|Mammoth Mountain boasts one of the longest ski seasons in U.S.|
For skiers and snowboarders in the know, there's no better spring getaway than a weekend at Mammoth Mountain, one of America's top ski resorts. Sierra Nevada's glitzier resorts, Heavenly and Squaw Valley, get more attention, but Mammoth Mountain boasts some of the largest snow accumulation in the lower 48 states. The Mammoth Lakes, California, site also offers more skiable space, shorter lift lines and a ritzy new village at its base.
How to get there: From Los Angeles, the five-hour drive takes you through desert towns like Mojave and Bishop. The drive from San Francisco, which also takes five hours, is more monotonous with its outlet malls and fast-food restaurants. For a faster connection, try the new direct flights on Horizon Air, a unit of Alaska Air ( ALK), from Los Angeles Airport. The daily flights cost $89 to $119, and get you there in an hour. Friday check-in at 4 p.m.: Mammoth has never been known for luxury. There have been several attempts to lure the fur-trimmed crowd from Jackson Hole, Wyoming, including the construction of the Ritz-Carlton Residences, which are scheduled to open next year. Until then, check into the nearby Westin Monache Resort, run by Starwood Hotels ( HOT), which offers condo-style rooms with kitchenettes, gas fireplaces and granite bathrooms. Dinner at 7 p.m.: Petra's Bistro & Wine Bar, inside the Alpenhof Lodge, is within walking distance of the mountain's main village. The restaurant's wine list offers more than 100 selections for $26 to $380 per bottle. New Jersey-born chef Kerry Mechler serves a tapas menu of tuna tartare with coriander chips, short ribs on jasmine rice and venison strip steak with wine reduction. Larger parties can request oversize cheese plates, pizzas and oyster platters.
Dancing at 10 p.m.: Mammoth's newest nightspot brings a bit of hula-skirt action to the inner village. Known for its daily happy hour and weekend dance scene, the action at Lakanuki gets started around 10 p.m. with DJs spinning everything from Bob Seger to Rihanna. Hit the slopes at 8:30 a.m. Saturday: If you want to cut fresh tracks, head to the Village Gondola just before its 8:30 a.m. opening. Lift tickets at Mammoth are pricey at $83 for a one-day pass, but multi-day or midweek packages cost as low as $54 a day. On weekends, stay close to the top of the mountain to avoid base lines that can be tediously long, especially during holidays. Try to ski through the noon lunch break, when crowds break for lunch, and you'll likely have the slopes to yourself. Foodie feast at 3 p.m.: While you won't find anything fancier than chili and a cheeseburger on the mountain, things are more refined back at the Main Lodge. Cervinia, a high-end pizzeria and wine bar, fills up around 1 p.m. The restaurant serves an Italian comfort menu of wood-fired pizza, pasta and grilled meats from its exposed kitchen. Indulge at 6 p.m.: The Healing Arts Centre and Movement Studio has been a Mammoth fixture since 1989. Body and face treatments start at $55 and include Swedish massage, herbal body wraps or facials. Its movement studio offers yoga, dance and tai chi classes. Fine dining at 8 p.m.: The Convict Lake Resort's award-winning restaurant creates a magical setting for moonlight dinners. The wood-paneled dining room overlooks a lake that's 10 minutes from town and surrounded by snow-capped mountains. Its country menu of French specialties includes baked brie, Elk prime rib and beef Wellington.
More dancing at 10 p.m.: Whiskey Creek is a low-key eatery that comes alive at night with rotating DJs and live music that continues till 2 a.m. Although it's guarded by a velvet rope, the space is anything but posh with its dark bar and massive dance floor that was a bit sticky on our visit. The crowd is a mix of everything Mammoth, including local ski instructors and out-of-towners. Breakfast at 7 a.m. Sunday: If you wait until after 8 a.m. to hit The Stove, you'll end-up waiting an hour for a seat. Don't bother counting your calories as you consume trough-size portions of fried potatoes, cheesy omelets and buttermilk biscuits. There will be time to work them off on the mountain before your flight home.