Mammoth Lakes, CA


Photograph courtesy flickr/alaskandude

You’re not trekking 300 miles to Mammoth for the food or the plush accommodations or the nightlife. Even if you squint, this isn’t Aspen. You’re here for the terrain. Still, it doesn’t hurt that this past winter the resort cut the ribbon on yet another new high-speed lift (less waiting) and on an automated ticket-tracking system (ditto). Or that Auberge moved into town to oversee the cushy 8050, where spacious one- to three-bedroom units have chef’s kitchens, flagstone finishes, and boot dryers. New restaurants have debuted, too, including the Red Lantern, whose brussels sprout leaves and Mongolian lamb prove that not all ski-town Chinese food is…meh. Yes, that’s bottle service being offered at SBE’s new Hyde Lounge in the buzzing Village complex. Too much? Across the way, the pleasant Side Door wine bar presses panini that warm the cockles after hours of bombing down Solitude, reeling on Lake Mary, or framing the basalt columns of Devils Postpile in your viewfinder. (Come on, this deserves more than a smart phone.)

While You’re There
The open spaces and gaunt towns lining the 395 on the way to Mammoth are iconic. But this is a food desert. You can wait half an hour at an empty diner for a rubbery chicken sandwich. Better to hold off until Big Pine, where Dick’s Smoke Wagon dishes up fall-off-the-bone chicken, tender ribs, tangy beans, and sharp slaw. The seating’s outdoors and hours can vary, so call ahead, and be ready to eat in your car if you want a heater.


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