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Skiing & Snowboarding | California | USA | Suntan fun in the Snow

Mammoth Mountain, Mammoth Lakes

Mammoth is my favorite place to ski in California, if I’m not in Tahoe. This snow capped paradise is on the east side of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in the Inyo National Forest. This ski area (about 30 miles from the east gate of Yosemite National Park!) is comprised of an 11,000+ foot summit and over 3,500 acres of skiable terrain that includes super steep chutes, open bowls, tree trail skiing and wide open, perfectly groomed trails. An average of over 400 inches of snow is caused by storm patterns from the Pacific that forms over the Sierra.


Mammoth is known as one of the world's best resorts for spring skiing, sometimes staying open until July 4th. Bring your family-sized bottle of sunscreen because this area gets about 300 sunshiny days a year! With 29 lifts and 150 named trails, Mammoth has the strength to handle 50,000 riders per hour. On the mountain there are 4 lodges, 10 sport shops, 9 rental/repair shops, 1 on-hill snack bar, 3 food courts/cafeterias, a top notch ski and snowboard school, race department, lockers (FYI…these are downstairs! You’ll hurt yourself, wearing ski boots and trying to trudge down there, trust me.), hotel and condo accommodations, 5 fabulous restaurants, 7 bars, a child care facility and game room.            


The resort boasts three main terrain parks branded "Unbound" at Mammoth. “Unbound Main”, located next to the Main Lodge, gets high marks by extreme snowboarding and skiing devotees, and is one of the hottest attractions on the mountain.Many of the top professionals in the sport, including 2006 Winter Olympics Gold Medalist Shaun White, come to practice and compete in the world famous 18-Foot-Tall Super Pipe and 22-Foot-Tall Super-Duper Pipe.

Writer’s note: Mammoth is near and dear to my heart because I taught my 2 teenage sons to snow ski here the 2008-2009 season! Steps from the Village Gondola used to go to the Main Lodge, sits The Westin Monache Resort, Mammoth. Exquisitely appointed, as it is located, the Westin offers unmatched luxury in the perfect, year-round resort setting. Try the 1,350 square foot Two-Bedroom (& 2 sleek, spa-like bathrooms) Luxury suite with 3 private patios, a full kitchen and a top of the line Bose stereo system. Each bedroom has a king-size Heavenly Bed® and additional 32” TV each, providing a private refuge for all guests. The Chart House is my favorite restaurant in town, though not for someone on a budget. The Baked Crab-Stuffed Shrimp is to die for! I also always rent equipment nearby and not necessarily at the lodges. We used Command Performance/Fastski Sports‎ on Old Mammoth Road and got such great hands-on service, that we’ll definitely use them again, if we need snow gear.

Squaw Valley USA, Olympic Valley

Only one word needs to be said right now and it explains it all. Tahoe. Lake Tahoe is by far my favorite place to ski, end of story. This is, in my humble opinion, one of the tougher of the options at or near the lake. This season is the area’s 60th anniversary, being founded in 1949, as well as the 50th anniversary of Squaw Valley hosting the 1960 Winter Olympics. Squaw is the 2nd largest ski haven here at the lake, second to my favorite spot, Heavenly. Perched atop one of my favorite mountain ranges in the country, the Sierra Nevadas, with a base of about 6,200 feet and unfolded across 6 peaks and 4,000 acres, Squaw tops out at just over 9,000 feet elevation. 28 lifts, including the only funitel (called the Gold Coast Funitel) existing in the United States.

Similar to a gondola, this form of transport holds 28 people and is capable of operating in extreme and windy conditions.

Squaw Valley USA is also home to the KT-22, the chair voted best in North America by Skiing Magazine. An all day Adult Lift ticket costs $79, but kids ages 12 and younger ski and snowboard for only $10 every day all season. This is a reason why Squaw is one of the most affordable resorts for families! Squaw Valley offers numerous multi-day ticket options; the more days you ski and ride, the more money you save. College students ski and ride for only $49 Mon-Thurs and active duty military (sorry, no Academy or Reservists) ski FREE during the 2009-10 winter season. Not available for blackout dates!


Nighttime skiing is huge here with Squaw home of Lake Tahoe's most complete and thrilling night terrain comprised of the 3.2 mile Mountain Run - "all under the light of a specially-made floodlight system, utilizing 1000 watt, color-corrected High Pressure Sodium bulbs, that allows for superior contrast and easier vision on the snow." Night skiing is free with all day (and afternoon) lift tickets, creating up to 12 hours of snow, sun & fun on the mountain. Can you take it?

Writer’s note: Check for specials on their website. There are customized vacations that could save you money if you plan well ahead. A great place to enjoy the stunning views, while enjoying Italian Bistro fare is Ristorante Montagna, located at the Resort at Squaw Creek. Ask to dine al fresco on their fabulous sun deck! This is where I get Soup & Salad (Cream of California Asparagus soup garnished with warm crabmeat and a Caesar salad), their Pane Agliato, which is an appetizer and is the best hot baked sourdough bread you’ve ever tasted, and for dessert, Cassata. Warm chocolate cake with vanilla bean gelato & rich chocolate sauce….yum!

-CA suntan

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