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A Mammoth Wild West
Ski Adventure

Ski in the West Coast resorts at Mammoth mountain

An invitation to ski the West Coast resorts at Mammoth mountain

Ski in the West Coast resorts at Mammoth mountain Mammoth mountain A wild west adventure An invitation to ski in the West Coast resorts at Mammoth mountain

Ever since I was 16 and watched the ski movie the ‘Blizzard of Ahhhs’ I’d wanted to ski the same slopes as the stars, Glen Plake, Scott Schmidt & Mike Hattrup. Squaw Valley featured heavily and was on the itinerary – perfect!

     After a direct flight with Air New Zealand to rainy Los Angeles, we relaxed in the bar of our hotel enjoying a beer before heading to bed – it was to be an early start before our drive up to Mammoth Mountain.

     The 5 ½-hour trip saw desert give way to lakes and mountains – and the storm front followed us, rain turning to heavy snow. We always advise our self-drive clients to get a 4 x 4 – and the police can stop you going further if you haven’t got either a 4x4 or snow chains.

     Excitement grew at the prospect of powder as we settled in to the Mammoth Mountain Inn, opposite the main lift station. It was early to bed again – and snow had already crept up and now blocked half my bedroom window.

     Ski Patrol were busy from 5am blasting controlled avalanches to get the lifts open as early as possible. With Kanute, our host for the day, we were among the first on the Broadway express chairlift. The first run saw many of the group fall in thigh deep powder – but they never stopped smiling.

     The terrain served by the Goldrush and Eagle Express lifts was our morning playground, with the higher slopes yet to be opened. The runs were in the trees, giving perspective even though it was still snowing heavily. Lunch was at Eagle Lodge – a feast to recharge tired legs. You don’t go hungry in the States.

PERFECT POWDER

     The afternoon was a blur of powder – and we heard that due to the amazing snow the resort was to stay open until July 4, for the second year running. The following morning, after plenty of digging to get the cars out the snow, we set off for Heavenly. The weather was

 

clear, the calm before the next storm.

     Heavenly is a town of two halves – Nevada, where big-time gambling is allowed and California, where it’s not. The big casino hotels are on the Nevada side, while the California side has more typical resort accommodation. We were in the Embassy Suites, near the main gondola. By midday, shortly after arriving, we were riding the gondola up.

     Our hosts were Lynsey, who I’ve known for a few years as the Heavenly rep, and Mike, a former race coach who now works for Lake Tahoe. In the afternoon we enjoyed some great cruising runs and every time we gazed away from the slopes there was the lake in all its glory. You simply have to ski this resort at least once in your life.

FRESH TRACKS

     After a late lunch at the new Tamarack Lodge, Mike and Lynsey split the group – some of us wanted to seek untracked snow in the now open Milky Way Bowl. There were fresh tracks all the way down and Mike had a big smile at the bottom – ‘well that didn’t suck!’ was his opinion.

     Mike wanted to show us that Heavenly has more than cruising runs, and Firebreak was his choice for the last run. The sign at the top with a skull and crossbones and the wording ‘Warning, you can die’ caused a few flutters. But American resorts like to crank up the drama!

     Once we hit the steep powder between the trees I knew why this is one of the locals favourites. Apres-ski beers followed and then great food at Latin Soul, with superb margaritas. There really is everything here from fine dining to burgers – all with that great relaxed Californian atmosphere.

     That night another storm started. We were greeted with 3ft of fresh powder in the morning and spent the day in the trees and skiing North Bowl – the best tree skiing I’d ever experienced.

 

     Mike suggested Gun Barrel for the last run – a steep mogul field that Glen Plake skis lap after lap. I can confirm that yes it is steep and yes the moguls are large!

     Next stop was Northstar on the north shore, 90 minutes away and recently bought by Vail Resorts who also own Heavenly. It’s high end with an intimate feel. It’s also a new resort for us this winter.

     The snow was coming down like mad – 8ft of fluffy powder over 24 hours. We played in the trees with plenty of whooping and hollering, and even the normally perfectly-groomed ‘pistes’ had over 3ft of untracked snow – one of the best powder days ever.

     Accommodation ranges from well-furnished condos to the fabulous ski-in ski-out Ritz Carlton. Next we headed to Squaw Valley, home of the 1960 Winter Olympics, through the heaviest snow of the trip. We reached our hotel, the Resort at Squaw Creek, with some relief.

     We sat over dinner staring at the snow belting down outside, enjoying Napa Valley Pinot Noir. Squaw is known for advanced and expert skiing. It was home to the late Shane McConkey, an extreme skier who revolutionised the ski gear we use. If you have heard the words ‘rocker skis’ recently – this is the guy responsible.

BEST IN THE WEST

     After a couple of warm up runs on the Red Dog lift, Jeremy our ski guide was anxious to head over to the lift voted top in the US for the terrain it accesses – called ‘KT22’, after a resort founder once performed 22 kick turns to get down one of the steeper runs.

     For me Secret Garden, in waist deep powder, was a trip highlight. We ended a perfect day with beers in the Chamois bar – a famous hangout of ski legends, the walls covered with their pictures.

     Our whistle-stop road trip only scratched the surface of California skiing. The snow is amazing, the people welcoming – so if you want adventure, put it on your list.

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Who needs snow? youtu.be/FMqADdsVmwQ
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Retweeted by SupertravelSki

 
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If you want to see what GM Paul thinks about skiing in Europe and across the pond have a look at this. twitter.com/welove2ski/sta…

 
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It was a serious powder day in the alps today!

 
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It's snowing again - anyone fancy a weekend break leaving this Thursday from £399pp?

 
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Our team in Courchevel look like they will be getting some snow over the weekend! twitter.com/planetski/stat…

 
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Last chalet for half term - fabulous chalet Ariane in #Stanton save £1000pp departure date 14 Feb. 02079629933 pic.twitter.com/NHDacv4eu8

 
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We only have a couple of rooms left for this weekend starting at £599pp in St Anton - great snow, great food! bit.ly/1PBjIbC

 
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Here in St Anton and it's the second bluebird day in a row... Still spaces for next week! pic.twitter.com/HUcnU2ku6s

 
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We need a sales/admin person in the office until the end of April - anyone want to come and work in the ski industry in London?

 
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Off to St Anton now to have a look at how good the snow is over there. The skiing is amazing at the moment. Prices from £599 for next week!

 
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"It was very cool to do, it was a different road for me". F1 driver Verstappen goes "skiing" ow.ly/X6BCO pic.twitter.com/xY8KuOivp1