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Mammoth Mountain draws skiers, snowboarders eager for a repeat of last snow season



Hundreds waited in line — some even camped overnight — to be among the first lift riders on opening day at Mammoth Mountain’s Main Lodge in the High Sierra.

“The vibe was incredible,” said Lauren Burke, spokeswoman for the ski resort, of the Nov. 9 opening. “It was a classic California day, sunny and warm. We had a guy from Southern California who camped out for two days just so he could get first chair.”

That mass level of excitement is not surprising. Mammoth Mountain draws more than 1.3 million skiers and snowboarders annually and the mountain is coming off a strong season.

Last year, the Mammoth Mountain Ski Area had one of its best snowfalls — recording the snowiest May, with 29 inches. In all, the mountain had 718 inches of snow, staying open for 260 days with ski lifts operating until late July.

Last year also marked the introduction of the Ikon Pass operated by Alterra Mountain Company in Denver. The pass links 12 Alterra Mountain Co. resorts with destinations — including Mammoth — with other top mountain destinations in the U.S., Canada and Europe.

In all, the pass provides access to 41 destinations with varying levels of access and benefits. Other California resorts include Big Bear Mountain Resort in Southern California and Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley in Northern California. Big Sky Resort in Montana, Jackson Hole in Wyoming and Aspen/Snowmass are also on the list. Zermatt in Switzerland and Arapahoe Basin in Colorado were added to the pass this year.

The Ikon Pass can be purchased for $1,099 and has no blackout dates; the Ikon Base Pass costs $799 and includes some blackout dates.

“The pass has seen a very strong year-over-year growth,” Burke said. “It’s drawing a lot from Southern California but also exposing Mammoth Mountain nationwide.”

While many enjoy the scenic drive along Highway 395 through old mining towns including Lone Pine, Independence, Big Pine and Bishop, there are daily flights into Mammoth Yosemite Airport from LAX and seasonal flights from John Wayne Airport and Hollywood Burbank Airport.

The mountain’s first lift opened Thanksgiving Day, 1955. Every lodge and motel along the 395 was packed. The price of the lift ticket – $4.

This season, tickets purchased in advance of New Year’s Day cost $143 a day; after that, it’s $179 per day. There is an option to buy a four-pack of tickets for $379 that come with no blackout days.

The mountain has more than 3,500 acres of skiable terrain. It’s serviced by 28 lifts, including two gondolas, and has 3,100 feet of vertical drop and a peak elevation of 11,053 feet. It also has 13 terrain parks, four halfpipes, 100 jibs and more than 50 jumps. Throughout the season, there will be on-hill activities to mark 21 years of the resort’s Unbound Terrain area.

There’s also a hike-in terrain park in the Hemlocks Ridge bowl, with jumps and platforms built out of snow by the resort’s Unbound Terrain Parks crew.

Mammoth Resorts, which operates the Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, June Mountain, Bear Mountain and Snow Summit, was purchased by Colorado-based Aspen Skiing Co. and KSL Capital Partners in 2017. Since then there have been a series of capital improvements including renovations at Canyon Lodge, located just up from the Village at Mammoth and accessible by the village gondola — a relaxing alternative to driving or taking the town shuttles.

Canyon Lodge opens Dec. 11, and while last year already provided a fresh look, this year visitors will have a totally new experience after the second phase of the lodge renovation. The focus is on the third floor, where the ticket center and lounge areas are located. Renovations include Lincoln Bar — which will have indoor and outdoor seating.

There are 2,000 square feet of new bar space including a fireplace lounge with an outdoor kitchen and bar. Two outdoor terraces overlook the canyon base area — a popular place to sit apres-ski and soak in the sun. The bar offers a full menu of craft cocktails and a large selection of beer and wine. The area also includes a grab-and-go coffee bar to get that needed energy before hitting the slopes. Just to its side is the Canyon BBQ. Items served will include brisket, pulled pork and ribs.

At Eagle Lodge, there’s the new Fowl Language. The restaurant specializes in hand-breaded, southern-style chicken sandwiches and tenders. Other additions include Sierra Grind, a coffee shop with full espresso bar, baked goods and sandwiches. It’s in the old Starbucks location.

There are also some new places on the mountain. Just at Chair 10 (Gold Rush Express) there’s a new bar and there will be an Airstream food truck at the bottom of Roller Coaster Express.

By Night of Lights on Dec. 14, Mammoth officials are hopeful real snow will be flying for the traditional holiday kick-off at Canyon Lodge.

The original Night of Lights, created by Mammoth Mountain Ski Area founder Dave McCoy, took place at Main Lodge in the late 1980s. It was an annual event until the mid-1990s, was resurrected for one year to mark the millennium, and then returned for good during the 2007 ski season.

Mammoth Mountain spends about $165,000 to put on the Night of Lights, $60,000 for the fireworks show alone.

Source: Orange County Register

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