Mammoth Mountain, Calif.: Rank 17 West, 1998

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In the early Eighties, Mammoth Mountain was the nation's No. 1 area for skier visits. On slope, the reasons for its huge appeal haven't changed: Mammoth is a big, brawny mountain with abundant snowfall and a stunning natural setting. Its 3,500 acres and 30 lifts offer ample terrain for everyone, from groomed trails for the novice to black diamonds such as Dave's Run and The Paranoids for the hardcores. "Great skier's mountain," says one reader. Mammoth's notorious liftlines effectively were eliminated last season with three new high-speed quads. Two more quads have been added this season, along with a new eight-passenger gondola. So why doesn't this alpine behemoth still roar? "The town simply doesn't have that resort-village atmosphere," explains one reader. It's a case of the deep freeze: Lodging, après-ski and nightlife have hardly changed since Mammoth's Eighties' boom. Great dining is the exception: Check out Scadi's, Nevado's and Shogun¿although they can be hard to find in this town without a center. But all that's about to change. An aggressive $500 million redevelopment is underway. Those who love the unpretentious Mammoth of old better visit soon because the Ice Age in the Eastern Sierra Mountains is coming to an end.

What's New An eight-passenger gondola; two high-speed quads; Mill Cafe restaurant; Canyon Lodge renovations.
A Good Deal After Easter, when skiing is often at its best, tickets drop to $39 a day for adults, and lodging is discounted as much as 30 percent. Call (800) 228-4947.
Medals Gold Snow, Grooming, Terrain, Challenge, Lifts; Silver Value, Service, Weather, Family, Scenery.
High/Low Rank Terrain (2); Accessibility (68).
Don't Miss A soak in the famed Hot Creek, about 20 minutes from town, near Mammoth's tiny airfield.
Reader Remarks "Terrain, scenery are unsurpassed." "Remote.. A car is a must."