A magical blend of sun, fun and snow, California and Nevada’s ski regions are like nowhere else. Mammoth by name, and mammoth by nature. This massive mountain sits in the Sierra Nevada, way south of the Lake Tahoe area and a good six-hour drive (or hour’s flight) from Los Angeles. It is surrounded by jagged scenery above the year-round tree-lined resort town of Mammoth Lakes. The skiing, once a drive up a mountain road, is now connected to the spread-out town at the new Village at Mammoth base and from there by gondola to the growing Canyon Lodge area. The skiing is more dramatic than at Tahoe, amid craggy peaks. The wide-open mountain tops provide steep bowls for experts and there are plenty of cruising pistes lower down and a large area of easy slopes perfect to learn on.
The bowl skiing off Panorama Lookout is awesome. And the genuine blacks of Wipeout and Hangman’s Hollow sort out the men from the boys. Mammoth’s great snow record (almost 400 inches a year) means reliable conditions and a long season, with skiing sometimes up to July 4. The Village was developed by Intrawest (Whistler, Squaw, Winter Park festival) so you know you’re getting chunky class.
Nightlife can either be at the resort (the timeless Mountainside Grill at the Mammoth Mountain Inn at the original base area), the Village Lananuki, (perhaps the first high altitude tiki bar where you can hula dance in ski boots) or in the town, where dozens of restaurants lean towards the hip cuisine of the coast. There are a decent number of bars, too, which get lively at the weekend when the crowds arrive from the coast. Near Mammoth there’s more than 40 miles of cross-country skiing at the Tamarack and Sierra Meadows areas.