getting from your car to the slopes at mammoth mountain

One of the reasons I wanted to write this blog is because Mammoth Mountain, bless their souls, is terrible at explaining how some things work. Maybe they don’t want to highlight certain aspects of their operation and instead focus on SHREDDING POW BRAH. But other stuff matters, so let’s talk about dealing with your car.

There is also the Mammoth bus/trolley/shuttle system which I won’t cover much in here beyond the parking shuttles.

Unless you’re coming from outer space, you’ll take the 395 to the 203 to get to Mammoth.


The 395 to the 203 to shred-city.

Mammoth has three lodges (aka places that have chair lifts, sell coffee, sell lift tickets, and have parking): Main, Canyon, and Eagle. Main is the biggest and is open when the others aren’t as it’s the highest in elevation. Two other quasi-lodges exist that are worth mentioning.

The Village. Open year round, there is a gondola that will take you to Canyon Lodge. There’s also coffee, places to eat, places to lose lots of cash on clothes, and you can buy lift tickets here. But if Canyon isn’t open I’d skip it. There is a bus every ~30 minutes that makes laps between the Village (across the street, near the parking lot) and the Main Lodge.

The Mill. At the base of chairs 2 & 10, there’s a parking lot and a small restaurant. Early and late season chairs 2 & 10 aren’t running, so this might not be the smartest idea at those time. No ticket sales, so you’ll need to have your pass on you as you’re just walking up to chair lifts here. There’s a decent parking lot if you show up early.

When the mountain is “fully open”, that means that all the lodges and all the runs are online and you can pick whatever you like. But figure that out in advance and if you don’t know shoot for Main. Drive your car as far up 203 (Meridian / Main St) as you can and try to park near one of these signs:


These run A through F (I think?).

A constant stream of free busses run between the Main Lodge and the parking signs doing laps. You probably will only wait 5 minutes, but sometimes in severe weather or really busy weekends I’ve seen it take 15.

If you’re at Parking A, walk unless you’re really beat up or in ski boots. If you’re at B and have the legs (and again, aren’t in ski boots), go for a stroll. C or further down you’re dumb as a post if you walk. Make sure you grab the bus on the going-to-the-mountain side of the street.

Also, even if you want to walk remember that it’s probably windy/snowy/icy and that busses are flying around. It’s not the safest place to be on foot.


Snowboards go inside the bus, skis have slots on the outside that you can pop them into.

Bring all your crap with from your car that you’ll need for the day. You can always grab the bus back to your car but that wastes time unless you’re done for the day.

Remember what parking zone you’re in, what side of the street, and whether you’re before or after the post. All SUV’s and Subarus look the same when covered in snow.


Parking zone A, looking up Meridian towards Main Lodge. This is considered great parking.

At the lodges you can also pay $25 to park right up close. Although this is rather dumb for most people, I would recommend it for first time visitors especially those with kids or that just has a big group. It’s hard to know everything you’re going to want and it’s easy to forget stuff when you’re worried about your kids. Also consider that locker rentals are $5 per use. So if you open a locker up and close it again you’re halfway to the cost of having your car right there in front of the lodge building.

Hopefully this can help some folks navigate the rather dizzying web of lodges, quasi-lodges, gondolas, roadways, parking zones, and shuttle busses that Mammoth has to offer.

social media in mammoth lakes

Before I moved up here, I did what any Internet savvy citizen would do: tried to creep on Mammoth Lakes and learn everything I could. Confusingly, Mammoth denied Internet norms: there is no Craiglist, just Reno, “Gold Country“, and even some junk on Bakersfield. The messageboard is broken and doesn’t allow new members. The subreddit is a digital ghost town.


What’s the point of doing anything if you can’t post a photo of it on social media to get recognition from others?

Paul Oster has a blog that’s somewhat current, and there’s a lot of info on there especially for anyone who’s looking at buying real estate.

