Mammoth Mountain Ski Area

Mammoth Mountain Ski Area
Mammoth Mountain

Wipeout Chutes under Chair 23 after a fresh snow with Minarets peaks of Ritter Range in the background.
Location Mammoth Mountain
Sierra Nevada
Mono County, California
Nearest city Mammoth Lakes, California
Coordinates 37°39′03″N 119°02′15″W / 37.6507°N 119.0374°W / 37.6507; -119.0374Coordinates: 37°39′03″N 119°02′15″W / 37.6507°N 119.0374°W / 37.6507; -119.0374
Vertical 3,100 ft (940 m)
Top elevation 11,053 ft (3,369 m)
Base elevation 7,953 ft (2,424 m)
Skiable area 3,500 acres (1,400 ha)
Runs 150 named
Ski trail rating symbol-green circle.svg 25% beginner
Ski trail rating symbol-blue square.svg 40% intermediate
Ski trail rating symbol-black diamond.svg 35% advanced
Longest run 3 mi (4.8 km)
Lift system 28 lifts: 3 gondolas, 23 chairs (2 high speed six-packs, 9 high speed quads, 1 quad, 6 triple, 4 double), 2 platter lift
Lift capacity 50,000 passengers/hr
Terrain parks Disco, Wonderland, X-Course, Forest Trail, Jibs Galore, South Park, Main Park
Snowfall 400 in (1,000 cm)
Snowmaking 477 acres (193 ha) covering 46 trails, 33%
Night skiing None
Web site

Mammoth Mountain Ski Area is a large ski resort located in Eastern California, along the east side of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in the Inyo National Forest.



The ski area is built on the north side of Mammoth Mountain, located in the volcanic Long Valley Caldera. Overnight guests stay in the town of Mammoth Lakes, California, and occasionally in neighboring towns such as Bishop. Mammoth has more than 3,500 acres (1,400 ha) of skiable terrain, serviced by 28 lifts, including 3 gondolas. The area has 3,100 ft (940 m) of vertical, rising to an elevation of 11,053 ft (3,369 m).[1] The top of the mountain has challenging chutes and open mogul runs. There are eight Unbound terrain parks. Unbound Main, located adjacent to Main Lodge, is highly praised by extreme snowboarding and skiing enthusiasts, and is one of the major attractions of the ski resort. Many of the top professionals in the sport, including 2006- and 2010 Winter Olympics gold medalist Shaun White, come to practice and compete in the world famous 18 ft (5.5 m) Super Pipe and 22 ft (6.7 m) Super-Duper Pipe. There are only a handful of SuperDuper pipes in the world. There is also a Mini Pipe. Mammoth Mountain is one of only a handful of resorts in the world to offer a halfpipe of this size and is the only resort in North America to offer three different-sized halfpipes.

Mammoth Mountain also has one of the longest ski seasons in North America, which averages from November to June. Mammoth does occasionally open earlier, such as in 2005, when the resort opened in October, and did not close until the 4th of July. Mammoth Mountain's longest season, over ten months, was thanks to the 1994-1995 winter season when the resort opened on 8 October and did not close until 13 August. Mammoth receives an average of 354 in (900 cm) of snow per season, though during the 2010-2011 season the resort recorded a record accumulation of 661 in (1,680 cm).[2]

As recently as the 1980s, senior citizens skied Mammoth for free. As of 2006, those aged at least 80 years may ski free. Following the tradition established by Dave McCoy, no Mammoth Mountain employees are permitted to have beards.


The view from the top of the famous Cornice Bowl ski run, at the summit of the mountain.

Mammoth Mountain is located in California's Eastern Sierra approximately 100 mi (160 km) south of the Nevada state line and 50 minutes from the Eastern Gate of Yosemite National park. Even though the ski area is located in Northern California, the resort is mainly frequented by skiers and snowboarders from Southern California. Though it is a five-hour drive from Los Angeles, Mammoth is much closer for Southland skiers and riders than the Lake Tahoe area resorts, which are more accessible to the San Francisco Bay Area. Mammoth Mountain is a more popular destination than Southern California resorts, because of these areas' heavy reliance on snowmaking, lighter precipitation, and their notably shorter seasons. Although Mammoth is physically closer to San Francisco and central valley cities than Los Angeles, mountain passes along the Sierra crest are closed after the first major snowfall, and this lack of a trans-Sierra travel route creates an unusually long drive to Mammoth from the Bay Area and most of Northern California. For example: during the summer, the distance from Fresno to Mammoth Lakes is 189 mi (304 km), while the same excursion in winter involves 366 miles of driving.

In recent years, Mammoth has had increased visitors from outside of California and Nevada. Ski season commercial flights are now available to Mammoth Lakes Mammoth Yosemite Airport via Los Angeles, on Horizon Air. In December 2009, Alaska/Horizon started nonstop flights from LAX and seasonal flights from San Jose, California. In December 2010, SkyWest Airlines started seasonal flights from San Francisco to Mammoth Lakes. Skywest Airlines added two more seasonal flights from San Diego & Orange county to Mammoth Lakes which will begin In December 2011.


Mammoth was founded by Dave McCoy, a hydrographer for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. As a member of the Eastern Sierra Ski Club in the 1930s, McCoy noticed that Mammoth Mountain consistently held more snow than other mountains. The Ski Club had a portable rope tow. McCoy bought the rope tow from the club in 1941 and usually kept it at Mammoth. In 1953, the United States Forest Service awarded a permit to McCoy to operate the ski area. The first ski lift was built in 1955.


