Mammoth Mountain, CA: Day Trip with a Gorgeous Drive, Incredible Skiing, and a Jump in June Lake

John Cunningham | | Conditions ReportConditions Report
Mammoth mountain
I can’t believe it’s almost August! Image: Author

Report from July 21, 2023

The 3:45 a.m. alarm started to go off after a restless, anticipation-filled night attempting to sleep.

We both knew it was finally the day we would get to ski and ride at Mammoth Mountain, CA, for our first time.

With roughly 3 hours of driving south down Highway 395 from South Lake Tahoe ahead of us, we were on the road by 4:30 a.m. 

It was pitch black driving over Daggett Summit, leaving the Tahoe basin into Gardnerville.

However, the sun quickly made a beautiful appearance as we cruised by Topaz Lake.

Topaz lake sunrise
Sunrise at Topaz Lake was a wonderful good morning. | Image: Author

The morning sun revealed remarkable amounts of luxuriant, green vegetation sprawled across the high desert valley floors and into the surrounding mountainsides for the entire drive.

After getting stuck in a half hour of traffic, we arrived at Mammoth at 7:30, booted up, and started to the Panorama Gondola.

As a first-timer to this breathtaking mountain, I was instantly overcome by awe and appreciation.

The sheer size, the amount of snow, and the fact that we could still ride top-to-bottom in the second half of July.

Absolutely incredible.

Mammoth main lodge and tons of snow still
Approaching the Panorama Gondola for the first time with a beautiful background. | Image: Author

We reached the summit just a few moments after briefly preparing to unload at mid-station (yeah, yeah… rookie mistake, I know).

Unfamiliar with the terrain and unsure of what kind of conditions to expect, we made our way skiers left to check out Cornice Bowl.

The vast and magical mountain backdrop on the traverse was one of a kind, with giant peaks and lots of snow still lingering up high.

Dropping in, much to my surprise, my unwaxed, virtually edgeless, untuned old skis took right off, hauling full speed down the hill.

I linked some turns, got a little loose due to the unsuspectingly fast snow, and found a nice side hit to send over and over. 

Side hit air time at mammoth
Going fast and getting air. My favorite way to spend a summer day on the mountain. | Image: Denise Sylvester

We got to the bottom of the long-awaited Chair 23, completely blown away by the perfect snow quality. 

“How in the world is it this damn good right now? It’s almost August!” we proclaimed.

After a few more laps on 23, we decided to check out chair 3, Face Lift Express.

The hot summer sun was baking the snow to slush and our skin to a crisp, yet the skiing and vibes remained truly perfect.

Summit at Mammoth Mountain under Panorama Gondola
Looking at the summit under Panorama Gondola at the top of Chair 3. | Image: Author

Wondering how slow the snow turned towards the bottom, we took a long lap down to Main Lodge. 

Although there was a noticeable stickiness and grabbiness, we still cruised to Chair 1, Broadway Express, with no problem.

We even scored some awesome Mammoth beanies they were handing out! 

Airtime at mammoth mountain
Even with slower take-offs in the afternoon, that side hit kept calling me back. | Image: Denise Sylvester

Noon rolled around too soon, but not before more than a dozen high-speed, freakishly fun laps on this unbelievable mountain.

“Why did we wait so long to come here?” we thought, “and when are we coming back next?”

Kudos and many thanks to Mammoth Mountain and their staff for the endless hard work to keep the shred alive this season.

With the exciting recent announcement of an additional week of skiing and riding, the summer shred will continue until August 6, 2023.

It was time to hit the road, so we drove to June Lake for a refreshing swim and basked in the scalding sun for a while.

June Lake
Clear, refreshing, revitalizing water. | Image: Author

A quick detour up Tioga Pass showed the extensive damage from this past winter and the clean-up to get the road fully open.

The amount of snow still above 10,000 feet was insane, and the waterfalls and streams were going off all around us.

I cannot begin to imagine how these mountains looked back this spring and during this record-breaking winter.

What an outstanding and unforgettable summer day spent at Mammoth Mountain and in the Sierra Nevadas.

Tioga pass mountains still covered in snow
Tioga Pass was well worth the 30-minute driving detour. | Image: Author

Snow Numbers 

Mammoth Snow Number
Image: Mammoth Mountain


snow forecast
Image: NOAA


Mountain silhouettes
Mountain silhouettes. | Image: Denise Sylvester
Topaz lake sunrise
Sunrise at Topaz Lake. | Image: Author
Cows near the snowy mountains
Moo! | Image: Denise Sylvester
Snowy mountains and green vegetation
So much green creeping up the snow-topped mountains. | Image: Denise Sylvester
Mountain Traffic
Thirty minutes of traffic was a good place to stretch, snack, and hydrate. | Image: Author
Snowy mountains and vegetation
We could feel that we were getting closer! | Image: Author
A good sign
I wondered if these were any lines Miles skied this spring. | Image: Denise Sylvester
Mammoth main lodge and tons of snow still
We finally made it! | Image: Author
Mammoth gondola
Going up! | Image: Author
Dave run mammoth mountain
Endless views from the summit. | Image: Denise Sylvester
Chair 23 mammoth July 21 2023
First time riding up the legendary chair 23. | Image: Author
Summit at Mammoth Mountain under Panorama Gondola
Trying to imagine how ridiculously fun this would be on a powder day. | Image: Author
Side hit air time at mammoth
I spent a lot of time jumping around off this little side hit. | Image: Denise Sylvester
So much snow still
Still so much snow! | Image: Author
Hulk at mammoth mountain chair 23
So glad I spotted Hulk on chair 23. | Image: Author
Mammoth mountain shifty
Saw some young rippers and tried to follow suit. | Image: Denise Sylvester
Sprays and slush and smiles
Big smiles and sprays! | Image: Denise Sylvester
June Lake
From Mammoth right to June Lake. | Image: Author
Dip in June Lake
A very much needed cool off and chill out. | Image: Denise Sylvester
Tioga pass mountains still covered in snow
Picture what these mountains on Tioga Pass looked like for the last few months. | Image: Author
Waterfalls Tioga Pass
Nice cold shower, anyone? | Image: Author
Ellery Lake Tioga Pass
Ellery Lake. | Image: Author 

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