Mammoth Mountain Ski Area
Mono & Madera Counties, California
|Nearest city||Mammoth Lakes, California|
|Vertical||3,100 ft (940 m)|
|Top elevation||11,059 ft (3,371 m)|
|Base elevation||7,953 ft (2,424 m)|
|Skiable area||3,500 acres (1,420 ha)|
|Longest run||3 mi (4.8 km)|
|Lift system||28 lifts: 3 gondolas, 23 chairs (2 high speed six-packs, 9 high speed quads, 1 quad, 6 triple, 4 double), 2 platter lift|
|Lift capacity||50,000 passengers/hr|
|Terrain parks||Disco Playground, Wonderland Playground, X-Course, Forest Trail Park, Jibs Galore, Transition Park, South Park, Main Park|
|Snowfall||400 in (1,020 cm)|
|Snowmaking||477 acres (193 ha)
covering 46 trails, 33%
Mammoth has more than 3,500 acres (1,420 ha) of skiable terrain, serviced by 28 lifts, including 2 gondolas. The area has 3,100 ft (940 m) of vertical, rising to an elevation of 11,059 ft (3,371 m), and enjoys a long ski season. The resort was founded 64 years ago in 1953 by Dave McCoy and, since 2005, was owned by the Starwood Capital Group.
The ski area is located on the north side of Mammoth Mountain in the volcanic Long Valley Caldera. Overnight guests stay in the town of Mammoth Lakes, California and occasionally in neighboring towns such as Bishop and June Lake. June Lake's ski area is also owned by Mammoth Mountain Ski Area. The top of the mountain has challenging chutes and open mogul runs. There are eight Unbound terrain parks. Unbound Main, adjacent to Main Lodge, is highly praised by extreme snowboarding and skiing enthusiasts, and is one of the major attractions of the ski resort. Many of the top professionals in the sport, including 2006 and 2010 Winter Olympics gold medalist Shaun White, come to practice and compete in the world-famous 18 ft (5.5 m) Super Pipe and 22 ft (6.7 m) Super-Duper Pipe. There are only a handful of SuperDuper pipes in the world. There is also a Mini Pipe. Mammoth Mountain is one of only a handful of resorts in the world to offer a halfpipe of this size, and is the only resort in North America to offer three different-sized halfpipes.
Mammoth Mountain also has one of the longest ski seasons in North America, which averages from November to June. The resort occasionally enjoys a longer season, as in 2005, when it opened in October and did not close until the 4th of July. The 1994–95 season was Mammoth Mountain's longest, over ten months, with the resort operating from October 8 until August 13.
Mammoth receives an average of 400 in (1,020 cm) of snow per season, though during the 2010–11 season the resort recorded a record accumulation of 668.5 in (1,698 cm).
As recently as the 1980s, senior citizens skied Mammoth for free. As of 2006[update], those aged at least 80 years may ski free.
- North: 65%
- West: 10%
- East: 22%
- South: 3%
Mammoth Mountain is located in California's Eastern Sierra approximately 100 mi (160 km) south of the Nevada state line and 50 minutes from the Eastern Gate of Yosemite National Park. While the ski area is located in northern California, it is mainly frequented by skiers and snowboarders from southern California. Although it is a five-hour drive from Los Angeles via U.S. 395, it is much closer for southern California winter sports enthusiasts than the Lake Tahoe area resorts, which are more accessible to the San Francisco Bay Area. Mammoth Mountain is a more popular destination than southern California ski resorts, because of these areas' heavy reliance on snowmaking coupled with lighter winter precipitation and their notably shorter seasons. Although Mammoth is physically closer to San Francisco and central valley cities than Los Angeles, most mountain passes along the Sierra crest are closed after the first major snowfall, and this lack of a trans-Sierra travel route creates an unusually long drive to Mammoth from the Bay Area and most of Northern California. For example: during the summer, the distance from Fresno to Mammoth Lakes is 189 miles (304 km), while in winter it nearly doubles to 366 miles (589 km).
In recent years, Mammoth has hosted more visitors from outside of California and Nevada. Scheduled passenger service is now available to Mammoth Yosemite Airport near Mammoth Lakes from Los Angeles (LAX) on a year-round basis via Alaska Airlines propjet flights operated by Horizon Air. In December 2009, Alaska/Horizon began year round nonstop flights from LAX and seasonal nonstop flights from San Jose, California. Alaska/Horizon also offers seasonal nonstop service from San Diego. In December 2010, SkyWest Airlines operating as United Express on behalf of United Airlines began seasonal regional jet flights from San Francisco (SFO) to Mammoth Lakes. United Express/SkyWest then added two more seasonal flights from San Diego (SAN) and Orange County, CA (SNA) to Mammoth Lakes which began in December 2011 and subsequently added seasonal nonstop service from Denver (DEN) as well. United Express/SkyWest offers regional jet service into Mammoth Lakes on a seasonal basis during the winter sports season.
Mammoth was founded by Dave McCoy, a hydrographer for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. As a member of the Eastern Sierra Ski Club in the 1930s, McCoy noticed that Mammoth Mountain consistently held more snow than other mountains. The Ski Club had a portable rope tow. McCoy bought the rope tow from the club in 1941 and usually kept it at Mammoth. In 1953, the United States Forest Service awarded a permit to McCoy to operate the ski area, and the first ski lift was built in 1955.
