Elena Pressprich has spent a lot of time on skis. A regular on the slopes around her home state of Oregon, she's always up for trying out a new mountain (or three). On a recent trip with her sister to the Mammoth Lakes area, she was certainly not disappointed with her experience surfing the California snow. “This place truly has endless opportunities for those who want to play outside, all year long,” she says. Pressprich shares the highlights below.
1. What was the top highlight of your snowy trip to California?
It was probably a combination of skiing at June Mountain in the morning and going to Rock Creek Lodge in the evening. Both places were off the beaten path and felt like a breath of fresh air. It was exactly what I would imagine coming to Mammoth would be like. I was immersed in the culture and got to know the area a little better.
2. Did you try any activities for the first time?
Snowshoeing! My sister and I have never done this, even though we grew up in a mountain town. We are always on skis of some sort, so this was a new and fun way to experience the winter terrain. We snowshoed around the Lake Mary area.
3. You took this trip with your sister—why would you recommend it as a girls’ trip?
I would 100 percent recommend this as a girls’ trip! While we saw a lot of families at Mammoth and June mountains, traveling to some of these places was simply easier with just the two of us. A lot of the chairs at both resorts only seat two people and that makes for great bonding time! The area is absolutely somewhere I would bring my family, but we loved this weekend as a getaway for the two of us. From skiing to snowmobiling and sitting in hot springs, it was a trip we would do over again, together, in a heartbeat.
4. How would you spend a perfect day in Mammoth?
We absolutely loved going to Stellar Brew for breakfast and coffee. After a quick (and delicious!) bite, I would head up to Mammoth Mountain to ski, and plan on spending the entire day there. The mountain is so expansive and there is something for visitors of every skill level. Heck, you don't even need to be on skis to enjoy the views from the top. You can just take a ride in the gondola from the base to the summit! While you are there, be sure to eat at the cafe up top and enjoy the breathtaking views. After a full day of skiing, I would head back down the mountain to Mammoth Brewing Company for a beer and some food. Insider tip: Get in line for food first, then find a table, and then order your beer.
5. What are the best things about skiing in Mammoth vs. skiing at June Mountain?
Both places are quite close together yet give a completely different experience. I would recommend skiing at both. Mammoth skiing has gondolas! The resorts we ski at back home in Oregon don't have them, so it's always a fun treat for us to take a ride in one. (You can just take rides in them if you don't feel like skiing down, too!) There are more lodges and cabins across the hill so you can choose from different types of meals, or you can lay on a deck with a good brew and catch some rays. We loved that we couldn't quite get everywhere all in one day at Mammoth, making us want to come back for another trip.
June Mountain had quite a different vibe and scene. It has more of a little mom-and-pop-type resort vibe, old school chair lifts and fewer crowds. We absolutely loved it. It reminded me of how resorts were when I grew up and learned to ski. The grooming was impeccable, and June had such a good variety of terrain types that everyone could find something to ski on (from cliffs and double blacks all the way to easy greens for the kiddos to learn on). A little bit of our ski racing background came out here and we had some fun with some fast carve turns while the mountain was still completely quiet on a Sunday morning.
6. Can you describe your experience at Rock Creek Lodge?
Rock Creek Lodge was one of the most incredible and memorable experiences we have ever had. We were shuttled by a snowmobile to the lodge through a beautiful canyon freshly layered in cold, sparkly powder as the sun was setting. Before dinner, we went for a little snowshoe hike farther up the canyon to some frozen alpine lakes.
This made us really hungry, which was perfect for the five-course meal we were about to dive into (home-cooked by a woman who has worked at Rock Creek for over 40 years!). The food was some of the best I have ever had. It was so flavorful—melt-in-your-mouth, fill-your-soul kind of food. They even cook to your requests, so if you are gluten-free, dairy-free or vegan, they have an alternative for you. The owners and staff were so friendly that it made the experience so special. This was definitely the highlight of our trip. I will be recommending this to everyone and I am making plans to come back here again.
7. Did you see anything interesting or unexpected around the Mammoth area?
I didn't expect to be able to walk almost everywhere in the town! That made it very easy for us to get to restaurants or shops. The Mammoth Ski Area is also so close by, I think it took us a total of 15 minutes to drive from the hotel to the parking lot at the upper main lodge.
8. What makes Bishop worth a side trip?
If you like to boulder or climb, this is a must-visit place. We hiked up the Druid Stones Trail, and it was incredible! It felt like a more quiet area, and had some of the best views on the trip. We laid down on the huge boulders up top, had a snack and soaked in some sunshine. No one else was around and it was one of the most peaceful moments on the trip. I would also recommend the little bakery in town, Great Basin Bakery, they had the perfect snacks (ahem, cookies) for our adventuring that day.
9. Which picture or social media post best sums up your trip and why?
My expression: PURE JOY.
That backdrop: UNREAL.
Those are the things I would say I could apply to every part of this trip... pure joy and jaw-dropping views!
10. Overall: Why would you recommend the locations you visited to others?
We experienced something different everywhere we went, and it was all so close together! Even if you were interested only in skiing, for example, there are so many different ways you can "ski" without having to stay at the same place. You can explore a lot of different ski adventures all within a short drive of each other, from skiing at Mammoth where the resort is large, to skiing at June, where it's cute, old school, and smaller (and so steep!). You can snowshoe around the lakes in Mammoth or head a little bit south to snowmobile, ski (tour or nordic) or snowshoe up the Rock Creek drainage and experience something entirely different!
Because the Mammoth area is surrounded by mountains, and if backcountry skiing is your thing, it is filled with endless opportunities to ski on hundreds of mountains in the Sierras. We also learned that when the snow melts and the skis have to go away, the backpacking is unlike anything you'll experience anywhere (yet another reason to come back here!).