White Powder: A Trip to Mammoth

As long as you have at least one friend in the entire state of California you should be able to pull off a cheap trip to one of America’s greatest ski resorts, Mammoth Mountain. Getting from the east to left coast is a breeze if you buy a jet-blue ticket online. Right now there is a shuttle which runs from Boston, MA to Long Beach, CA which costs only 99 dollars each way. If you don’t live in Massachusetts, you should still be able to find similar deals from other airports.

Once you have purchased your ticket, you should start thinking about packing. My philosophy on ski/snowboard trips is to pack all of your clothes into your board bag and travel with only a carry-on and your board-bag. My logic behind this packing style is simple. With one bag, picking up your luggage after landing is a breeze. And if you lose your bag, you instantly know for certain that your entire trip is ruined and you can just turn around without making a futile attempt at salvaging your long-awaited ski trip. Once you have a day or two under your belt and are well-rested and ready to make the several hour drive to Mammoth, pack your board and gear into a car and hit the road. Before making the drive up, you should be aware that Mammoth has the highest elevation and longest season of any resort in California, 3100 feet of vertical drop, 3500 acres of terrain, a fantastic park, tons of snow, and Transworld Snowboarding’s #1 ranked halfpipe. Mammoth Mountain ranked only behind British Columbia’s Whistler in Transworld. Mammoth Mountain is truly a world-class resort and unsurprisingly charges top-end prices.

When trying to travel on a budget to Mammoth you have to remember a few things. Number one on your list of things to know is that Mammoth is located in the steep, jagged, overpowering Eastern Sierra mountain range of California. All campgrounds in the surrounding area are not only closed but also entirely snowed-in during the winter months. Your best bet is to try to find a remote parking lot and set up your tent there. I found a great little place a few miles south of Mammoth Lakes called Convict Lake.

If location, location, location are your three most important factors in choosing where to stay during your winter getaway, then Convict lake is perfect for you. The first pleasant surprise about the lake is that it doesn’t actually have any convicts anywhere in, near, or around it. It is located very close to the highway that will get you to Mammoth, and is surrounded on all sides by steep, fun-to-look-at, snow-covered peaks. Make sure to bring your camera, because sunrise and sunset are the perfect times to capture an image of your quaint, little, makeshift winter-cabin.

When staying at low-cost Convict Lake you should try to find the most isolated section of parking lot and pitch your tent there. I fear that I may have broken my own rule and set up camp in a slightly more visible section the parking lot. As a result, my trip was drawn to an early close when one morning I woke up to find a park ranger waiting next to the car. I chatted with her politely for a few minutes, and told her that I had not been aware that the campgrounds were closed, and that it would not be a problem for me to leave. She really seemed too shocked that I hadn’t yet died in my sleep to even bother writing me a ticket.

You can save a little bit of money simply by telling the people at the ticket office that you are in high school. But, the real secret to hanging onto those precious, sweaty dollars is to find a local Mammoth Lakes high school student who could buy you a ticket for only ten dollars. Once you have located a local youngster do whatever it takes to get him to buy you your ticket, whether it be telling him you have cancer, or buying him beer.

With your ticket in hand, you are guaranteed to have some of the best skiing or riding you ever had in your life. Mammoth has some great double blacks coming down from the summit, and plenty of fast and fun twisting and turning blues on which you can bomb your way down to the bottom of the mountain.

I never got involved with any avalanches and had a great time in the state of California. My only problem with Mammoth is that I can’t snowboard there more often. Mammoth was a lot of fun, but it’s good to be back in Burlington. White Powder is back in full effect so stay tuned for new articles and more ways to save money as I reveal more of my penny-pinching ways to travel cheaply.