With the recent rain in LA, the drought situation has improved…thank goodness. If you love snow and everything that comes with it, spend the weekend in Mammoth Mountain. Los Angeles offers some incredible weekend getaways (see my travel/wine review of my trip up to the central coast of California).
Photo by Richard Bilow, CEO of International Hospital Supply, Mike Harris prepared to cut loose on one of Mammoth Mountain’s steepest runs
The fact that Wave Rave Snowboard Shop owner and 5-time Verbier Xtreme champion Steve Klassen calls Mammoth his home says a lot. Klassen is one of the true pioneers of the snowboard industry. He takes lines down extreme terrain that seem impossible to survive, let alone navigate with the precision and style required to be a champion. Steve collaborated with Arbor Snowboards to create the Steepwater Snowboard, a big mountain “rocket” designed and built for pushing the limits of the sport. Wave Rave Snowboard Shop has helped create the style and spirit of snowboard culture worldwide. http://www.waveravesnowboardshop.com/
Mammoth is also the home of legendary downhill mountain bike world champion “Insane Wayne” Croasdale, who still holds the record for the fastest Kamikaze run down Mammoth Mountain. “There’s nothing like the feeling of being surrounded by towering mountains while ripping down the trails with my dogs by my side,” says Croasdale. “The Eastern Sierras is an endless playground for me, and I can’t imagine living anywhere else.”
Photo by Photo by Richard Bilow, scenic view driving to Mammoth
Watch the weather closely. The mountain is just over five hours from LA…so it makes for a perfect last minute trip. Call in sick, grab your skis and snowboards, and hit the 405 by no later than 2:30pm. You’ll miss the traffic and be to the Eastern Sierra town of Mammoth Lakes by 8pm…that is, if you don’t speed through any of the small towns. Do that, and you will have a very expensive delay. By 5:30pm, you will be far from the city and driving through some truly beautiful landscapes known as the Eastern Sierra Scenic Corridor. The first town you will notice will be Lone Pine, base camp for those climbing Mount Whitney, the over 14,000-foot peak that is a challenging hike to say the least. You may want to hit Lone Pine during the summer and give the hike a try, if you are both athletic and in great shape.
Photo by Richard Bilow, Mount Whitney
The key to a successful trip to Mammoth, if you are determined to get the best conditions, is subscribing to Howard Schecter’s Platinum Powder Alerts.
Photographer and avid snowboarder Richard Bilow said he has been using these reports to determine when to hit the mountain for years. Predicting the perfect conditions is both an art and a science, with a healthy dose of gut feeling. Fortunately, if calm winds and blue skies don’t prevail, the mountain staff works diligently to keep the slopes set for skiers and snowboarders of all levels, spinning the lifts whenever possible. This year, due to the massive amount of snowfall, you still have many months remaining to enjoy the winter sports.
The views from the top of the mountain are panoramic and truly stunning, and the lower runs offer a spectacular perspective as well. Bilow said he allocates time in between runs to marvel at the landscape. “I once sat looking up at the top of the mountain, which by the way is over 11,000 feet high, while the wind blew swirling powdery snow dust into the sky,” said Bilow. “It looked like a vortex of diamonds.” Bilow’s childhood memories include trips to Mammoth with friends. “I grew up going there with my best friend Mike, whose family had a condo and who always invited me along,” explained Bilow. “I think of Mammoth as a home away from home, and I still make it a point to chase a few powder days each season, but these days, I find myself more inspired to take photographs in the area than to risk life and limb on the mountain.”
Photo by Richard Bilow, view from the top of Mammoth
Mammoth offers something for everyone – at every skill level. In fact, you may see celebrity athletes such as Chloe Kim, Brandon Davis or Tina Basich practicing their jumps on the mountain. Look up from the main lodge towards the terrain park or take the lift over the park. You are likely to see these world-class athletes pushing their personal limits as they prepare for upcoming competitions.
For those who prefer a more old-school mountain experience, June Mountain is another option. It’s about forty-five minutes from Mammoth and is known for its great powder runs through the trees. Crowds are lower, and views of the June Lake Loop are something really special.
Photo by Richard Bilow, June Lakes from June Mountain