Mammoth has already broken records this winter, and at just halfway through the month, February is already forecast to be the snowiest in memory. While these historic snowfall levels are a “problem” most skiers would love to have, (can you ever really have too much perfect powder?) it does mean that from time to time you might need to take a break from the mountainside—whether for maintenance, weather, or just a bit of a rest after an abundance of excellent runs.
On days like those, try a change of pace, and use your rest day as the chance to revel in the landscape of the Eastern Sierras. We’ve rounded up the best ways to explore everything winter at Mammoth Mountain has to offer, sans skis and boards, but with a hefty dose of the great outdoors and the beautiful Sierra backcountry.
Legs need a rest but not ready to give up the thrill of downhill descent quite yet? Find your inner child again at Woolly’s Tubing Park, just a five minute shuttle or drive from the base of the mountain. With groomed, high-speed lanes for adventure seekers and mellow, merry-go-round style tubing for the younger set, it might just be the most fun in Mammoth. Enjoy all the adrenaline of a perfect snow day sledding run, without all that uphill trudging. Grab the rope tow to ride back up to the summit ad infinitum—or at least until it’s time for a hot chocolate break at the slopeside snack shack!
Those who love a jaw-dropping view and aren’t fazed by dizzying heights can hitch a ride on the Scenic Gondola, ending at the mountain’s summit, 11,053 feet above sea level. In case the gain in altitude works up an appetite, Eleven53, California’s highest-elevation café sits at the peak.You’ll also find a small learning station and museum, with binoculars and guides to help identify the mountains and landmarks. Choose a clear day to take in the staggering 360 degree views of the Sierra Nevadas and the San Joaquin River Valley below, and don’t forget the requisite photo at the summit’s iconic sign!
Head over to Tamarack Lodge on the south side of the mountain to hit the backcountry at a slightly more relaxed pace. Strap on some snowshoes and venture out onto 19 miles of groomed trails, from the shores of Twin Lakes and into the Inyo National Forest. Experience a silent, peaceful exploration of the ecosystem on your own, or join a guided tour.US National Forest Service naturalists lead snowshoers on a scenic route, sharing knowledge of the flora, fauna, and geology of the Mammoth Lakes Basin. If you’re lucky enough to visit during a full moon, you can join the nighttime tour to experience the the forest in winter and nocturnal wildlife spotting under bright moonlight.
Looking for something truly memorable and a little bit magical? Step back in time with a trip deep into the wilderness by dog sled. Mammoth Dog Teams takes guests on an adventure into the Inyo National Forest. Your sled runs quietly through pine forests, open vistas, and snowy meadows, exploring the pristine backcountry in a way that brings you closer to nature and lessens your impact on the landscape. Tours leave from Smokey Bear Flats just north of town, where knowledgeable guides explain the inner workings of a sled team. After an introduction to your team of Huskies, you can settle into comfy, warm rugs and set off into the forest.
Local adventurers will head to the myriad of frozen alpine lakes to skate, but you can keep things a little more tame and just as enjoyable with a trip to downtown Mammoth’s public ice rink. With skate rentals, hot drinks, and a bonfire on cold nights, it’s the highest altitude rink west of the Rockies, with views to match. Lace up your skates at twilight to glide (gracefully or not) across the ice as you watch the sun set and cast a golden afterglow on the White Mountains... When you’ve had enough of fancy footwork, the rink’s in-town location means you can head to dinner nearby, then hop on the free shuttle back to the resort as the night winds down.
Whether you keep exploring all the area has to offer, or are ready to get out on the slopes next day, there’s no shortage of choice when it comes to adventuring and exploring Mammoth’s winter wonderland.