Discover which Mammoth Mountain lodge to post up at, based on the vibes and amenities of the lodge + your family's personalities, skill levels and preferences.
Mammoth Mountain inspires an intrepid energy that trickles through everyone who graces its seemingly endless slopes. It makes you want to be brave, push your limits, and suck it up when you can no longer feel your fingers and toes. It's lovely, which is why it's a favorite training destination for the U.S. Snowboarding Team, previous host of the X Games and U.S. Freeski and Snowboard Grand Prix, and on the must-visit list of anyone who enjoys the silky wonders of first-rate slopes. And, you can get your kids super stoked to visit by informing them that it's also an active volcano (but don't worry, it hasn't erupted in over 700 years.)
Each lodge at Mammoth has a personality as unique as the melting pot of skiers + boarders shredding on its slopes. You have the family-focused lodges touting play areas for the kids, occasional igloos and frequent sightings of Woolly the mascot, those with bars overflowing with millennials and hipster hip hop, and others with the Patagonia-clad "we're here for one reason, and one reason only" crews stuffing down protein whilst hovering over a trail map. There's a flavor for everyone, ensuring your crew can find a sweet-spot hangout that checks all your boxes.
Eagle Lodge: The Convenient Option
Nestled between streets filled with a slew of accommodations, Eagle Lodge requires the least amount of travel if you're staying in town. Because it's one of the smaller lodges, you'll generally find shorter lines for tickets, gear rentals, lifts and food here, but be forewarned that getting a table during peak lunch hours is pretty tricky (at all of the lodges.) If you want to make sure you score a table, shoot for an early lunch around 11am, or a late one around 3pm. The parking lot also fills up fairly fast - if you don't want to park on the street, try to arrive before 8:30am.
Best Beginner Lift: Eagle Express
Eagle is one of the most popular choices for families as it features, Lupin, the longest bunny slope on the mountain. Just hop on Eagle Express, which is a six seater, and cruise on up. Lupin is a straight shot from the top of the lift to the bottom, so it's pretty much impossible to get lost. Because this is such a long run, only take beginners that are patient enough to have their gear strapped on for awhile.
One of our favorite features of Eagle Express is that it's so low on the mountain that even if the wind is raging on upper lifts, Eagle is almost always calm.
Best Intermediate Lift: Eagle Express to Chair 25
For intermediate riders that don't mind black-blues, runs like Back for More and Haven't the Foggiest are long scenic runs that flow off Chair 25. Bailey says a fat NO to black diamonds, and any runs that even slightly emulate the pitch of a black, but the trails snaking off of Chair 25 are her "Goldie Locks" runs - not too steep, not too flat. This lift is rarely crowded, so if you enjoy the runs, return to Chair 25, instead of cruising all the way back to Eagle Express. But if you're with kids that are just dipping their toes in the intermediate waters, heading back to Eagle is a nice balance, as they'll spend half their times on blues, and the other on greens.
Best Expert Lift: Eagles Express to Chair 25 to Cloud 9 Express
If you want a quick shot of adrenaline, take a looker's right off Chair 25 and zip down double black diamonds like Avalanche Chutes (some of the steepest terrain anywhere), Shaft or Grizzly, which all end in Follow Me that leads back to Chair 25. If you're looking for a longer, more remote expert run, hop off Chair 25 then follow Relief, to Quicksilver, to Goldhill, which ends at Cloud 9 where some of the best snow on the mountain can be found after a storm. At the top of Cloud 9, take a looker's left to Ricochet.
Canyon Lodge: The Family Choice
Home to a massive igloo (when there's enough snow, which is often), four lifts, the drop off point for The Village gondola, and a four-story lodge (with heaven sent escalators!) Canyon Lodge is a favorite choice for families with skiers and snowboarders of all levels. This is where we took Hudson when he was first learning to snowboard, as there's an abundance of learning areas that allow beginners to get a mellow taste of the mountain without navigating lift lines. Adding to its appeal is its proximity to town, which allows it to be surrounded by accommodations that are within walking distance.
Best Beginner Lift: Schoolyard Express
Spilling off the top of Schoolyard are numerous green runs that are fairly short, but offer enough space to thin out the crowds that are prevalent on beginner runs.
Best Intermediate Lift: Canyon Express to Roller Coaster Express
This is a long lift that can get chilly when the wind is up, but luckily, it moves fast and transports you to some of our favorite intermediate runs on the mountain, specifically Roller Coaster. If you're a slope-styler, Canyon Express also provides access to South Park, which is one of the most extensive terrain parks on the mountain. If you want to get back to Canyon Express, follow the signs for Downhill, but if you want to keep hitting the best intermediate runs on Mammoth (in our humble opinion), stick to Roller Coaster Express until it's time to head back to the lodge. Sweetening Roller Coaster Express is the fact that there's a bathroom, and pop-up bar (on busier days), by the lift.