But in general I had to learn all this the hard way, so with no further ado let me key you into Mammoth’s social media:

  • Mammoth Buy Sell Trade. This is the facebook group that nearly everyone with a phone or computer uses to buy and sell in Mammoth or Bishop. I’ve bought bikes, furniture, and tires from here. Likewise we’ve sold a car seat, storage racks, and housewares. Also, this is where up-to-the-minute town drama happens. Did you hear an explosion? Did a bear get into someone’s house? Did the police cite a guy for picking up trash? It’s all on Mammoth Buy Sell Trade.
  • Mammoth For Rent. Unable to figure out where the hell the rentals are? Well, here you go. Before the snow season starts, this is 10% listings and 90% people with $500 a month looking for a place slopeside that will take them and their dog.
  • Butt Hurt Owens Valley. This is primarily for folks who love along the 395 as there is a distinct difference between Mono residents and those down in Inyo/Kern/wherever. In general this is full of people from Bishop complaining about homeless people the Vons parking lot sleeping in their cars.

As an interesting note, I believe social media allows us to connect with each other (big shocker!). When you live in a small town, however, you end up being really connected. Very quickly you end up knowing everyone and everyone knows you. This also forces a large degree of civility because you either will get along with neighbors who are on different ends of the political and religious spectrum from you or you will shut off half the town and retreat to a very small group of like-minded individuals.

In Manhattan, you can easily fill a high school auditorium with raw-food vegans whose favorite color is green and share the first name of Ben. In Mammoth, just finding some folks who like the same movies as you might take a lifetime to discover. As such, there’s a lot of getting along going on. Not the echo chamber kind, but the kind where civility and neighborliness is prized. There’s just not enough people around here for you to only associate with the kind you agree with. Honestly I find it a refreshing change of pace from the larger city life.

tuolumne slabs picnic


Tuolumne Meadows Slabs. In the far back: roped climbers. In the middle: the party we got invited to. In the foreground, a kid running around one of the most beautiful places on the planet.

One thing that’s been a little tough up here is making friends. For most people in my age bracket if they’re not working they’re either out enjoying what the Eastern Sierra has to offer or they’re parenting, or they’re asleep.

For me, I end up locked in my home office during most daytime hours which is a blessing as it allows us to be up here and a curse in that …. well… I’m locked in an office.

With some mutual friends we got invited to a picnic party up in Tuolumne Meadows, arguably one of the more gorgeous parts of the Eastern Sierra that is vehicle accessible.

In short order I was talking to the guy who runs Mammoth’s Water District, and the high school senior who nailed California’s top rank for skiing last year. In a town this small if you throw a stone you’ll probably hit a cop, the mayor, and an Olympian in the same toss.

But another thing Mammoth has going on is a very transient nature. People are here for a few months or a couple years, and off they go. It reminds me of the waterfront where the old timers generally won’t even bother knowing your name until they’ve seen you around for a couple of years.

But driving back down the Tioga Pass and then the 395, it was once again a beautiful site to see the signs for Mammoth Lakes and know that that’s where our home is.

the 2016 tri-county fair

There’s not much more small-town than a county fair. Better: a county fair that’s shared by three counties. Inyo, Alpine, and Mono counties have put this sucker on for over a century. Despite a nasty spat of embezzelment and general corruption, this year’s theme was “Down Home Fun”.


One goat likes food, the other likes my sweet phone.

For residents of Mammoth Lakes, there’s always a good reason to head down to Bishop. K-Mart. A different Vons. Restaurants that don’t require a second mortgage to pay the bill. Top it all off with the Tri County Fair, and we dropped the 4,000 feet of altitude via the Sherwin Pass.


Oh, so korny.

An interesting tidbit I learned about this fair: it’s insanely expensive. Admission was around $15 for me and the kids. Walking through the fun house was $14 by itself. If there’s one thing that drives me nuts about Mammoth (and the Eastern Sierra in general) it’s that if you’re not in the backcountry you can bet that your wallet is being actively targeted.


Cost for the three of us to ride this bucket of shit Ferris Wheel: $16

In the Navy I ended up on a drill team, and we ended up in some small Vermont town for a fair similar to this. There were no fancy rides, however. It was also free to attend. I found a large grid on the grass in a fenced area, marked with spray paint, each box about one square foot. An hour later I saw people start betting as a goat was placed in the fence. The mission was to guess what box the goat would defecate in first.


Sadly we missed this particular show.

But in general I’d declare our day a success. Anyone with small kids knows that as a parent you’re pretty much always ready for an absolutely horrible day. Someone might lose their hat. Someone might lose their lunch. Someone might crap their pants. Maybe even me.

None of those things happened. Instead we got a chance to poke around a great little rural county fair and for next year we’re better prepared with how to save our pennies, how to properly feed a turkey in the petting zoo, and to be on time to the Turkey Stampede.