Similar to other ski resorts, Mammoth had a number of associated fatalities in its history:
- In 1973, the resort bought Sierra Pacific Airlines from 3-D film cinematographer Chris Condon. On March 13, 1974, a film crew for Wolper Productions filming a National Geographic history of Australopithecus at the resort was killed when their Convair 440 aircraft (N4819C) flew into a 7,000-foot (2,130 m) ridge shortly after an evening take-off from Eastern Sierra Regional Airport in Bishop, killing all 35 on board including 31 Wolper crew members—although not Wolper himself. The filmed segment was recovered in the wreckage and was broadcast in the television show Primal Man. The National Transportation Safety Board was unable to determine the cause of the accident, and the resort sold the airline. Sierra Pacific previously operated scheduled passenger flights with turboprop aircraft between Mammoth Lakes and Burbank, Fresno, Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
- On April 6, 2006, three ski patrollers at the ski area perished due to a combination of CO2 and hydrogen sulfide (H2S) poisoning. Both gases are present on a known dangerous fumarole on the mountain and were more concentrated on that day because the fumarole had been covered by snow for days. Four patrollers, including John "Scott" McAndrews and James Juarez, were raising the fence around the fumarole, which had become buried due to heavy snowfall. The fumarole had melted a cavern below the snowbridge which collapsed under James and Scott. The pair of men fell 21 feet (6.4 m) and perished within a matter of minutes. Another ski patroller, Walt Rosenthal, perished and seven others were injured trying to rescue James and Scott. The oxygen masks used by the Mammoth Mountain ski patrol did not completely seal outer gases from coming in.
Sale to Intrawest
In January 1996, Intrawest Corporation and Mammoth Mountain Ski area announced that Intrawest Corporation had purchased 33% of Mammoth and June Mountain ski operations, as well as all of the developable real estate owned by Mammoth Mountain Ski Area. In 1998, Intrawest increased their partnership interest to 58%. The development of three new village areas: The Village at Mammoth, Sierra Star, and Juniper Springs, has brought new developments to the resort.
The Village at Mammoth, a European-style and pedestrian-only complex, was built in a style similar to other Intrawest properties, such as Whistler in British Columbia or Keystone in Colorado. The Village opened in 2003 with various stores, restaurants, galleries and 166 luxury condominiums. The 15-passenger Village Gondola, which departs from the Village, transports skiers and snowboarders directly to the Canyon Lodge base.
Sale to Starwood Capital
On February 23, 2005, Dave McCoy announced the pending sale his stake in Mammoth Mountain, after 68 years of running the ski area. On October 5, 2005, Mammoth announced that a majority stake will be sold to Starwood Capital Group, a private equity fund specializing in real estate, run by Barry Sternlicht. The sale price was $365 million.
Because of a poor economy in California, beginning in 2007, many of the stores and restaurants in The Village closed. However, in the fall of 2010, with the help of local business owners, the Village has seen a resurgence of new restaurants and stores.
Changes and re-development
Before and during the changes of ownership, the ski area underwent major changes. The resort went from 16 chairs in the 1980s to 23 today. A new gondola was built that ends at a visitor center at 11,053 feet (3,369 m). The visitor center has telescopes and historical displays.
Almost all the old, slow, double chair lifts were replaced with high-speed quad, and six-seater lifts, traveling at around 1000 feet per minute. For these modernizations, the resort is a longtime customer to the Doppelmayr group. Several old lifts were also removed. The Mid-Chalet, which once had picnic tables on its roof, was completely remodeled in the early 2000s, renamed McCoy Station, and now features gourmet foods and a cafeteria. Large vintage photos of McCoy and his family can be found hanging from the ceiling there. The Mill Cafe, a small rustic bar and snack area was added in the early 2000s.
In 2011, Chair 5 was chosen to be upgraded for the 2011-2012 season. Chair 5 was upgraded from a Yan-fixed three person chair to a Doppelmayr high speed quad. The ride time is reported to be half as long, and the capacity was increased from 1800 an hour to an estimated 2400 people an hour. In line with tradition, the chair was also given a new name: High Five Express.
Mammoth Mountain is also the owner of the June Mountain ski area in the small Mono County town of June Lake, California. On June 21, 2012, the CEO of Mammoth Mountain announced that they are closing June Mountain for the 2012-2013 season, after more than 50 years of operations. June Mountain reopened for the 2013-2014 ski season.
RFID Lift Pass
The RFID lift pass was implemented for the 2011-2012 season. It was designed to combat two issues: long lines at the lifts and long lines at the ticket window. A total of 72 RFID gates were installed over 18 different lifts.
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- "Sierra plane crash kills TV film crew". Bend Bulletin. (Oregon). Associated Press. March 14, 1974. p. 1.
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- "Sierra Pacific Airlines; March 13, 1974" (PDF). (near Bishop, California): National Transportation Safety Board. (Aircraft Accident Report). January 10, 1975.
- "Primal Man Crash". Check-Six. Retrieved 9 January 2011.
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- "Mammoth Mountain CEO Announces Sudden Closure of June Mountain". Powder Magazine. Retrieved 2012-06-22.
- Glazner, Elizabeth (October 28, 2013). "June Mountain ready to reopen on Dec. 13". Inyo Register.
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