Anyone who loves to ski or snowboard knows that there's nothing cheap about spending a few days shredding on the slopes. Almost every ski town gets away with charging jacked-up resort prices like you would find at Disneyland or NFL games. A $13 can of Bud Light? Yikes! Mammoth Mountain, a true gem of a ski resort in the Eastern Sierras mountains of central California, is no exception.
Mammoth Mountain is considered one of the most premier ski resort towns in the US with over 3500 acres of skiable area, 28 lifts, and a top elevation of 11,053 feet. There are over 150 runs with the longest being somewhere around 3 miles.
The average price for a single-day lift ticket if purchased same-day on the mountain is $150, even if only part of the mountain is open. That and all the other costs of having fun in Mammoth can add up quickly.
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But there are some tricks to get the most out of a ski trip without totally breaking the bank. Here are some ideas that I hope you find helpful.
Buy lift tickets ahead of time
There are many deals to get you on the slopes at Mammoth for less money if you plan ahead. My first two fairly obvious ideas are to purchase passes on their website and get a four-pack of tickets at a discount, or go to Costco and get a discounted four-pack of tickets.
One of my favorite things to suggest is to check out Craigslist or one of the several Mammoth Facebook groups to see if anyone is trying to sell an extra lift ticket or two.
* Keep in mind that youth ticket pricing goes up to 22 years of age, not just 18. *
If you plan to visit Mammoth a few times for the season, I would strongly suggest getting their season pass. The most cost effective way is to purchase right when they go on sale the season before.
Not only will you save hundreds of dollars, but you get the awesome benefit of using it at the end of the current season. By doing that, you only need to ski 4 or 5 days to have it pay for itself.
Mammoth Mountains sister resort, June Mountain, which is just a short 30 minute drive north on the 395, offers kids to ski free everyday, which could save your family a ton of money. Despite this awesome perk, June is almost never busy, even weekends. The Mammoth season pass is good at June as well.
To save on lodging: skip holidays and weekends
Everything is more expensive in Mammoth on holidays and weekends, especially lodging. Expect to pay 3-5 times as much for a nights stay than if you visited during the week.
Two weeks ago (March 2017) we had a group of friends come up and stay in a condo for 3 nights from Thursday through Sunday and paid just under $1000 per night!
It turns out they split the cost between ten of them so it brought the cost down per person, but that goes to show what an average condo in town can rent for on the weekends. Note to self: purchase investment property in Mammoth one day.
Consider staying a little ways away from the slopes and drive to the mountain. I know it's awesome to just walk up to the village gondola, but you're going to pay extra for that convenience.
Check Craigslist for vacation rentals to avoid paying extra fees, or look into the few budget friendly hotels in town like Rodeway Inn, Motel 6, or Quality Inn. I recommend using HotelsCombined.com to find the best deal if you decide to go the motel route.
To get the absolute best deals if you have no choice other than to visit on a busy weekend, consider finding a vacation rental 14 miles away in picturesque Crowley Lake area, or 45 minutes away in Bishop. Usually it's warm enough in Bishop that you can go super-budg by camping and then driving up to the slopes. Lodging near June Mountain can be less expensive than Mammoth as well.
Pack a lunch and snacks for your ski breaks
This one is critical for me to make my time in Mammoth more affordable. I do not appreciate spending $10 on a simple yogurt with 1/4 cup of granola, or $13 on a can of Budweiser. This is where Mammoth really makes their money, and it's where family budgets go to die a painful death. Be smart, bring your lunch.
Rent equipment off site
Rather than wasting an hour of your morning in the crowded ski rental line at the mountain and missing all the sweet powder, find a rental shop in town and get your equipment the day before.
I have noticed that Rick's Sport Center has the cheapest rental prices in town. Get ski or board rentals for only $20, about half what you would spend on the mountain.
You can find Rick's on Main Street, next to Mammoth Liquor (boasting a selection of over 300 beers, it's a great place to stock up on beverages) right when you get into town.
Seek out Happy Hour deals
Mammoth is famous for their happy hours. Some places have a nightly happy hour, while others have specials certain nights of the week. Happy hour times are generally from 4pm-6pm, but can be anywhere in that time frame.
A few of our favorites are Slocums (every night but Sunday), Giovanni's (excellent chicken wings), Roberto's (yummy margaritas), Mammoth Tavern (half price wine and beer), and The Bistro inside the Snowcreek Athletic Club (sushi handrail and a beer for $6).
There are so many more than these, so pick up a visitor guide or ask around. These are just some of our favorites. Eating and drinking out in Mammoth is pricey, so we try to limit our outings to happy hour whenever we can.
Get off the slopes and into the wilderness
Why limit your outdoor experience in Mammoth to the expensive resort when there's over 3 million acres of wilderness to be explored?
I'm not saying that you should go off into the backcountry with no knowledge or survival equipment, because that's dumb.
What I'm suggesting is checking out some of the snow shoeing or cross-country skiing trails that the Mammoth Lakes area is also famous for.
You can rent snowshoes for $18 for a full-day, or $12 for a half-day at Foot Loose sports on the corner of Old Mammoth and Main Street.
There's no fee to use the trails, so this is a very budget-friendly option to occupy your time during one of your days.
Mammoth has a few amazing areas to explore on foot. For views of snowy peaks and frozen lakes, there is an easy access point to miles of trails on the left side of the Lake Mary Loop at the Tamarack Cross Country Ski Center. There are also flatter trails that wind through the towering trees in the Shady Rest area just behind the Mammoth Lakes Welcome Center as you enter town.
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