Mammoth Mountain, California: For those who live on the West coast, you do not need to go as far as you may think to find a great mountain to ski. Mammoth Mountain in the town of Mammoth Lakes, California is a great option for people who want to ski a big mountain but would prefer to drive rather than fly.
Mammoth Mountain has 156 runs, 28 lifts, and is a great place to take the family skiing. Reaching a summit of 11,000 feet, this truly is a mammoth mountain. There are many places to stay and more accommodations are being built each year.
The town of Mammoth Lakes is quickly losing the small town feel it is famous for and is becoming a resort town in the tradition of Vail and Park City. I would recommend getting up there as soon as possible–before it’s too late and the sprawling mountain town is lost entirely to corporate America. Plus, with a base snow depth of 36-48 inches, it is looking like it will be a good year for skiing or snowboarding on Mammoth Mountain.
For recommended lodging in Mammoth Mountain, see this link.
Heavenly Ski resort: Located in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range in Lake Tahoe, Heavenly Ski resort straddles the line between Nevada and California. You can literally ski from Nevada to California. Heavenly has 91 trails and 30 lifts and is considered a world-class skiing destination. The resort is a seven to eight hour drive from Los Angeles, which is about two hours longer than what it takes to get to Mammoth Mountain. Heavenly resort’s summit is at 10,068 feet.
Northstar at Tahoe: While both of the previous resorts I mentioned are good places to take the family, Northstar at Tahoe is probably the most popular family ski destination. Read more here (link to other page).
This resort is experiencing some changes in character much like Mammoth Mountain. A new village is being built at the base of the mountain alongside new shops, restaurant, and other money-generating ventures. It is a little sad to see the “smaller” California ski areas become even more like resorts than they were in the first place. The ski school at Northstar is one of the best for young children.
I have been to both Heavenly and Mammoth. Mammoth Mountain has a special place in my heart because I used to take family vacations there during summer and a few times during the winter. But you really cannot make a wrong decision in choosing which resort to visit. All of these ski areas are excellent places to ski and take a vacation too. My point is that you definitely do not need to leave California to find great skiing or to experience a winter vacation. More and more, California’s resorts are becoming world-class destinations, which is good and bad for different reasons.
One concern is that it means Californians have to share these beautiful ski destinations with larger, more demanding crowds. This is the concern I most worry about. The areas of Lake Tahoe and Mammoth Mountain are beautiful places and fun during the summer months also. Hiking and biking are popular activities during summer.