’ll have time to squeeze in a visit to Mammoth. Still, a girl can dream…

Lake Tahoe may be California’s best-known ski area, but Mammoth Mountain is the state’s best-kept secret. | CamelsAndChocolate.com

COMMENTS
  • January 21, 2011

    Autumn is my favorite. I love the crisp air, leaves turning colors, pumpkins–all that goodness.
    And I would love to go back to SF during another season other than summer. You’re right–it was a lot of windy chills and fog. Still LOVED it though!

    • January 21, 2011
      Kristin

      We made the mistake of getting married out here in mid-May. Usually, it doesn’t get cold and foggy until mid-June, but as our luck would have it, it rained all week and was a high of 50 degrees. At least we had a clear afternoon on our actually wedding day, but man was it cold (and the ceremony was outdoors)!

      San Francisco is much prettier under a brilliant sun. Come back in Feburary-April or September-November some year. Those are the best months!

  • January 21, 2011
    Sid

    What? I can’t believe you tiny little pocket camera does that. My doesn’t! It might be because you’re more talented that me. But I prefer to blame the shoddy pic quality on the fact that I don’t own a Canon … =)

    • January 21, 2011
      Kristin

      Sid, I moan and groan when going somewhere where I can’t take my DSLR (or even the Canon G11, which I “bought” with credit card points and is now my (very large) pocket cam), but at the end of the day, these little point-and-shoots take pretty clear shots, eh?

  • January 21, 2011

    I love Mammoth, as born & bred SoCal girl we would go to Mammoth several times a season. I love how it never seems that crowded. I alway thought because it was so much bigger than Tahoe, and most LA/OC people head up to Big Bear (at half the distance!) But, I think Fall in Nor Cal is my favorite season, not too cold, beautiful colored leaves, and most importantly, no Santa Ana winds!

    • January 21, 2011
      Kristin

      Don’t you think it’s due to the isolated nature? Big Bear’s closer to LA, right? And Tahoe is so much closer to San Francisco (and boasts a number of ski resorts for people to choose from). Still, I love that’s it a bit secretive in a sense! =)

  • January 21, 2011

    My favorite season is Fall, but I dream of snow and four real seasons all the time. I hate the boring Bay Area weather!

    • January 21, 2011
      Kristin

      Amen! At least in the East Bay you get a little bit of warmth!

  • January 21, 2011

    Winter is not my favorite season, especially now that I don’t ski. I do enjoy two springs, one summer and two falls very much.

    • January 21, 2011
      Kristin

      Gaelyn, I can only say I want snow because the weather in the Bay Area is so mild year round and it’s a nice change now and again. But were I to have to live in five straight months? No thanks! Oh wait, SVV and I already did that in Denmark, and it wasn’t pretty… =)

  • January 21, 2011

    Aww, I love Mammoth but haven’t been in YEARS. My BFF’s family used to go ever summer and once I tagged along. We went on a loooooong hike (NOW I see what her parents were trying to do!) and when we started out, it was warm and sunny. After a couple hours, we ended up in a place that still had snow! Of course, it was still warm out, but got cold enough up there at night that the snow never melted all summer. It was awesome!

  • January 21, 2011

    These photos are gorgeous. I can’t believe you captured them on a point & shoot camera. You are very talented!

    • January 21, 2011
      Kristin

      Thank you, Anne! You’re very sweet. I should add that SVV took several of the shots above. When we travel together, we switch off camera duties so frequently that neither of us ever knows who took which shot, but I should probably give him credit for his fabulous photographic skills =)

  • January 21, 2011

    Gorgeous pics, but now I want some hot chocolate. 🙂

  • January 21, 2011

    Oh how I love (and desperately miss) mountains.

    Gorgeous photos!

  • January 21, 2011

    I heard (a couple weeks ago) that Mammoth Mountain had more snow this winter than any other mountain in the world! Do you know if that’s true?

    • January 21, 2011
      SVV

      I found this website that backs up what you heard. I haven’t been able to establish the credibility of the sources but needless to say they’ve experienced INCREDIBLE snow this season..

      http://www.petethomasoutdoors.com/2010/12/mammoth-mountain-proudly-boasts-most-snow-in-the-world-.html

    • January 21, 2011
      Kristin

      Sonja, what’s unbelievable about that is that we’ve (yet) to have a rainy season out here in California! Just a few random rain days here and there, but nothing like the monsoon that was Winter 2009/2010, when it rained from November straight through to April.

