Mammoth Lakes: The "Aspen of California"

Mammoth Lakes is one of my favorite getaways, especially in winter. This winter was no different even though my fractured ankle kept me off the mountain. This past weekend Tony, Sue and I went to get a taste of it.

The ride up is pretty impressive as the Sierra range climbs in elevation. Population grows more and more scarce and snow begins to blanket the range. Before you know it, you’re in Mammoth Lakes and 20-foot snow banks rise higher than the car roof. The powder weighs down tree limbs and piles high on every rooftop.

Mammoth claims to be the “Aspen of California,” but truth be told, it isn’t quite there yet. Mammoth still holds onto its mom-and-pop roots, although barely. There’s a new Ritz Carleton, numerous million-dollar homes, a Polo outlet, and high-end restaurants around town, but even still there is a down-home feeling about this place.

Its old school appeal could be due to the large population of ski and snowboard bums or the way that skiing carries a higher value than shopping. Most of the original architecture is textbook California lake home style. Many of the restaurants and shops along Old Mammoth Road are still without chain status and worn down plazas take the place of a centralized Main Street. Whatever the reason, they are quickly losing ground as luxury condos and fancy hotels move in. The addition of daily winter flights from LAX to Mammoth Lakes has given a green light to developers and is transforming this little town overnight – all the more reason that I get up here as often as I can. I want to hold on to whatever is left of this place before it actually does become the “Aspen of California.


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