I broke out my free-riding skills as I was hit from the side with a powerful gust that launched me off the trail into a steep field of loose pumice rock. I recovered my position on the trail safely and enjoyed 18 miles of downhill and easy pedaling pleasure. Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort is one of the greatest resorts I’ve visited. In the past few years, I’ve come to appreciate the beauty of Mammoth’s year-round playground. This month I spent three days in Mammoth Lakes, CA to check out the new Mountain Bike Trails and experienced a lot of high altitude fun.
I left Orange County in the wee hours of the morning only to sit in two hours of traffic. I took a side trip on the 14 Freeway in Los Angeles to check in with a friend, Jason, owner of Bonk Breaker energy bars. I was supposed to play an important role in a sales presentation but I was foiled by freeways. Jason kindly refueled my supply of Bonk Breaker bars for my trip north. Restocked with peanut butter and jelly bars, I was prepared to bear the further trials on the road. Despite the heat of driving across the Southern California desert in the middle of the afternoon, the rest of the drive was smooth and traffic-free.
I arrived in Mammoth later that evening to set up my home base and power up my computer to investigate local weather and trails. Hours later, I woke up in a pool of drool (thankfully my own) having only learned Mammoth Lakes’ expected temperatures. I decided to give up, closed my computer and turned in for the night hoping that the keyboard imprints on my face would disappear by morning.
THE FIRST RIDE
The first day of riding was awesome. It’s been a dry year so the dirt was a extra soft but not as bad as the trails I’ve been on recently at home. The mountain has three different types of terrain: off the top of the mountain it’s wide-open with loose pumice rock mixed with fine powdery silt, in the lower elevations, there are trees that supply loose dirt and small pebbles, and the lowest sections of the mountain produces tight tree lined trails with usually harder-packed dirt where one could spend days flowing on the single-track trails immersed in the thick forest.
What did I prefer? I chose to ride it all…. By taking the Mammoth Mountain gondola to the top, one can experience almost eighteen miles of downhill on moderate terrain riding back into the Mammoth Mountain Village. And during the descent, take in multiple views in varying weather conditions that can literally send chills through your spine. It’s a good idea to pack an extra layer, regardless of the time of year, as the top of the mountain has a much lower temperature and winds that can make you want to call in a rescue team. The winds are strong off the top of the mountain, hence me getting blown off the trail, but once you descend a mile, you leave the winds behind and the trails become the central focus in this large open playground.
The trails are all well maintained and most would be surprised at the vast amounts of open space that goes unused on the mountain. From the top the trails and views are there to suit almost all needs. There are fast descending downhills, such as the Kamikazee Downhill, or slower cruising trails with many different types of rollers and bumps for all levels of riders to play on, with the Trail Home. Whatever suits a rider’s needs, this mountain has it. The mountain has an excellent staff that has created one of the greatest freestyle snow parks in the world and now they have taken these same skills and used them in the mountain biking world, creating some of the scariest looking trails I’ve ever ridden.
The Mammoth website highlights the opening of a few new mountain biking trails, like Techno-Rock featuring large drops and technical sections which spawned my initial interest to head north. Now after having spent a few days in town, I can say I’m happy I don’t own a downhill bike. Young kids on these bikes are crazy. I enjoyed my days spent riding single-track through the mountain over and under the tree line and coming across deer is always amazing. The town is attractive all year.
The following list and pictures should whet your appetite for all the fun you’re missing in Mammoth.
Location: Mammoth Lakes, CA
City: A small mountain town, located in the Eastern Sierra Mountains at a 10,000 ‘ elevation, centered in the middle of a few stunning mountain ranges and great year round vacation resort/outdoor playground.
Activities: Snow sports, Mountain Biking, Hiking, Climbing, Fishing, Camping, Taking in the outdoors and the list goes on…
Food, there are good places to eat but the city is know for its small Mom and Pop restaurants, such as Base Camp Cafe.
Evenings, I recommend the Village as it serves up a lot of live entertainment and bars, where I only go to people watch.
Outdoors retailers, the best shop in town for most outdoors needs is Footloose Sports.
Places to stay, I recommend a tent but if you must look online for rates, Mammoth can be expensive!
Take a trip!