For shredders and ski buffs, California’s recent spate of atmospheric “rivers” brought a sumptuous snowpack to the Mammoth Mountain area, the likes of which have not been seen since the season produced more than 600 inches in 2017. The combination of prolonged dry cold and generous precipitation means skiers and snowboarders get an abundance of rare “white gold’ amid near perfect conditions of warming sun, wind-shielding forests and continuously freshened trails.
So we asked veteran alpinist Holly Moseley-Raymond, who has been crushing it on the peaks of Mammoth since she was just out of diapers, about the mountain’s best spots. Now a member of the Mammoth Ski Patrol as well as a promoter of the sport to female powder hounds near and far, Moseley-Raymond knows the peaks of Mammoth and trails of Tamarack better than she knows the roads home and she makes sure she gets her moments in on these delicious winter days as she monitors the danger spots and keeps skiers safe to surf another side trail.
On an average year, Mammoth gets some 300 sunny days and upwards of 400 inches of dry, powdery, near perfect snow that draws the crowds driving in from Los Angeles and San Francisco. But during days like these, when new snow keeps falling and older snow keeps cooperating, word is out and Mammoth is on the hit list. The mountain is big, the lifts are plentiful and there is a special run for everyone.
Here are Moseley-Raymond’s favorite spots: pristine snow moments and scenery stunners for all the right reasons.
Top of the Sierras
Take the Panorama Gondola or Chair 23 and go straight to the top if you want the best views and bring home top bragging rights. At more than 11,000 feet up you can practically see China from the top of Mammoth Mountain and can enjoy a museum, lunch and a variety of trail options along the rim. But the slopes on the north side are not to be underestimated. It’s steep black diamond or double diamond inclines the whole way down amid virgin powder and pristine mogul runs. More cautious skiers should head to Cornice Bowl, the only groomed trail in these parts. The southward winds along these faces, says Moseley-Raymond, makes the snow just about ideal. “It’s a fluffing washing machine effect where the wind is constantly blowing the snow back onto itself and erasing tracks as it goes. It’s new snow all the time – and that is a condition unique to Mammoth and why people love to ski this mountain.”
For intermediate skiers who enjoy the comforts of groomed snow, Moseley-Raymond loves taking Chair 12 to the tree-protected midlines of Mammoth near Outpost 14 and enjoying a leisurely float down the smoothed corridor. “It’s an older, two-person chair and fixed grip, so it moves pretty slowly. But the groomed snow runs have a nice rolling quality. So they start off a little steeper and then flatten out and then roll over again. And I just think they’re really fun.”
Upper Road Runner
For solid intermediates who want to warm up while working on their upper thigh muscles, Moseley-Raymond says Upper Road Runner is the place. The three-mile run takes off from the summit for a challenging and scenic ride to the base lodge. Take in the High Sierras and Minarets but don’t miss the adrenaline-cranking steep drop offs from the summit, off Chair 23 or Chair 14. For Moseley-Raymond, it’s the sunshine against clear, blue skies that makes this path special, especially on those cold short days. “Some days I just want to ski in the sun so I take Road Runner toward the backside of the mountain. It’s so serene and peaceful and it’s rarely crowded.”
Back for More
Another nice blue trail that shimmers in the sun, Back for More is accessible from the base area at Eagle Lodge for a generous 3,310-foot glide. Reached from Chair 25 and Chair 22, the east-facing run enjoys the morning sun so it is a favorite with early risers.
During storm days when the views are not the focus, Moseley-Raymond likes to stay closer to the base areas where the wind isn’t whipping as it would be in the higher sites, but the skiing is still fine. Chair 21 heads for the blue trails of Lost in the Woods for a challenging run that winds up near The Mill for an after reward of a warm hot chocolate. “There are not a lot of views but I like it because it is a cozy area, surrounded by trees and it definitely tends to be a little more quiet over there.”
Beginners need not be left out in the cold. Moseley-Raymond loves Chair 11 by Main Lodge for those who are just getting started and finds Apple Pie to be a gem as far as green runs go. “You’ll find gradual slopes here and you can get in lots of laps.” But you can also get some surprising views, moments usually reserved for the more advanced pistes. “So you have that feeling of being high in the mountains, but it’s a very gentle slope and very forgiving for people learning how to ski.”
Not all days at Mammoth need be hard core ski days and even a born-with-skis-on veteran like Moseley-Raymond likes a day off the mountain now and then to enjoy the lakes and the rest of the Mammoth’s beauty at a different pace. For that, the 19 or so miles of groomed trails around four sizeable lakes are accessible from Tamarack Lodge at an adjacent side of Mammoth Mountain. This is the place for cross-country skiing, skate skiing, ambling and snowshoeing. “The whole place is beautiful and you can see part of Mammoth Mountain and you can see the Mammoth Crest. If you keep going and cross country ski to Lake Mary, that’s a beautiful spot and you can see Crystal Crags from there. All great panoramic views.”
More on our tour guide, Holly Moseley-Raymond
Holly Moseley-Raymond sometimes sees herself as an avid ski enthusiast on the outside of a wall surrounding a man’s world. But getting serious about her alpine passions and joining Mammoth Ski Patrol brought some clarity to these mountain moments and, like coveted warm sun on the summit after a pretty gnarly squall, Moseley-Raymond and some powder-pounding gal pals came up with a way to take back their piece of the blinding winter terrain: Glitter Storm.
While not an official non-profit at this time, the concept is dedicated to creating an encouraging place for women skiers to find their balance and gather strength in a world oft defined by bro competition and testosterone-loaded stunts.
“We started Glitter Storm in 2018. It was initially in response to a group of male skiers who started a “club” that we were not allowed to join,” says Moseley-Raymond. “The purpose did initially start out in jest, but the truth is, I always wanted to start a brand of sorts that represents femininity and inclusivity in the ski industry and outdoor space.”
Because the idea was hatched during a dog-walk with some her female besties, Moseley-Raymond takes proceeds that come through donations and events and gives them to Eastside k-9, Mammoth Lakes’ non-profit avalanche rescue dog training program. She also seeks out other causes that help women, avalanche awareness and animal welfare for partnerships. The group makes signature trucker hats and stickers that are sold through direct request, local shops and other like-minded ski companies — all bearing her group’s recognizable unicorn insignia.
“I want to encourage young girls and women to ski but also to celebrate the magic in life. The unicorn represents the mystical power of the outdoors as well as personal strength and empowerment,” she adds.
For now, Glitter Storm remains an Instagram stop: @glitter.storm. A website is underway as are plans for such activities as holding local all-female ski movie screenings and women-focused ski meetup activities around Mammoth Lakes.
“We are still pretty casual and are moving at our own pace, but we hope that we will inspire people to believe in the magic and joy of playing outside!” — By Lark Gould