Hitting the Slopes in Summer? What to Know About Mammoth Mountain’s Rare ‘Second Season’

By Laylan Connelly
From The Orange County Register

California might be known for its sun-kissed beaches, but snowboarding and skiing in summer months—that’s a Golden State treat to put on the bucket list this year.

Summer has had a slow start where I live in Southern California, with overcast gray skies day after day plaguing the region. So when my two young kids started summer break in early June, we figured we’d try to find the sun elsewhere, above the clouds.

This wild winter—the snowiest on record with more than 900 inches recorded at Mammoth Mountain’s summit—has allowed the resort to keep lifts running through the end of July, a “second season” treat that has happened only a handful of times in the resort’s 70-year history.

The last time the resort remained open for Fourth of July was the 2018-19 season, with 492 inches.

Only two times has the resort stayed open into August. For the 2016-17 season, the resort closed on Aug. 8 with a snowfall of 617.5 inches and before that, in 1994-95, it stayed open through Aug. 13 with 540.2 inches of snow that year.

With even more snow this winter than both of those seasons, I wouldn’t be surprised if lifts stay open through the entire summer—though there’s been no official word of that happening, yet.

This year’s relentless winter brought so much snow to the slopes, access to the town and resort became a challenge. Crews had to spend days digging out the lifts and streets, just to be hit by another storm. And another. And another.

Road closures and hazardous conditions kept many fair-weathered snow lovers like myself away for much of the season.

But now, snow is plentiful, the sun is shining and the crowds are thin—the perfect recipe for a quick trip with the youngsters to enjoy the slopes.

Our kids, ages 7 and 10, just started to get their ski groove this past winter season, learning to get off the lifts on their own and becoming more comfortable on the slopes. We decided it would be a good year to invest in the Ikon pass, with lift access through the rest of this extended year and, hopefully with El Niño forecast, another healthy snow season on the horizon.

Getting kids adjusted to the snowy slopes is no easy task. If it’s too cold and stormy, it can be a miserable experience. Too icy and the falls can be excruciating. Too slushy makes it frustrating to get through the sticky snow, especially on the flatter beginner runs.

After waking up at dawn and hitting the road, we arrived in Mammoth about noon, just in time to hit the slopes for about an hour, a warmup session that was a perfect way to end the long drive from south Orange County.

It helped that we opted to stay at the Mammoth Mountain Inn just steps from the lifts, with the parking lots at Main Lodge and the Mill, the only two areas of the mountain open, filled up on the busy weekend.

After grabbing our parking pass from the hotel, we hit the slopes. I could quickly see why the mountain resort only stays open until 1 p.m., the sun beating down melting the snow, making for sticky conditions.

The next morning, I woke up early to sneak in a few runs without the kiddos at 7:30 a.m., right when the lifts opened, with my longtime snowboarding pal.

The smell of the crisp, morning mountain air was refreshing and the few people on the slopes had my hopes high for an epic hour of riding to get the day started.

But the crackling sound under my board as I got off the first lift made me cringe. Icy, hard conditions, all the way down the runs.

Too slushy by the warm afternoon, too icy in the chilly morning—but for the hours in between, the snow was like butter, soft snow that made for perfect, pristine riding.

When the runs softened up, we hit the slopes with the kids for hours, navigating small jumps and jibs, the kids cruising through green runs and pushing themselves on the longer, more challenging trails.

The only complaint all day from the kids? It was too hot, though they wore only light sweaters to cover their arms.

The perfect relief was the slightly chilly pool after our session, complete with a view of the snow-covered mountains in the backdrop.

As I soaked in the sights, I couldn’t help but think to myself—what a wild, wacky way to kick off summer in California.

If You Go

Love wildflowers? Because of the historic amount of snow in the eastern Sierra this winter, wildflowers are just starting to bloom. Inyo National Forest botanists are hosting Saturday “Wildflower Walks,” happening from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. July 29 at Rock Creek, and Aug. 19 at Lundy Canyon.

Waterfalls: Another perk of the record-snow season? The epic snowmelt is making for raging waterfalls throughout the area.

Limited trails: While some hiking spots are open such as the Hot Creek Interpretive Area, Convict Lake, as well as the road to Rock Creek, most of the trails in the area are still under snow.

Lakes: While the snow around the lakes is melting, there’s still so much up there that many of the lakes and nearby campsites are not yet open. If you want to add fishing, camping or kayaking to your summer to-do list, make sure you check for updates before you go. Open lakes include Crowley, Convict, June, Gull, Grant, Silver, Twin Lakes in Bridgeport and the Bridgeport Reservoir. Mammoth Lakes Basin is still closed and under heavy snow.

Music in the mountains: There are plenty of festivals and events happening throughout summer.

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