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Mammoth Mountain

Yes, Mammoth is the nearest “true big mountain” to Los Angeles. But snow-loving Californians migrate to this windswept and view-blessed knob in the eastern Sierra for reasons beyond the obvious. Mammoth’s natural terrain variety (no. 4) is among North America’s best, delivering quality and abundance across the spectrum: broad beginner boulevards, corduroy fall-line carvers, piney glades, radical steeps. Its 3,500-plus scenic and open acres are sunkissed yet get hammered with more than 33 feet of mostly dry high-altitude snow annually. Lifts (no. 7) are swift and well laid out. Off-slope, the Village at Mammoth has matured into the amenity the diffuse Town of Mammoth Lakes needs. “The biggest weakness at Mammoth” according to one reader: “You can’t ski between Fourth of July and Halloween.” —S.R.

Must Do » Sample the best of Mammoth Brewing Company’s 17 years of awardwinning craft creations in its tasting room.

Bragging Rights » The Paranoids, steep, narrow and technical chutes, drop precipitously off of Mammoth’s crest. Yikes.

What’s New» A high-speed quad replaces Chair 5; direct flights from San Diego and Orange County bring the number of cities connecting to Mammoth Lakes Airport up to five.

Double Eagle Resort

Double Eagle Resort
double eagle
So much going on you won't want to stay inside.

Just 20 miles north of Mammoth Lakes and a few minutes from the small ski area of June Mountain, The Double Eagle Resort and Spa has 16 rooms, plus 15 two-bedroom cabins with kitchens, outdoor barbecues, and indoor wood-burning fireplaces. But you won’t come to stay inside: The resort is located on 13 acres surrounded by lakes, skiing, and fishing. Finish the day with a hot-stone massage at the award-winning Creekside Spa. The on-site Eagle’s Landing Restaurant serves made-to-order omelets, French toast, and more for breakfast.

The Westin Monache Resort

The Westin Monache Resort
Room service—particularly with choices like mac and cheese made with tallegio and truffles—is a new concept in Mammoth. And while 32-inch flatscreen TVs, fireplaces and plush robes make in-room dining at this 230-suite condo hotel particularly appealing, guests find it easy to venture out. The Village at Mammoth and a gondola to the slopes stand some 75 steps downhill from the Westin’s ski valet. Even so, the hotel’s free shuttle ferries guests on the 60-second drive. Après-ski, families splash in the heated pool amid big views before dropping the children at the free Kid’s Club while adults repair to the postmodern environs of Whitebark for epicurean eats. $299–$1,079; 760-934-0400;
Book a ski-and-stay package at Mammoth's Westin, which is walking distance to the gondola, and get a $20 tab for après ski drinks.

Book a studio or a one- or two-bedroom suite at the Westin Monache Resort, located across from the Village at Mammoth and walking distance to the gondola that accesses the ski resort. The on-site Whitebark Restaurant is a popular lounge spot for après ski and features a new sushi menu. Resort amenities include free town shuttle, ski and snowboard rentals, a kids’ center, and more. Good news for pet owners: Dogs are welcome, and the hotel even provides a Westin Heavenly Dog Bed, food bowl and mat, water bowl, and a dog amenity kit.

Cinnamon Bear Inn

Cinnamon Bear Inn
Cinnamon Bear Inn
Going on a romantic weekend to Mammoth? The Cinnamon Bear Inn is as cute and cozy as it sounds.

Going on a romantic weekend to Mammoth? If you can’t already tell by the name, the Cinnamon Bear Inn is as cute and cozy as it sounds (translation: your girlfriend will think the checkered quilts and vintage, Colonial-style furnishings are kitschy, but still adorable). For the full experience, book the Honeymoon Suite, which has a four-poster canopy bed. It’s also a good spot for families—kids’ rooms come with two twin beds. There’s complimentary breakfast in the morning and hors d'oeuvres in the afternoon. Their three-day lift ticket and lodging package starts at $354 per person.

Arnold Schwarzenegger Skis at Mammoth

Arnold Schwarzenegger Skis at Mammoth
Although Austrian Arnold hails from a country with so many Olympians and World Cup skiers that it's hard to keep up, his skiing life didn't get into full swing until his time in America. The Governator skis at Sun Valley, where the black diamond Arnold's Run is named after him. In 2006, he tripped over a ski pole on a green, requiring crutches, screws to secure his thighbone and several weeks of recovery after undergoing surgery for a fractured right femur. He still made it to his announcement of Governor in January 2007.
Read more about the politics of skiing here.
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger hit the slopes at Mammoth this week to participate in an after-school event for children. If we could spend a day skiing with the Austrian Governator, here's what we'd ask him.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger founded After-School All-Stars, a free after-school program for inner-city kids, in 1990. This week, he surprised a group of school children on a two-day ski trip at Mammoth Mammoth, California. He took some runs with the kids and offered them some valuable advice ("Make a turn!" and "You can be anything you want to be," he told them). Check out the video below for more on that.

What Now: A Silver Lining for Ski Resorts?

What Now: A Silver Lining for Ski Resorts?
Though today’s skiers might have less money to spend, they’re enjoying deep discounts in both lift tickets and lodging, as well as a reemphasis on customer service.
Skiers are spending less and searching for better values—forcing ski resorts to compete harder than ever. Could the economic downturn have an upside for skiing?

Like most skiers, Mitch Holmes is scrutinizing his budget a lot closer these days. The Cape Cod resident would like to take his wife and children on a ski vacation to Colorado, but those plans have been scrapped due to the weak economy. “I’m in commercial real estate, which isn’t exactly hot right now,” he says. Instead, Holmes is skiing more at his home-state hill, Wachusett Mountain.

Skiing the Sidecountry

Skiing the Sidecountry
Author Chris Fellows savors fresh powder in Sugar Bowl's sidecountry.
Explore open bowls and unmapped trails inside the resort, then dive into untamed descents just beyond the ropes. Your next big adventure is...

Not long ago, skiing came in two varieties: lift-served resort cruising and self-powered backcountry turn-earning. The chasm between the two was vast and rarely crossed. Today, backcountry purists continue to shun chairlifts and groomed trails. But evolutions in ski equipment, technique and resort policies are bridging the gap for the rest of us, who want a little adventure but prefer to spend our time going down the hill rather than up it. Call it what you will—lift-served backcountry, sidecountry, slackcountry—it’s the new hybrid ski experience.

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