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California’s Mammoth Lakes takes ‘Four Seasons of Sports’ quite literally
By Tom Adkinson

mammoth lakes skiing
Skiers, some in swimwear, will be on Mammoth Mountain into August. The mountain got 51.5 feet of snow last winter. Image by Mammoth Resorts.

MAMMOTH LAKES, Calif. – Most skiers across North America put their skis and boots away months ago, but not the folks in the Eastern Sierra Mountains of California. Skiing well into spring is normal here, but this year is bordering on ridiculous. It’s July, the end of ski season isn’t in sight and people are skiing in shorts and bikinis because the temperatures are so pleasant. The slopes are on Mammoth Mountain, where the peak is at 11,053 feet and where last winter’s snowfall never seemed to stop. That’s why skiers are enjoying themselves atop the mountain, while fans of other sports are fishing, mountain biking, hiking, golfing and boating at lower elevations.

trout fisherman
A trout fisherman in a float tube enjoys Lake Mamie, one of many glacier lakes around the town of Mammoth Lakes. Image by Tom Adkinson.

Lots of locations brag about having activities all year that make them four-season destinations, but Mammoth Mountain, the town of Mammoth Lakes and surrounding Mono County can show you how to enjoy activities from all four seasons in just one day.

mammoth mountain biker
When winter’s snow melts at lower elevations, an 80-mile network of mountain bike trails opens for rides through the trees. Image by Tom Adkinson.


This region is the outdoor playground for much of the West, despite its relative isolation. It’s a five— or six-hour drive from Los Angeles, San Francisco and Las Vegas and a three-hour drive from Reno, and it has an airport with a good amount of commercial service.

Mammoth Mountain is an eye-opener for first-timers, especially if you’re from another part of the country. Visitors from other regions often know about one of Mammoth Mountain’s neighbors, Yosemite National Park, but they’ve never heard of Mammoth Mountain itself. (The eastern entrance to Yosemite is about 90 minutes away, but iconic spots such as Half Dome and El Capitan take another 90 minutes to reach.)

This is an area laden with impressive sights. There are towering peaks, sparkling glacial lakes, panoramic vistas, wildflower-accented hiking trails, an 80-mile network of single-track bicycle trails, accessible trout streams and more. It’s truly an embarrassment of outdoor riches.

There is a life-size statue of a prehistoric mammoth at the ski resort, but Mammoth Resorts, Mammoth Lakes and Mammoth Mountain got their names from an entirely different source — the region’s fleeting experience with gold mining in the 1870s when the Mammoth Mining Co. was created.

mammoth mountain hikers
Hikers climb up the McGee Creek Trail in the John Muir Wilderness, just minutes from the hotels and restaurants of Mammoth Lakes. Image by Tom Adkinson.


The mining boom went bust in the early 1900s, but curious visitors launched the next chapter in the area’s history. City dwellers with newfound mobility began coming for mountaineering, hunting, camping, hiking, boating and fishing.

Then, in 1941, another sport was added. The earliest skiing was accomplished with simple rope tows, and the first chairlift was installed in 1951. What evolved is astounding, and it’s impressive enough to be the official training site for the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team.

There are 28 lifts, 150 named trails and ski runs up to three miles long, all benefitting from an average annual snowfall of more than 400 inches (33 feet), but average meant nothing this year. The total was 618 inches (51.5 feet).

Restaurants and lodging options are abundant in the town of Mammoth Lakes (everything from campgrounds to mid-range hotels to upscale properties such as the Westin Monache Resort and the Sierra Nevada Resort & Spa). The town covers just four square miles, and community leaders deserve credit for design guidelines that make the town as pretty as a postcard and not a hodge-podge of garish signs and buildings that don’t fit the surroundings.

mammoth mammoth
Mammoth Mountain got its name from a gold rush mining company, not real mammoths, but a mammoth statue is appropriate at the resort. Image by Tom Adkinson.

Trip Planning Resource:, and

Published July 7, 2017

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