Why Mammoth Mountain Is the Ideal Place for Beginner Skiers and Snowboarders (Video)
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If you’ve been dreaming of learning how to ski or snowboard for your entire life, there’s no better place to give it a go than Mammoth Mountain in California. And don’t even try to pull that, “I’m too old to learn something new” stuff on anyone here. Especially with Gabe Taylor.
On a crisp December day (by Los Angeles standards), we traveled five-and-a-half hours north to Mammoth Lakes, California in search of even colder weather and a taste of some of the snowiest conditions in America. It was there that we met Taylor, the 41-year-old professional snowboarder turned brand content manager at Mammoth, for a little tour of his own personal paradise.
“I went to school in Colorado and sat next to a kid who was talking about snowboarding and I didn’t know anything about snowboarding,” Taylor, who looks and sounds like the quintessential kind-hearted snowboard dude, explained of how he took up the sport for the very first time at the age of 18. “It sounded fun. He dragged me up the mountain the next day and it changed my life.”
Just a few years later, Taylor turned pro, becoming somewhat of an elder statesman in a sport that typically sees kids begin at age 3 and turn pro by 12.
Taylor drove out to Mammoth with his buddy in the springtime. Once he saw the mountain looming in the distance he had one gut reaction: “What is that?!”
“Mammoth looks so ominous and big over this mountain range. I asked my buddy, ‘There’s a lift that goes to the top of that?’ and he said, ‘Yeah, straight to the top.’”
Once he hit the slopes, he was hooked and gained sponsorships that took him all over the world as a backcountry expert willing to jump over, under, or in between just about any obstacle a mountain could throw his way.
But he kept coming back to Mammoth over and over again.
“Everywhere I went I realized there’s nothing like Mammoth,” he said. “Getting older, being a part of this community, and having a family here is so special.”
During our morning session, Taylor took us around to a few of his favorite spots including chair 14, located on the backside of the mountain, which was nearly abandoned despite it being a rather busy day on the slopes.
It’s clear why Taylor loves that particular old-school two-seater lift so much. Not only were there no crowds, but it also came with a view of his favorite spot on the mountain: Hemlocks.
When Taylor came on full-time as a Mammoth staffer, he made it his mission to update the mountain’s terrain parks to include more natural elements that riders and skiers could enjoy. However, there is one catch to the backcountry paradise. And that is you have to hike up a quarter-mile trail from chair 14 to find it. But, that’s OK with Taylor, as it keeps the crowds at bay.
“It’s the next step in progression from terrain parks,” he explained to Outside Magazine in 2016. “There are a lot of people who’ve grown up skiing and snowboarding, and they ride the parks, but they’re getting older.” He added, “They don’t want to jump off 60-foot tables all day long. They still want to catch air but they also want to ride powder. They want to ride trees. They want to find a way to incorporate it all. This is it.”
When asked to share his favorite on-mountain trails, Taylor laughed and said, “Is it cheesy to say whichever one I’m on?” However, he relented and finally named Climax, a double-black diamond located on the frontside at the very summit of the mountain, as the true treasure of the slopes. But don’t get intimidated by trails like Climax; despite being an absolute behemoth of a mountain with more than 3,500 acres of skiable terrain, Mammoth comes with plenty of trails for beginners and intermediates and somehow still feels like a downhome place where everybody knows your name.
Though you may not be lucky enough to take your first lesson with Taylor, Mammoth does have plenty of stellar instructors ready to teach young guns and old dogs new tricks on the mountain any day. And, if you’re more experienced, Taylor suggested you still take an advanced lesson with an instructor who can double as your personal mountain guide.
As for summing up the spirit of Mammoth Mountain, Taylor had a bit of trouble putting it into words. Finally, he said, “It’s intangible. It’s just so special.”
How to Ride:
Where to Stay:
The Village Lodge, an upscale condominium hotel located just under the mountain, comes with its own gondola to take visitors straight to the slopes.
Juniper Springs Resort is an upscale resort that comes with amenities like in-room private rental and boot fittings. After renting, gear will be waiting in a designated rack on the snow just outside at Eagle Lodge.
Where to Dine:
Campo Mammoth is a rustic Italian restaurant serving delicious pasta dishes so you can carbo-load for a day on the slopes. It's located in Mammoth Village.
53 Kitchen & Cocktails is a relaxed dining experience located in Mammoth Village that's ideal for a quick bite and a beer. Don’t leave without trying its beer cheese and pretzel bites along with its tasty cauliflower burger.
Where to Après-ski:
Shelter Distilling, located in Mammoth Village, is an ideal spot for a quick post-slopes drink. Head in for a High Sierra Whiskey neat or have it in a good, old-fashion Hot Toddy.
Lakanuki, located in Mammoth Village, is the spot to be if you’re looking for an après party. If you’re there with a group go for one of its nui bowls, but be warned: the planter’s punch will hit you hard and fast.
When to Visit:
Mammoth is lucky enough to get so much snow that it stayed open through the Fourth of July in the 2019 season. While it’s a great place to visit year-round, it may be most special in the springtime when you can hit the slopes in just a sweatshirt.