Since we moved to San Diego we've heard locals rave about the slopes of Mammoth Mountain, located along the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range in eastern California. The seven-hour drive from La Jolla was rather easy. Surprisingly, cellular service was available during the entire two-hundred-mile stretch of remote, desert roads. To make our getaway even more exciting, the mountain was sprinkled in fresh snow with an expected twelve inches of virgin powder the day we arrived. The base of the mountain is at an elevation of approximately 8,000 feet reaching 11,000 feet in height at the mountain's summit. Although my family has traveled to elevations even higher than the ones here, both my husband and I unexpectantly experienced altitude sickness at Mammoth for the first time. Our symptoms included shortness of breath and headaches. For those of you who are not accustomed to high elevations, make sure to stay extremely hydrated to prevent any altitude sickness. Besides this uncomfortable hiccup, let's take a look together at why San Diegans and beyond love escaping here for their winter getaways. Below I'll highlight some of the wonderful features offered in this charming ski resort.
Let's face it, in the winter Mammoth Mountain is all about the slopes. With 175 trails, 25 lifts, 10 terrain parks, 300 days of sunshine per year, and a wide range of trails for all levels, Mammoth is an obvious choice for both skiers and snowboarders. Of course, the mountain offers many other fun winter activities like tubing, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling. What most impressed us about the mountain was the modern ski lodge at its base, which offers ample seating and loads of delicious food - for those of you who have skied at various mountains, you know this is not a common setup. There is plenty to enjoy here during your ski vacation beyond the trails, including great food and fun shopping.
In/Out Ski Lodging:
We booked our stay at The Village Lodge Mammoth. The lodge offers fully stocked two-bedroom apartments in the heart of the village with the gondola just a few feet away, making hitting the slopes super convenient. The hotel room was extremely clean, the service was friendly and professional, and the location is unbeatable. The rooms have two bedrooms, two full bathrooms, a fully stocked kitchen, a sleeper sofa, and a dining room which was spacious enough for our family of five. The only downside to the room amenities is that the televisions are really old, ruining our plans of huddling around the sofa to stream a movie. I can't remember when the last time I watched cable television was, although we got a kick out of watching old episodes of classics like COPS and Criminal Minds.
The ski resort is reminiscent of the resorts in Telluride and Snowmass. My family kept mentioning that it didn't feel like we were in California; what a different experience to be in the snow-kissed Northern mountains of the state than the sunny coast in the south! The village center is small and quaint with a solid balance of retail shops and restaurants. While my husband and kids were on the slopes, I enjoyed perusing the shops and exploring on my own. You'll find everything you'll need available here from an ice-cream shop to outdoor communal firepits; retail stores with mountain gear to massage spas; and dining options ranging from Mexican cuisines to crepes and everything in between.
If you love chocolate as much as I do, you'll be thrilled to have Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory at your doorstep. This decadent shop will leave you in an indecisive dilemma so just take a deep breath and order everything that catches your eye. It's all delicious. We noshed on birthday cake truffles, macadamia nuts in dark chocolate clusters, dark chocolate pecans swirled in caramel, creamy peanut butter logs dipped in dark chocolate, peanut butter rice Krispie treats... and more! Every bite is heavenly and personally, I made sure to make a daily visit to this sweet shop!
For your daily dose of caffeine, head over to Vida Coffee for a perfect cup of Joe. This unpretentious cafe serves a creamy latte at a perfect temperature along with some yummy sandwich options. I loved starting my day with a Vida cup in hand.
No vacation is complete without an awesome scoop or two. Hugs Ice-Cream makes premium craft ice-creams in a variety of delicious flavors. They're a bit on the pricey side but well worth the yummy flavors and discussions around the many hug references they post throughout the shop.
Where to Eat:
Morrison's truly surprised us with their consistently delicious dishes made with fresh ingredients and served in an expansive dining room that captures a warm, lodge feel. With a fire roaring and panoramic windows capturing the falling snowflakes, this spot is a quintessential ski resort experience. We started with the Hamachi Tostadas served with cucumber cilantro relish and serrano peppers, Buffalo Chicken Wings, Smoked Matsu Sauce Chicken Wings, and Muenster Cheese Asado topped with an heirloom tomato bruschetta served on soft grilled crostini. The appetizers were unbelievably tasty and instantly devoured. The cheese bruschetta was such a hit we ordered a second round. For our mains, we savored the half-pound burger (which the kitchen so kindly split in half for sharing purposes), the grilled barramundi filet, a caesar salad, and the baby greens salad. Everything was SO good.
I was a bit leery eating at Gomez's Mexican Restaurant because of their low 3.9-star reviews on google. Honestly, I had low expectations of the food scene at Mammoth Mountain entirely as, despite a lot of research, very few restaurants have solid reviews. Yet, Gomez's surprised us all. With a lively dining room, enormous tequila bar, and a delicious Mexican menu coupled with fantastic service, I can confidently recommend this restaurant to you. We started our meal with the nachos grande and the coconut lime shrimp, which were both outstanding and left behind no trace that they ever existed on a plate. My jalapeno sting tequila made with mezcal was a perfect accompaniment to my meal. Few places can properly balance a margarita ensuring that it is not too sweet or not too sour, and Gomez's perfectly prepares this cocktail. For our main entrees, four of us opted for a bean, cheese, and rice burrito served with enchilada sauce and sour cream on top. My kids practically ate the giant burrito in one bite. Despite how delicious it was, I couldn't finish the entire thing and saved half for lunch the next day (which I ended up eating for breakfast because I couldn't wait until lunch!). My husband ordered the chicken and shrimp sizzling fajitas and truly enjoyed his dish as well. We all left extremely satisfied with the quality of the food and the fresh ingredients.
Smokeyard BBQ & Chop Shop is yet another example of the many poorly reviewed restaurants in Mammoth that deliver really good food. Although this BBQ joint caters to both meat lovers and vegetarians alike, it's not for those counting their calories. We noshed on their crispy rock shrimp tossed in spicy aioli, mozzarella sticks with a chipotle dip, a vegetarian bowl of chili, butternut squash soup, a couple of orders of macaroni and cheese, and a half-smoked chicken. Food-wise, all the dishes were fantastic. Service could use some tweaking. Our main meals came out at the same time as our appetizers and we needed to wait quite a while to get our credit card back from the waitress. I would imagine that the service is the main reason for their low ratings because you'll have zero complaints about the food itself.
I hope that by now you are tempted to book your winter escape to Mammoth. Get ready to enjoy endless trails, blue skies, relatively warm temperatures, great dining options, and mostly wonderful memory-making in this spectacular region of California.