The snow fell early on Mammoth Mountain this year, and recent storms — four feet on President’s Day weekend! — have helped keep the white stuff thick. Building off last year’s success in increasing the once sleepy ski resort town’s nightlife scene, the crew at Mammoth have brought a series of enhancements for the 2011 season that continue to poise the Southern Sierra hotspot as a real rival to Tahoe for visitors and value. Here’s a quick list of some of the more interesting developments at Mammoth this year.
1) The Roving Mammoth Food Truck: Taking cues from the food-truck craze overtaking Southern California and the rest of the nation, there are now snow cats filled with grub cruising the mountain. I was never able to track one down on my early January visit, but the employees I spoke with were raving about the burritos and said that they could usually be found at the bottom of Chairs 9, 12, 23, and at the top of Eagle Express. It’s a quick and comparably affordable way to chow down without missing the pow-pow.
2) Events to Check: Mammoth is ever boosting the amount of activities going down on the slopes, making it fun for even non-skiers to check out almost every weekend of the season. This year’s events include the Snowboarding Grand Prix this coming week, March 2-6; the second annual College Games presented by Fuel TV, in which teams of five (two females minimum) compete in their bathing suits to win a season pass, March 18-20; the sixth annual “Roxy Chicken Jam,” the country’s largest all-female snowboarding contest, March 22-26; a local-school fundraiser, pro-am event with banquets and multiple skill-level contests called the Mammoth Invitational, April 8-10; and the ninth annual West Coast Invitational, May 6-8, featuring $20,000 prizes for pipe-pumping and rail-riding. And that’s not even getting into the the motocross event lined up for the summer …
3) Concerts to Watch: In March alone, Mammoth will be visited by Warpaint, March 5, as finale for the Snowboarding Grand Prix; HyperCrush, March 19, as after party for the College Games; and Trouble Andrew and La Roux on March 26, as the main concert for the Roxy Chicken Jam.
4) Full Moon Winemaker Dinners: For those wanting a little sophistication with their snow, Mammoth is hosting a series of full-moon winemaker dinners on the mountainside, costing $125 for five courses and wine. Upcoming are Pianetta Winery on March 19; Claiborne & Churchill on April 16; and Artesa Winery on May 14.
5) New Ways to Shred: Mammoth is trying to push the slope-side envelope by offering new ways to rip. Bridging the divide between snowboarding and visual art is the new Art Park, a terrain shredding spot built by AR4T and the JLA Project where you can grind a rail that’s covered in legitimate art. And then there’s that divide between the soft air and hard ground which Mammoth has eliminated with its AcroBags — inflatable, bounce house-like trampolines that allow even know-nothings to take a massive jump, flip around, and land with relative ease.
6) Bite This App: Mammoth jumped on the Apple iPhone bandwagon with this app called Mammoth2Go, which offers trail maps, Web cams, condition updates, lift status reports, and tracking of your own runs, among other features.
6) Flights to Take: This doesn’t affect Santa Barbarans too much — at least not yet — but the Mammoth Airport is now taking in flights from San Jose, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Portland. So while it may be a wash as far as time required to drive from S.B. to LAX and then fly there, the boost of people from around the region will only add to Mammoth’s cosmopolitan character — although vets are sure to grumble that overcrowding will be the result, and that enduring the long drive has always been a proud part of the road to a Mammoth moment.
For more info on all this and more, check out mammothmountain.com.