As the ski area grew, McCoy faced adverse circumstances: the 1973 oil crisis,[3] an avalanche in 1979 that destroyed a ski lift,[3] and a prolonged drought that led to layoffs in 1991.[4]

Similar to other ski resorts, Mammoth had a number of associated fatalities in its history:

  • In 1973 the resort bought Sierra Pacific Airlines from 3-D film cinematographer Chris Condon. On March 13, 1974 a film crew for Wolper Productions filming a National Geographic history of Australopithecus at the resort was killed when the Corvair 440 plane flew into a 7,000-foot (2,100 m) ridge after take off from Eastern Sierra Regional Airport in Bishop killing all 35 on board including 31 Wolper crew members—although not Wolper himself. The filmed segment was recovered in the wreckage and was broadcast in the television show Primal Man. The NTSB never determined the cause of the accident and the resort sold the airline.[5]
  • On December 13, 1973, Martin R. Critton, a ski patroller died from an explosives accident.[6]
A memorial for the 3 ski patrollers who died on April 6th, 2006.‎
  • On April 6, 2006, three ski patrollers at the ski area perished due to a combination of CO2 and hydrogen sulfide (H2S) poisoning.[7] Both gases are present on a known dangerous fumarole on the mountain and were more concentrated on that day because the fumarole had been covered by snow for days. Four patrollers, including John "Scott" McAndrews and James Juarez, were raising the fence around the fumarole, which had become buried due to heavy snowfall. The fumarole had melted a cavern below the snowbridge which collapsed under James and Scott. The pair of men fell 21 feet (6.4 m) and perished within a matter of minutes. Another ski patroller, Walt Rosenthal, perished and seven others were injured trying to rescue James and Scott. Unfortunately, the only type of oxygen mask used by the Mammoth Mountain ski patrol was of the kind that does not completely seal outer gases from coming in.[7][8]
  • On March 12, 2010, 27 year old Joshua Hernandez died. He reportedly lost control en route to a chairlift. He collided with a building. He left the mountain for the day and went home. He soon decided to go to the hospital. Joshua was treated for internal bleeding but later died of cardiac arrest.[9]

Sale to Intrawest

The Gondola at The Village at Mammoth

In January 1996, Intrawest Corporation and Mammoth Mountain Ski area announced that Intrawest Corporation had purchased 33% of Mammoth and June Mountain ski operations, as well as all of the developable real estate owned by Mammoth Mountain Ski Area. In 1998, Intrawest increased their partnership interest to 58%. The development of three new village areas: The Village at Mammoth, Sierra Star, and Juniper Springs, has brought new developments to the resort.

The Village at Mammoth was built in a style similar to other Intrawest properties, such as Whistler or Keystone. The Village Gondola was built in the early 2000s which transports skiers from the Village to the Canyon Lodge base.

Sale to Starwood Capital

On February 23, 2005, Dave McCoy announced that he would be selling his stake in Mammoth Mountain, after 68 years of running the ski area. On October 5, 2005, Mammoth announced that a majority stake will be sold to Starwood Capital Group, a private equity fund specializing in real estate, run by Barry Sternlicht. The sale price was $365 million.[4]

Because of a poor economy in California, beginning in 2007, many of the stores and restaurants in The Village closed. However, in the fall of 2010, with the help of local business owners, the Village has seen a resurgence of new restaurants and stores.

Changes and re-development

The gondola to the summit of the ski area

Before and during the changes of ownership, the ski area underwent major changes. The resort went from 16 chairs in the 1980s to 25 today. A new gondola was built that ends at a visitor center at 11,053 feet (3,369 m). The visitor center has telescopes and historical displays.

Almost all the old, slow, double chair lifts were replaced with high-speed quad, and six-seater lifts. Several old lifts were also removed. The Mid-Chalet, which once had picnic tables on its roof, was completely remodeled in the early 2000s, re-named McCoy Station, and now features gourmet foods and a cafeteria. Large vintage photos of McCoy and his family can be found hanging from the ceiling there. The Mill Cafe, a small rustic bar and snack area was added in the early 2000s. The ski area is replacing chair 5 with a new high speed quad which will be ready for the 2011/12 winter season. The new lift will be called High Five Express.


  1. ^ "Mammoth - Ski resort facts". Skiinfo. Retrieved 2011-01-10. 
  2. ^ "Mammoth Mountain Snowfall History". Mammoth Mountain Ski Area. Retrieved 2011-09-29. 
  3. ^ a b Johnson, William O. (1985-02-25). "A Man and his Mountain". Sports Illustrated. 
  4. ^ a b McCoy, Dave (2008-12-01). "How I Did It: Dave McCoy, Mammoth Mountain". Inc.. 
  5. ^ "Primal Man Crash". Check-Six. Retrieved 9 January 2011. 
  6. ^ "American Avalanche Association Memorial List". American Avalanche Association. Retrieved 2011-01-10. 
  7. ^ a b "Mammoth ski patrol tragedy". Mammoth Local. Archived from the original on 2006-04-09. Retrieved 2006-04-09. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Snowboarder Dies Following Mammoth Mountain Accident". First Tracks!! Online Ski Magazine. 17 March 2010. Retrieved 20 January 2011. 

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