Hurtigruten 21 Jan Feb promo LHS
Hurtigruten 21 Jan Feb promo RHS

SUN, SEA & SNOW: It's time to rethink your California vacation

California is renowned for its lovely beaches, theme parks and movie stars. But head away from the coast and you'll also discover a vibrant ski destination.

California is renowned for its lovely beaches, theme parks and movie stars. But head away from the coast and you’ll also discover a vibrant ski destination.

Growing Australian awareness of the Golden State’s snowy appeal was on the agenda for tourism representatives from Mammoth Lakes on a recent visit to Australia.

The town in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains is known for the Mammoth Mountain and June Mountain ski areas and has one of the longest ski seasons in the US. It is around a five hour drive from Los Angeles, San Francisco and Las Vegas.

The ski-in ski-out town sits at 2,400m while Mammoth Mountain itself goes up to 3,400m

“That means we can get a lot more of storms as they come into California and hold onto that snow for a lot longer because of our elevation,” Michael Vanderhurst, International Tourism Representative for Mammoth Lakes, explained.

As a result, you can hit the slopes there from the beginning of November until usually around the 4th of July holiday – when the state’s beaches are also heaving.

“That blows people’s socks off, when they get a sense that California is a lot more than beaches, Rob Lowe and the Hollywood walk of fame,” Vanderhurst told KARRYON.

“Some of the biggest mountains in the USA are located in California and Mammoth Lakes is one of the biggest ski resorts.”

Michael Vanderhurst, Mammoth Lakes International Tourism Representative

With more than 4,000 rooms mostly in the three-star range and 65 restaurants, the destination has big appeal for families. It’s also very popular with Aussies, who make up its largest international market.

Other rival ski destinations such as Japan or British Columbia don’t have the same offer of a beach add-on, he continued.

New for this year is Mammoth Lakes’ participation in the IKON pass, a collaboration by 13 different ski resorts in America who have joined forces to compete with the Epic Pass from ski giant Vail Resorts. The pass, available through travel agents in Australia, also offers “privileges” at a further 10 North American resorts.

Australian ski resort Thredbo in New South Wales has also just been added to the IKON pass, making it even more appealing for Aussie skiiers.

“It has been priced very competitively with the rival Epic Pass but gives access to more resorts, more terrain,” Vanderhurst said.

But Mammoth Lakes’ appeal is not just about snow. It is also popular at warmer times of year thanks to its mountain biking trails. This year, it will also unveil two new ziplines which will be the fastest in the US.

Not only that, but the resort is ideally located to use as a base for visits to another of the state’s major attractions – Yosemite National Park.

“Yosemite is in process of being loved to death – it’s getting a little bit crowded during peak season,” Vanderhurst said.

“So, we have developed a public transportation grid that gets people from Mammoth Lakes into Yosemite.”

Visitors to the park are dropped off and after a day of sightseeing, they are picked up in the afternoon and returned to Mammoth Lakes.

“It’s a great way to see the parks, and a great way not to overwhelm the park,” he said.


READ: This is where you’ll discover the true heart & soul of America

READ: Fresh tracks for Aussie skiers in the USA

READ: Andaz West Hollywood, the most generous hotel in California

Have you ever been skiing in California?