Image: Mammoth Mountain
Mammoth Mountains via AP file
Mammoth Mountain ski area opened its first luxury hotel, the Westin Monache Resort, at the base of the mountain in Mammoth Lakes, Calif.
By Charles Leocha Travel columnist
updated 1/9/2008 2:38:25 PM ET 2008-01-09T19:38:25

Mammoth Mountain, already one of North America's largest and most-visited ski and snowboard areas, took its first steps into the category of true destination resort last month with the opening of the Westin Monache Resort in Mammoth Lakes, at the base of the mountain. The full-service hotel gives the mountain a toehold in the world of such luxury ski resorts as Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Sun Valley, Idaho, Whistler-Blackcomb, British Columbia, and Vail, Colorado.

In terms of natural endowments, Mammoth has everything it takes to be one of North America's premier resorts. Tucked into the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains (south of Reno and northeast of Los Angeles), the mountain averages 32 feet of snowfall per year. The terrain covers 3,500 acres with a vertical drop of 3,100 feet, and California sunshine fills the skies 300 days a year. Mammoth regularly ranks among the top 10 ski resorts when rated by leading snow-sports magazines and top Web sites. The new hotel begins to fill out Mammoth's resort résumé by offering top-notch services.

Until the opening of the Westin Monache, Mammoth Mountain was anchored by the rambling Mammoth Mountain Inn, which is at the upper base lodge of the resort. Despite continual upgrades, the inn still has the atmosphere of a 1960s ski lodge — funky and down-to-earth.

Over the past few years, development has been focused at the lower mountain, where trails wander into the outskirts of the town of Mammoth Lakes. The principal development, the Village at Mammoth, provided more luxurious condominiums, new dining options, nearby après-ski, convenient equipment rentals and additional shopping venues. More importantly, the developers built a 15-person gondola that gave visitors staying in the condos, motels and hotels of Mammoth Lakes easy access to the mountain. No more driving up the winding mountain road to the main base lodge.

The Westin Monache Resort, which opened in November 2007, is now welcoming its first winter vacationers with a level of service never before available in the Mammoth Lakes region. Guests will be whisked from the hotel front door to the gondola rising from the Village at Mammoth. They will enjoy 24-hour room service, a ski valet, an on-site rental shop, pool, hot tubs, fitness facilities and underground parking.

The stunning mountain and village views from the deluxe, one- and two-bedroom suites are magical. Guests are pampered with Westin's signature "Heavenly Beds," plush bathrobes, 32-inch flat-screen TVs, slate floors and gas fireplaces. For those who can't quite leave all work behind, there is a business center and full Internet connection —both Wi-Fi and hardwired. Families can enjoy the Westin Kids Club for children ages 4 to 12, where daily kids' programs allow parents to enjoy a day on the slopes.

Tables at the Whitebark Restaurant, just off the main lobby, surround an open fire burning playfully; huge glass windows bring nature almost to your table. Diners can also sit around cooking stations where cooks grill steaks, sauté fish and mingle ingredients as the restaurant's exquisite dishes are created. Executive Chef Brandon Brocia's menu mirrors his belief that diners should have many choices. For starters, he offers the opportunity to select a personal combination of three tastes and textures from a list of many. Entrees cooked tajine-style in a Moroccan clay dish provide a unique, unexpected presentation and steamy blend of flavors.

With this luxury property and the continuing development of the region's resort amenities, Mammoth now needs only regularly scheduled air service to launch the resort into the big time. Rumors are swirling that the first air agreement will be nailed down in time for next season. Until then, most visitors to Mammoth will drive from Southern California, where the mega-metropolitan areas of Los Angeles and San Diego provide a pool of millions of skiers and snowboarders. The easiest airport access for the rest of the country is through Reno International Airport, about three hours and 165 miles to the north.

For reservations and additional information contact the Westin Monache Resort, telephone 888-627-8154.


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