Mammoth Mountain 2016

Growing up back east, skiing for me meant scraping snow off the windshield, battling icy roads and generally crowded conditions upon arrival. When I moved west, all my new California buddies raved about Mammoth through the summer. When we finally planned our first visit the next winter season, en route I could not understand the prior buzz of excitement. All I saw was impressive high desert terrain, with rugged mountains in the distance. Eventually, it seemed we turned a corner and there was snow covered Mammoth Mountain, the highest ski resort in California.

More recently I made a return visit after too many years’ absence. The enormity of the facility lives up to the mountain’s eponymous name. With 28 lifts and 3,500 skiable acres, the mountain caters to all levels. We arrived after the season’s second large dump. With more of the same expected in this year’s El Nino, there should be plenty of glorious ski days ahead. The crew had the slopes groomed well before the lifts opened, and indeed the village had the roads cleared early as well.

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Favorite ski runs include Solitude and Dave’s Run, the latter named after founder Dave McCoy and accessed by the speedy Panorama gondola.

The Mammoth Mountain staff was uniformly helpful with directions on the hill and advice about the village’s extensive shuttle bus system.

There are various promotions to be found online for lift tickets and vacation packages.

Black Tie has engineered the angst out of ski rentals by bringing the equipment to you. We registered our particulars at in the week prior to our arrival. Nick and Mike arrived in timely fashion, lugging our equipment up the stairs to our venue. They patiently ensured our equipment fit well, and answered our questions about conditions and equipment.

IMG_4458With a staff of about 20, evenly divided between delivery folks and schedulers, Black Tie is a smoothly oiled operation. They even have a guru who tunes skis overnight.

The crew will meet you on the slopes to fix any critical issues (broken bindings). If you want to try another ski or boot combination, they will coordinate to meet you to make an exchange.

Our equipment was in fine condition, and of recent vintage.

Although I can’t handle the moguls like I could on my first visit to Mammoth, this premiere California ski destination still ranks very high on anyone’s list. Indeed, it is the third most visited ski resort in the US, but is large enough to ensure a full day’s worth of skiing.

(all photos except last two by Peter Morning)

Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.