With amazing conditions and a long ski season, thanks to its legendary dumps and base, Mammoth Mountain is a snow sport paradise where no plane tickets are required.  Telluride is for tourists and Park City is pedestrian –  Mammoth isn’t the sleepy little town you remember and now that it has hotels and restaurants you’ll love, and a drive you can handle (it’s about a two movie drive, with a break in between for a nap!), it just might replace Jackson Hole as your annual ski-cation.  Here are 5 ways the town of Mammoth Lakes has changed and become a ski destination worthy of your brood.

Mammothsnow(Can’t make it during this winter? Plan ahead: Mammoth is still gorgeous when the days are longer and warm, and ski and boarding gear gets swapped in favor of mountain bikes and fishing equipment. Plus the Tioga Pass entrance to Yosemite is easily reached from the Mammoth Lakes area, for a mountain nice summer sojourn.)

Woolly parade

It Takes A Village (With Public Transportation)
Historically it’s been a town without a center (Mammoth is all about the snow– and maybe the Eastern Sierra’s crazy awesome natural hot springs if you can break away from the kids), but now with the massive Village project, it’s easy to pick a gathering spot that also offers a sense of place. The Mammoth Village gondola runs from the Village to Canyon Lodge, and it’s free, which seriously comes in handy if you’re with tots who aren’t yet ready for lessons or ski school. So feel free to joy ride to your hearts content, which given some kids’ love of this novel and thrilling form of transportation, could mean many, many round-trips.

When it comes to comfort, nearby retail amenities, and mountain-access convenience, the Village’s accommodations can’t be beat. (The Westin Monache Resort is another upscale option nearby.) For some kids, the highlight of the trip is on Saturday afternoon, when mascot Woolly, who has seriously impressive ski skills, shows up for his weekly parade in the Village complete with music, live entertainment, and other perks.


Old School Meets New: Sierra Nevada Resort
We appreciate mid-century A-frame architecture kitsch as much as the next hipster, but we do not want to spend our family vacation in a 1960s time capsule. The longtime local favorite Sierra Nevada Lodge has been transformed under new ownership, with its rustic charm touches left intact, and the rest of the property given a major makeover. Beyond the homey mountain chic style lobby, the hotel’s 149 rooms come in all sizes and are ideally appointed for families (heated bathroom floors and fireplaces help everyone feel cozy and snug, too). Shuttle service runs regularly from the hotel up to the mountain’s lodges and to the airport.

Time to eat…  and you don’t even have to leave the hotel.  Rafters has the old school ski lodge feel where you can luxuriate in an après ski meal that also includes organic produce and rare bottles from a deep wine cellar, perfect when the kids are too tired from snow play to engage in their usual dinner antics. But kids left ravenous from the day’s adventures just might fight  over the freshly baked pita bread, at Jimmy’s Taverna (but be sure to try the grilled octopus, too).


Elbow Bending Options, Enhanced
Is it possible to overstate the importance of a reliable, high quality coffee source when spending 24/7 with the brood? We think not. Black Velvet Coffee is about as good as it gets in the coffee world, with a pour-over bar, snazzy Synesso machine, in-house roasted beans, and a seriousness of purpose (minus the attitude) you’d expect to find at any big city third-to-fourth wave coffee joint. But here, all equipment and brewing temps are adjusted for altitude, which makes for a pretty cool mini science lesson. In other exciting beverage news, Mammoth Brewing Company’s tasting room across from the Village offers extensive beer tasting flights, plus root beer on tap for your under-21 companions. Pick up some special brews, such as the nutty and rich Fire & Eisbock, to enjoy as a souvenir when you’re back home.


Food, Glorious Food
The Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana is no joke. Most cities boast more Shakey’s Pizza locations than there are AVPN certified pizzerias in the whole country. And yet, Mammoth is lucky enough to have one. An offshoot of the Reno restaurant, Campo Restaurant is located centrally in the Village, so hop on the gondola and opt for a satisfying lunch of roasted shishito peppers, a simple and delish dinosaur kale salad, super authentic pizza Margherita, carefully sourced meats, and other farm-to-table dishes. (There’s also a special menu of safe choices for children under 9, but it really would be a shame to not at least make the kids try some tangy, hand-stretched pizzas with quality toppings.) Come back later for a round of craft cocktails… Other great bets in town include Toomey’s, The Stove for home style breakfast grub, and Mimi’s Cookie Bar for well-deserved treats. Folks who prefer to eat by the fireplace in their own home should check out the largely California-produced, small-batch artisanal food, wine and beer on offer at Bleu Handcrafted Foods marketplace. Meanwhile, Mammoth old timers probably prefer the comfort of Schat’s Bakery in town and the original location in Bishop. (Also when passing through Bishop, don’t forget to stop for the famous beef jerky and smoked proteins at Mahogany!)


You Came to Shred, And You Will
If you just want to see snow, there are closer places to go. So let’s talk about the slopes – that’s why you’ve really come. The Mammoth Ski and Snowboard School is a stellar program, with patient pros who help the little ones become future shredders. (The ski school also includes a guarantee of offering unsatisfied customers an additional lesson.)

We’re not gonna lie — skiing isn’t cheap. But deals include free lift tickets for kids 12 and under at the reopened June Mountain and discounts on multiple day lesson packages. Bombing down the mountain not your cup of tea? Then check out Mammoth Mountain Ski Area’s other activities, including cross-country skiing by Tamarack Lodge (where the restaurant is also a local institution), Mammoth Snowmobile Adventures, and Woolly’s Tube Park and Snow Play zone. Or go low-tech and slow with snowshoeing.  Whatever you do, you’ll love your snowy getaway.

-Jessica Ritz

What’s your secret Mammoth spot? Let us know in the comment section!

Photos courtesy of the author and Mammoth Mountain.