After 2 amazing years of the Epic Pass and Vail Valley/Summit County Colorado MountainLife, I’ve decided to do something different. 2015 marks my first year as a Mountain Collective pass holder and I’m beyond stoked to explore a whole new set of peaks and towns this season. Jackson, Squaw, Whistler, and Aspen are all on the high priority travel list until April.
Mammoth Mountain was my kick off to MountainLife 2015, and a damn good start it was. Admittedly the mountain was still pretty bare in early January, but such is nature. It seems a bit of a pow-drought has hit California in recent years, with the Lake Tahoe ski areas fairing the worst. Although disappointing, I can’t help but feel anything but stoked. After learning to ride and growing up on ice covered tow-rope hills in the Midwest, I always appreciate proper YP JetSet mountain experiences…
The MountainLife of Los Angeles
Although definitely not the closest, I would argue that Mammoth deserves the title of “LA’s Mountain.” The proximity of Big Bear and Mt. High is an obvious advantage, but they get blown away when comparing the terrain. With a top elevation of 11,053 ft. and over 3,500 skiable acres, Mammoth dwarfs the closer alternatives in scale. It’s not something you could pull off as a day trip, but worth investing the time for the experience you get. It seemed that Mammoth Mountain drew a predominantly young professional demographic, with a southern California vibe.
Flying into Mammoth is really cost effective from San Diego, Los Angeles, or San Francisco. Despite the miniature size of MMH, there are various options with convenient flight times for a weekend getaway. During our travel dates, you could fly r/t direct from San Diego for $130 on Alaskan. That’s a phenomenal deal and small price to pay for the amount of time saved (1 hr flight vs. 5+ hour drive). My LAX-SFO-MMH one-way segment on United was $80, also pretty reasonable. The complimentary United 1k upgrade and a few 312’s actually made the flight rather enjoyable…
Burton Mountain Fest at Mammoth
The weekend I chose to visit Mammoth happened to perfectly align with the Burton Mountain Festival. Free gear demos, a “Party in the Park” contests, and Apres tunes and entertainment were just a few of the festivities. Burton does these across the US in a tour over the season, with stops at resorts like Keystone, Stratton, and Mt. Hood. This was an immensely pleasant surprise that I did not realize until getting my pass in the lift ticket line.
The opportunity to demo your choice of Burton setups for free all day is just a damn beautiful thing. After missing a chance last year at the Burton US Open in Vail, I definitely learned my lesson. Following the signing 0f the required liability waivers, waiting in a brief line, and snagging a Burton dry erase board, I was all set with a new Burton Custom 158″ and Cartel bindings mine for the day. For free. God bless America.
The Westin Monache Resort
When it came to selecting a hotel, I really didn’t have to do much deliberating. I’ve had some stellar experiences at other Westin mountain properties, and the Westin Monache Resort continued this impeccable track record in Mammoth Lakes. The hotel is ideally located across from the main village and gondola that takes you to Mammoth Mountain ski area’s base. Proximity to everything from ski rental to a Starbucks streamlines the morning process of getting to the lifts. This is crucial. Achieving Last Call + First Chair is always an ambitious undertaking, so anything that makes it more feasible is of immense value.
After a warm welcome at reception, we checked into one of the 1 bedroom suite rooms at the Westin Monache. Waiting for me were some chilled Mammoth Brewery beers and a personal greeting. As a long time SPG Platinum I am accustomed to a high caliber of service, but the staff here definitely went above and beyond. Jeff gave us a thorough rundown of Mammoth – the village, the mountain, the hotel, the surroundings, and the history. And although I typically prefer to venture out of the hotel for meals, the best dinner of the trip was undoubtedly at Whitebark Restaurant inside of the Westin.
Amenities are a huge part of the #MountainLife experience, and the Westin Monache delivered. A vast heated pool and two large hot tubs dominate the back exterior of the hotel. This was a phenomenal place to have a cocktail after a long day on the slopes.
Mammoth Lakes Airport is truly a unique place to fly in and out of. There is only one landing strip, so only one plane is every arriving or departing. On top of that it is perfectly nestled in the mountains, at an elevation of 7,129 ft. The facilities aren’t exactly luxurious, with the baggage claim actually located outside. The “waiting area” is a small domed structure constructed out of questionable material, housing a snack shop/bar with some seating and TVs. However, all these elements somehow fall naturally together to create a unique experience. Walking out onto the tarmac at dusk to board your plane, an absolutely breathtaking scene unfolds around you. The mountains glow in the horizon as you take off from the main runway. This is #MountainLife.