  • January 21, 2011

    I would LOVE to see some snow right now. I’m just not so sure about the skiing part. HAHA

    • January 21, 2011
      Kristin

      Talk about lacking seasons, I bet you know exactly what I mean, living in Florida and all =) Only, I think I’d take your heat over our permanent chill any day!

  • January 21, 2011

    Awww, I love Mammoth. It’s not that far from LA (maybe 5 hours) and the skiing is fantastic. I have the trail map plastered to the side of my fridge, and from time to time I like to daydream that I’m out on the slopes. I’m not going to be doing much skiing this winter but my friends go to Mammoth all the time.

    • January 21, 2011
      Kristin

      No skiing for the snow bunny this winter? Why ever not? Stop running and biking for a couple days and head to the slopes! =)

  • January 21, 2011

    oh look at all that gorgeousness! I’ve never been to Mammoth mountain (not a skiier) and I rarely see the snow – this looks so inviting though. I have midwest friends that think it’s hilarious that we plan “trips to the snow” here.

    Funny, July and August are my very favorite months in San Francisco – bring on the fog! I get really cranky when those heat waves hit the Bay Area in September.

    However, I admit to enjoying our sunny skies and mild temps of the past few days.

    • January 21, 2011
      Kristin

      Haha, to each her own! These last few days have been glorious, I’ll admit. I do love this kind of weather. I just find the climate out here so monotonous overall. But maybe that’s why you like July and August–it’s a nice change! I, on the other hand, prefer the September heat waves (though we missed out on this the past September!). I love extreme heat, but likewise, like extreme cold (for a period of a few days at a time, at least)!

  • January 21, 2011
    Jen

    Mammoth Mountain was the first trip I got to take with a friend’s family. When you are a teen, vacations seem much more fun when you are with other people’s parents! We had a blast sledding, playing board games, and drinking hot chocolate. I don’t remember it being this beautiful though.

    • January 21, 2011
      Kristin

      Well, in all fairness to Teenage Jen, at that age you’re probably more concerned with the hot chocolate and the sledding and the BOYS than you are the natural beauty around you… 😉

      • January 21, 2011
        Jen

        Oh, those snowboarder boys….your comment cracked me up because I totally forgot about all the boy watching we did on that trip. Teenage Jen would be proud that I remembered that! 🙂

  • January 21, 2011

    Photo of the full lift chair? Amazing! I am loving the neon orange snow pants! I live in Sacramento and much like SF, snow is a rare beast. So I’m one of those “hop in the car to Tahoe whenever possible” girls. I will however be relocating to DC next month, at which time I think I will get more than my fill of the snow!

    • January 21, 2011
      Kristin

      I just bought some bright pink pants myself as I was getting tired of the monotony of my white-jacket-and-black-pants ski ensemble! =) You’re lucky Sacramento is so close to the ski resorts. My brother-in-law and sister-in-law live in Cameron Park, and they’re only an hour away from Sierra. When you factor in Bay Area + Fairfield traffic, it can take us anywhere from four to seven hours!

  • January 22, 2011

    Nice shots…and another reminder of how you really can get some decent photos with those little point-and-shoot cameras (I’ve got a Canon SD980 IS that I use much as you do–for those times when I don’t want to, or can’t, carry a bulky camera, but I still may want some photos).

  • January 23, 2011

    How lovely!

    We’ve been taking full advantage of all the snow here in upstate NY. Kyle’s been skiing non-stop since our last snow storm. I on the other hand, am eagerly awaiting a season when it’s not 3 degrees with two feet of snow when I go for my morning run. Maybe I’ll feel differently once I get beyond the bunny hill, but for now I’m a little over the powder.

  • January 24, 2011

    Beautiful imagery, I especially love the snow capped trees.
    Wish I had went to Mammouth at least once during my nine years in Orange Countyy.

  • January 24, 2011

    I definitely need to explore the slopes over there a bit more. I’ve been to Tahoe once, and they were having such a ridiculous snowstorm, Heavenly closed for several days. Mammoth sounds like my kind of place, though.

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