SoCal’s Mammoth Mountain doesn’t lack in size or terrain variety. In fact, with 35 percent of its runs rated advanced or expert and 40 percent classified as intermediate, Mammoth offers up a very well-balanced skiing experience.
Of the resort’s 35 percent of advanced and expert terrain, only about 15 is the truly gnarly stuff that we’re focusing on here. We consulted with the locals who ski Mammoth all winter long and gathered the top five most difficult runs for you to check off your bucket list next season.
The Extreme Skier’s Bucket List: Mammoth Mountain, Calif.
Kiwi Flats—who the heck named this one?—is pretty much a thousand-foot-long couloir with a small cliff in the middle. It’s either an amazing, wild ride when the snow’s good, or a rock-strewn death trap when it’s not. (Might be good to avoid it in that case.) You can find Kiwi Flats to skier’s left of Paranoid Flats. Expect mandatory air off the large rock halfway down, and expect to be hitting high speeds from the lengthy runout at the bottom.
Dragon’s Tail and Dragon’s Back
It takes some effort to get to these two double-black gems, which mean that the skiing masses aren’t likely to put in the effort—or know where to find them. You can get to both off of the Cloud 9 Express, but those in the know recommend riding the gondola the summit and going skier’s right. You’ll hit Dragon’s Back first, a steep chute that funnels into bowl skiing. Keep traversing to get to Dragon’s Tail, steep trees that will give your quads a workout.
Mandatory air on the entry and a knee-knocking pitch helps Hangman’s Hollow live up to its reputation as one of the most intimidating runs at Mammoth. Accessed off of the summit between Climax and Cornice Bowl, Hangman’s is a run you need to fully commit to—its hourglass shape and narrow, rocky surrounds require tip-’em-and-rip-’em style skills.
This in-bounds hike-to area is an expert playground comprising some of the most playful and adventurous terrain on the mountain, with rock drops, side hits, and natural features that make it so you never have to ski the same line twice. It’s not gnarly in the same sense as Hangman’s and Kiwi, but The Hemlocks’ unique brand of challenge comes from its sheer breadth of options and terrain types. Find The Hemlocks via short hike from the top of Chair 14.
Steep and technical, Philippe’s isn’t as well known as some of the others on this list, but when the snow’s good, this run located off of Chair 14 is one of the most fun and gnarly at the resort. It hugs the shoulder of the mountain and offers a steep entry that widens nicely but keeps its pitch, so skiers looking for lower consequence with a high fun factor will fall in love with spicy Philippe.
Huevos needs good snow to be ridable, but when it is, it’s thought to be one of the hardest double-blacks at the resort due to its exposure and pitch. You can find it skier’s right off of the gondola. Locals recommend staying right after dropping in to avoid an outcropping of steep rocks on the left. Once you find your line, set your edges and pray they hold, because you’ve just put all of your eggs in one basket.
With three equally intimidating options, the Avalanche Chutes serve up some of the best fall-line skiing in the region. Avi 1 is the shortest and least well-known; Avi 3 is the longest. But all share a similar sustained pitch and high-consequence results should you happen to fall. The chutes funnel skiers into some awesome trees below and back down to Chair 22 to do it all over again.
More Extreme Skiing Stories From SKI
6 Jackson Hole Runs Not Named Corbet’s That Every Serious Skier Must Attempt
Here’s Your 10-Run Bucket List for Arapahoe Basin, Whistler Blackcomb, Mad River Glen, and More
The Big Couloir Isn’t the Only Bucket List Run at Big Sky