Tip: If you fall in love with this lift, and are traveling with all intermediate to advanced riders, there's a semi-secret parking lot off the 203 that's a short (about 3-minute) walk to Roller Coaster Express.
Best Expert Lift: Chair 8 to Chair 22
If you're hoping to hit some of the most extreme terrain on Mammoth over and over again (we're looking at you Avalanche Chutes), you'll need to take Chair 8, then go to looker's right and scoot down Hully Gully to Lower Grizzly until you reach Chair 22. Chair 22, one of the most famous (or infamous?) lifts on Mammoth, drops riders into an extreme wonderland of trails, like the aforementioned Avalanche Chutes. Once these initial black runs spill onto Follow Me, make sure you hop on Lower Viva or Lower Grizzly to make it back to 22. Safe travels you crazy animal.
The Mill: The Snowboarder's Den
This is the spot Eric and I used to go when we were young, childless and (thought we were) cool. While we're still allowed here, and like it just fine, it doesn't offer any lift options for our little buck who would rather eat Brussels sprouts that scream down a blue. So we just come here when we're playing hooky from parenthood, and want to sit by the enormous fire in the small lodge with some of the tastiest Bloody Mary's we've ever had. If you're traveling with children, but they're all intermediate skiers, The Mill is a great central location that offers easy access to almost all areas of the mountain.
Best Beginner(ish) Lift: Chair 21
While Chair 21 (like the other lifts at The Mill) doesn't lead to any all-green runs, the short Lost in the Woods trail that spills from the top of 21 to the bottom, is a pretty easy, rarely crowded blue that is a good option for beginners who are testing the intermediate waters. But before you strap on your skis in front of the lodge, know that Chair 21 is a bit of a walk. If you plan on going straight there, park in the small lot right before The Mill's main lot, as it's a straight shot to Chair 21.
Best Intermediate Lift: Stump Alley to Facelift Express
When the wind is low and the sun is high, the fun to be had beneath these lifts is endless. Stump Alley Express leads to the well-used run of the same name, which can easily become choppy and a bit chaotic. But if you're hoping for slopestyle kicks, head down Stump Alley then take skier's left to find Forest Trail Park. Just to the right of this park is Mambo, which shockingly, is rarely crowded and usually has good snow (even at the end of the day during Spring season.)
If you want a longer ride, and slightly heightened thrills, keep to skier's right as you head down the first expanse of Stump Alley (go towards the McCoy Lodge), and you'll find Facelift Express. This lift is a nice compromise for families who have a mix of adrenaline junkies and adrenaline samplers, who don't want to split up. Those wanting to go fast and steep can hop off Facelift and head straight down West Bowl or Center Bowl - but examine the conditions of these runs on your ride up as they're not always great. Conditions on Saddle Bowl on the other hand - the primo option for those that only kind of like steep runs - is consistently superb.
Best Expert Lift: Stump Alley to Panorama Gondola or Gold Rush Express to High Five Express
The portal to Bailey's nightmare and Eric's powder-filled dreams exist at McCoy Lodge, where the Panorama Gondola (that you can also catch at Main Lodge) carries crazy people to the summit of the mountain so they can essentially jump off cliffs. Bailey will say yes to this ride for the photo ops, but refuses to walk too close to the edge and gets that grumbling "I might need to use the bathroom" stomach just watching fellow riders hurl themselves off the top of aptly named double black diamonds like Huevos Grande, Climax and Hangman's Hollow. So yeah, it's the motherland for extreme-seekers.
One step down from the summit, yet still appealing to those who love runs with an angular lip, is the web of black diamonds accessed from High Five Express. If you want to get straight to it, utilize Face of Five or Sanctuary, but if you want to do some exploring, go to looker's right where you'll find goodies like Dry Creek and Walters that all funnel you back to High Five Express.
Main Lodge: The Epicenter
With access to the Panorama Gondola, ski/in-ski/out accommodations, childcare, ski + snowboard school, a sportswear store (that's pretty expensive - stock up on gear at spots like Mammoth Mountaineering Supply), an abundance of food options (massive salad + sandwich bar, Italian, American and more), and the extremely popular Tusks Bar, Main Lodge is teeming with amenities.
While Main Lodge is the place to be if you're hoping to immerse yourself in the culture of the mountain, get in some good people watching, or utilize the childcare, it can also get crowded and overwhelming. So if you're seeking a bustling vibe, head to Main, but if your jam is a more mellow ambiance consider posting up at one of the other lodges.
