24 Jan 2023
You’ve probably been hearing a lot about how much snow has fallen in the Eastern Sierra during the last few months. And it’s made for the perfect conditions for snowboarding, skiing, and other winter sports! But, if you’re considering a trip up to the mountains, it’s important to know how to stay safe during your visit.
Take a look at these 9 winter safety tips so that your next trip to Mammoth is fun and carefree!
#1: Keep your phone fully charged
Anytime you’re traveling, having a fully-charged cell phone is a must. But this is especially true in areas with extreme weather like the Eastern Sierra. You definitely don’t want to be stranded without your phone if your car gets a flat tire on the 395 or you’ve been separated from your friends during a day of snowboarding.
Make sure to bring along a portable battery pack and put your phone on battery-saving mode while you’re here.
#2: Download maps in advance
Whether you’re road tripping to Mammoth or relying on your GPS to get around while you’re here, it’s always a good idea to download maps before you arrive. This will prevent you from getting lost if you experience issues with your cell service.
Having your maps downloaded on your phone ahead of time will also help you conserve battery.
#3: Always tell someone where you’re going
If you’re driving up to Mammoth, make sure to share your route with friends or family back home. Let them know your progress and always tell them when you’ve successfully arrived. Your emergency contact should know to get in touch with local law enforcement in the case that you stop contacting them. This will help them act quickly to send out a rescue team in the case that you’ve gotten lost or stranded in the snow.
When you’re in town, it’s also a good idea to stay in frequent contact with other people in your group. Spontaneity is a wonderful part of traveling. But, when it comes to staying safe in winter, it’s a good idea to keep everyone in the loop about where you’re going and when they can expect you back at the condo.
#4: Stick to the groomed slopes
Mammoth Mountain is a world-class ski resort. So you know that it’s got some amazing slopes and freestyle parks to enjoy. The demarcated zones of the ski area also have the advantage of being easily accessible by rescue teams in the case of an emergency.
So, if you really want to stay safe while skiing and snowboarding, stick to the groomed slopes.
#5: Or find yourself a backcountry guide
Now, there are some people who prefer backcountry skiing and snowboarding. And there are some fantastic benefits of exploring Eastern Sierra slopes outside of the ski area. But our winter safety tip for anyone interested in backcountry sports is to do it with a guide.
Businesses like Sierra Mountain Guides and International Alpine Guides specialize in teaching folks how to navigate the backcountry safely. When you sign up for a guided tour, you’ll learn where the best backcountry skiing is as well as how to use crucial avalanche safety equipment.
#6: Drink lots of water
The Eastern Sierra has what’s called a Dsb climate, or “warm, dry-summer continental climate.” This is what gives us our wonderfully mild summers and heavy snowfall winters. It’s also what makes our area so darn dry!
If you’ve never experienced our unique mountain air, one thing you’ll notice is that it’s quite dehydrating. Along with the effects of high altitude, you might find yourself experiencing headaches, dry eyes, itchy skin, brain fog, and cracked lips. And while some of these symptoms are simply irritating, others can be potentially life-threatening if you find yourself in an extreme weather event. So, make sure to drink plenty of water while you’re here.
#7: Wear appropriate clothing
It’s no surprise that Mammoth Lakes is cold. So, you’re probably already planning on packing a big parka, plenty of long underwear, and a few pairs of snow gloves.
But you’ll also notice that we keep our restaurants, condo complexes, stores, and other indoor areas quite toasty! So, you might be tempted to dress down when you’re planning on going to dinner, making a Vons run, or even stepping out to use the hottub.
We would say, no matter where you plan on going, always carry a few extra layers just in case. You never know when you’re going to have to dig your car out of a snowbank, call the emergency line because you got locked out of your condo, or help someone else whose car has gone off the road.
#8: Be bear aware, even in winter
Contrary to popular belief, bears don’t sleep through the entire winter. While their heart and breathing rates fall dramatically and they can go up to 100 days without eating or drinking, they’re not in a coma-like state. In fact, bears typically wake up more easily than other hibernators and may leave their den if they sense danger. This could be anything from a human venturing too close to their den site or a natural occurrence like an avalanche that shakes them out of sleep.
For this reason, it’s important to practice bear safety even in winter. Don’t leave food in your car and always close and latch trash bins around town. If you do see a bear out of season, give it a wide berth. You can assume it has woken up from its long winter nap in a bad mood.
#9: Brush up on winter driving tips
Here in the Eastern Sierra, we’ve got a great team of snow removal experts who work around the clock to keep the roads clear. Even so, driving in winter is a true challenge.
We have a full article dedicated to the basics of safe winter driving, so make sure to take a look before you get behind the wheel. And, as you’re learning how to navigate snowy roads, remember to go slow, follow normal driving laws, and heed chain controls. If you’re not a confident driver in the snow, don’t forget that Mammoth has an excellent and free public transit system.
When in doubt, ask for help!
The truth is, we locals are a wealth of knowledge when it comes to living in harsh winter conditions. If you’re not sure how to get around town, the latest on chain controls, and other important safety information, don’t hesitate to ask! We want you to have a stress-free, safe trip to Mammoth Lakes.
Planning a mountain getaway? Check out our Mammoth Resorts to find the perfect stay.