Mammoth, California: Rank 12 West, 1997

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Los Angelenos don't trek 350 miles through the Mojave Desert to this remote resort because it's convenient. They come because Mammoth is big, beautiful, California cool and¿as gold medals in Terrain, Snow Quality, Lifts, Weather and Grooming attest¿a world-class mountain (ranked nationally for Terrain only behind Jackson Hole). Mammoth boasts 3,500 skiable acres, buffed by one of the largest snowcat fleets in North America. "What a mountain!" one reader exclaims. With three day lodges and 29 lifts, Mammoth offers entire neighborhoods for skiers of every stripe, from first-time families to World Cup downhillers. Even Glen Plake gets his season pass here. Complaints focus on Mammoth's weekend liftlines. That should change thanks to an $18-million investment in three new high-speed quads at Mammoth's most notorious bottlenecks: the Main Lodge, the Mid Chalet and Chair 2. Part-owner Intrawest hasn't yet transformed Mammoth Lakes into a full-service resort town. But there already is one key element: fine dining, with Scadi's, Shogun, the Inn at Convict Lake and Nevado's at the top of the list. For après-ski, the Yodler, across from the main lodge, is a perennial winner. The weekend party scene centers around Whiskey Creek, but locals prefer the Clocktower Pub.

What's New Three high-speed quads; permanent halfpipe and expanded terrain park, both of which will be open at night.
A Good Deal New $20 lift ticket for beginner terrain.
Medals Gold Snow Quality, Grooming, Terrain, Challenge, Lifts, Weather; Silver Service, Family Programs.
High/Low Rank Terrain (2); Accessibility (69).
Don't Miss The view from the top of Mammoth's gondola, considered the resort's pièce de résistance by locals and visitors alike.
Reader Remarks "Superb mountain, good snow, wonderful weather and terrain." "Better lodge a must. Have never been treated so rudely!"