It's a 6-hour drive from San Francisco via Hwy. 120 over the Tioga Pass in Yosemite (closed in winter); 5 hours north of Los Angeles via Hwy. 14 and U.S. 395; and 3 hours south of Reno, Nevada, via U.S. 395. In winter, Mammoth is accessible via U.S. 395 from the north or the south.
Mammoth Air Charter (tel. 888/934-4279) offers charter flights to the area. It services Mammoth Lakes Airport on U.S. 395. As of late 2009, Alaska Airlines (tel. 800/252-7522; www.alaskaair.com) operates daily flights into the airport from Los Angeles -- nonstop twice daily during the winter, once daily during the summer. During winter months Alaska Airlines offers nonstop daily flights from San Jose and direct from Portland, Oregon. United Airlines (800/864-8331; www.united.com) has daily nonstop flights from San Francisco. Even better, you'll receive a free lift ticket the day you fly with presentation of your boarding pass at the ski resort. Flights operate from mid-December to mid-April. The closest international airport is Reno-Tahoe Airport (tel. 775/328-6400).
Contact the Mammoth Lakes Tourism, 2510 Main St./Hwy. 203 (P.O. Box 48), Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546 (tel. 888/466-2666 or 760/934-2712; www.visitmammoth.com).
Winter driving in the Sierra
Winter driving in the Sierra Nevada Range can be dangerous. The most hazardous roads are often closed, but others are negotiable only by vehicles with four-wheel-drive or tire chains. Be prepared for sudden blizzards, and protect yourself by taking these important precautions:
- Check road conditions before you set out by calling tel. 800/427-7623.
- Let the rental-car company know you're planning to drive in snow, and ask whether the antifreeze is prepared for cold climates.
- Make sure your heater and defroster work.
- Always carry chains. In a blizzard, the police will not allow vehicles without chains on some highways. If you don't know how to put them on, you'll have to pay about $40 to have someone "chain up" your car at the side of the road.
- In your trunk, stow an ice scraper, a small shovel, sand or burlap for traction if you get stuck, warm blankets, and an extra car key (motorists often lock their keys in the car while chaining up).
- Don't think winter ends in March. Snow can pile up high as late as April on the sides of the roads leading to the valley, and cold temperatures make additional snowfall more than plausible.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.