Best Beginner Lift: Discovery Chair
A popular choice for families wanting to escape the monotony of classic green runs, Discovery leads to fun areas like Fun Zone (a family-friendly terrain park) and Woolly's Woods (a quaint trail through the trees.) If you're needing a no-frills beginner run, Sesame Street is for you.
Best Intermediate Lift: Broadway Express or Discovery to Chair 12
Broadway leads to a platter of blue runs that range from "this almost feels like a green" to "did I f-up and get on a black diamond?" The most common choice off Broadway is the run of the same name that is wide, rarely choppy and has a tame pitch. If you want to shake things up and score a longer run, stay to looker's left after getting off the lift, until you reach Facelift. From the top of Facelift, take Saddle Bowl back to Broadway. Interested in testing your skills on a short black diamond that's so moderate even Bailey will ski it? Stay to looker's right when you get off the lift and wrap around to The Wall, which is quickly absorbed by Broadway.
Those wanting to escape the crowds and experience Mammoth's scenic backcountry should ride up Discovery then take a looker's right to reach Chair 12. From the top of 12, explore playful blues like Road Runner and Secret Spot. And don't forget the camera, as the back side of the mountain opens to stunning landscapes of jagged peaks, seemingly held up by endless snow-kissed pine forests.
Best Expert Lift: Panorama Gondola or Broadway Express to Chair 23
Because of access to the gondola and Chair 23, Main Lodge is a prime base camp for those wanting to go hard. The Panorama Gondola leads to the summit where you can access aforementioned double blacks like Climax, Huevos Grande and Hangman's Hollow, or Dave's Run and Cornice Bowl, which are somewhat easy-going regular black diamond bowls.
If you stick to skier's left on any of these runs you'll be funneled to Chair 23, which leads to a cornucopia of extreme runs like the aptly named Dropout Chutes and Wipeout Chutes, in addition to Monument and Paranoid (or "Noid") Flats. If you want to skip the summit, take Broadway Express up then go to looker's right to hit Chair 23.
McCoy Station: The Experts' Club
As a popular pit stop for many of the people that brave Mammoth's summit, and are just doing a quick refresh before doing it all again, McCoy has a bold, brisk energy. This briskness usually makes it easier to find a table, as non-riders rarely post up to play savesies with an entire table... all day. People are in and out fast - burger, beer, bathroom, go. Much like The Mill, this is one of our favorite lodges when we're not with Hudson, as the only way to get down is through blues. If you're wanting time to digest after lunch, but don't feel like watching other people shove food into their faces, take a ride up the Panorama Gondola to check out the summit.
Best Beginner Lift...
There aren't any beginner runs (or lifts leading to beginner runs) from McCoy, so it's best for mega-beginners to skip it. But if you're with beginners who are ready to try out modest intermediate runs, they can take it slow and steady down Stump Alley or Broadway - although these runs can get crowded (and edge on dangerous) for those who don't feel like they can maintain control if the going gets steep(ish).
Best Intermediate Lift: Facelift Express
If you're feeling doneso after hanging at McCoy, flow down Broadway to Main Lodge. But if a little rest filled your coffers, grab a seat on Facelift, which is directly behind McCoy - you can't miss it. The best intermediate run from here is Saddle Bowl. Saddle Bowl can get a bit icy (as it's often in the shade), so stick to the softer, fluffier edges if you're wanting a slower descent.
Best Expert Lift: Panorama Gondola
From the many mentions of this gondola, you already know where this bad boy leads. (For a more detailed description of these runs, skip over to our trail guide.)
The Outpost: The Off-the-Beaten Path Paradise
An unsung jewel of the mountain, The Outpost provides some of the most stellar scenic views of unfettered, pristine wilderness, the new Melt House, with offerings of soup and numerous variations of hot sandwiches, and access to largely unoccupied trails. Because you can only access The Outpost via skis or a snowboard, and have to take intermediate trails to get down, this isn't the place to post up with beginners. But if your crew is filled with intermediate or advanced riders seeking a refueling station as you take on Mammoth's backside, this lodge can't be beat (most of the time.) As The Outpost has primarily open-air seating and only a small, partially indoor space (that includes a fire!), it's a top choice on non-frigid bluebird days, but should be skipped for a larger lodge if a storm's a blowin'.
Best Intermediate Lift: Chair 12
We left out beginner and expert lifts from The Outpost lodge guide, as this area is all about the blues. While every lift near this lodge is fun, Chair 12 is the portal to one of the most impressive assortments of intermediate runs on the mountain, all of which offer fairly long rides. There are playful tree trails to explore below the lift, but our favorite route is cutting to looker's right off the chair and taking White Bark Ridge to Lower Runner Runner - a path that offers cruisey adventures filled with scenic thrills.