Mammoth Mountain, Re-Riding The Original

Sep 23, 2011
by Ryan Cleek  
It’s a very good time to be a mountain biker. Scores of ski resorts are opening bike parks each summer, and in return bike manufacturers are producing more long-travel offerings accessible to riders of all budgets.

During this time of bike park expansion lets not overlook the “O.G.” of lift-access riding, Mammoth Mountain. In mountain bike lore, this sleepy volcano in Mammoth Lakes, California, is home to some of the most dynamic, famous (and infamous) terrain the sport has ever known. First open to riders in 1985, Mammoth has hosted numerous National Championship events, the Reebok Eliminator series, and the notorious Kamikaze downhill, where racers reach speeds over 60 miles per hour while descending over three miles of fire road. In recent years, Mammoth has reinvested and enhanced in their mountain bike terrain, and now have an extensive network of trails for bikes of all kinds and riders of all abilities.

The main lodge gondola and resident pachyderm.


I’ve been riding and racing at Mammoth since the late 1990s, and during my recent trip I took full advantage of the new spread by spending a day riding my 150-millimeter-travel trail bike on the flowing cross-country terrain, followed by two days on the big bike in the legendary downhill park. I hadn’t ridden Mammoth in the summertime since 2009, and the first thing I noticed about the park was how well trails like Recoil, Velocity and Twilight Zone flowed perfectly together. The terrain seamlessly joins up for full-blown, top-to-bottom runs with every park feature you can imagine. Those familiar with the Mammoth terrain will be happy to know favorites like Bullet and Techno Rock are still firing and keeping you on your toes.

Mammoth Mountain is incredibly vast. This view shows a fraction of the terrain.


Built For Fun. Built To Last.
As the original bike park, Mammoth Mountain was initially geared towards cross-country riding, and over time the trail crew has worked hard to advance the terrain to appeal to the progression of riders and bike technology. Recent trail enhancements include modern features, such as wall rides, wooden and metal jumps, and ladder bridges; yet, the most obvious of them all would be the numerous paver stones and recycled chairlift sheaves (rings that look like boxcar wheels) intentionally placed to give consistency and sustainability to the notoriously loose and unpredictable pumice landscape.

The entrance to Velocity gives riders a glimpse what is ahead. Specialized's Suspension and Product Developer Matt Cipes joined me on the Mammoth trip, and charges into view.


“We’ve put over $60,000 in trail improvements over the past two years,” says Mammoth Mountain Bike Park Manager Mark Hendrickson. “In that time we’ve put in 12 wooden features and 70 tons of paver stone. Plus, this summer alone we’ve put in an additional 140 tons of paver stone. We have the loosest dirt in the world, so the goal is to create sustainable terrain, so whether someone comes to ride in June or September they get the same feeling from the lips of jumps and berms.”

No lunar landing, rather the jump-filled Recoil trail.


A trail called Pipeline takes an out-of-the-box approach to bike park development. It boasts a 155-foot boardwalk to step-down jump, several tabletops, plus six metal, freestyle motocross-style kickers, each painted blue or black based on difficulty and size—with black jumps requiring mandatory flight. Pipeline was designed to push the limits of what riders are used to seeing in parks around the world, and some terrain features were installed with guidance of Red Bull Rampage and Crankworx Slopestyle champion, Cam Zink.

A glimpse into the immense cross-country terrain.


Dan Brisbin of San Luis Obispo, California, launches a ladder bridge before entering Jill's Jumps.


In a sport that’s evolving hand-over-fist with technology, Mammoth isn’t a wallflower on the sideline of progression. With every dollar invested, or pile of dirt shoveled, they’re improving the unbelievable vast terrain of the existing park, but also modernizing the trails to offer riders different riding experiences.

“It’s one thing to build trail features,” explains Hendrickson. “But, you have to incorporate and consider the feeling the trail is supposed to provide. How does a jump or berm work with the rest of the rail? Would a section be better with a hip or something different to create the roller coaster flow? That’s what we’re about, putting the effort in to make the concepts work together.”

Send it.

The application of Hendrickson’s concept is no more evident than on Mammoth’s newest trail jewel - Twilight Zone. Built from dirt that can only be found in Mammoth Lakes, California, there may not be a trail quite like Twilight Zone anywhere in the world. The twisted volcanic lovechild of a skatepark and dual slalom track, Twilight Zone is chock-full of paver stones and sheaves, and winds through a section of woods too loose and deep with pumice to ever be developed for a trail before the implementation of the sustainability and consistency initiatives.

Free shuttles run from Mammoth Village to the gondola.


Notable New Terrain
When it comes to marquee trails in Mammoth Bike Park the classics like Bullet and Chain Smoke are must-rides, but several new trails like Twilight Zone, Recoil, and Jill’s Jumps truly capture the roller coaster effect Henderson and his crew worked to create.

Keeping speed and riding high.


For as dynamic as the Mammoth terrain is for experienced riders, beginners interested in trying mountain biking or families looking for some outdoor adventure don’t have much desire to enter the Twilight Zone. Therefore, this year the Mammoth trail crew enhanced their Down Town beginner trail, by making it wider and more newbie friendly and enjoyable for first-timers.

XC trail on Mammoth Mtn

From downhill to cross-country, the Mammoth terrain is unlike anywhere in the world.


Future Events
The Mammoth crew is working to host some mountain bike events in the summer of 2012. They’re looking to host a freeride and slopestyle contest, but also a cycling oriented festival that will incorporate both road and mountain biking to celebrate their long heritage of both disciplines. To keep up with Mammoth’s latest events look for them on Facebook.

The pop from a high-speed berm.


Catch The Mammoth Drift
“We look at our mountain like it’s this gorgeous, gigantic Victorian home,” said Hendrickson. “And, like an older mansion, we knew it was amazing, but could be even better if we put in a lot of hard work on new floors, windows and landscaping. We’ve invested a lot of time and money to make our house as good as we know it can be.

Paver stones help riders maintain speed and give jumps and berms consistency.


“In the past, we tried to make all of the trails great; now we’re enhancing them to make them cool and just more fun. Come on, anywhere you get to ride a chairlift up with your bike and ride down is basically the greatest thing in the world! There are a lot of awesome places to ride: Whistler has an amazing park with Velcro-like dirt, Moab has the famous slick rock; yet, come to Mammoth and experience the home of the two wheel drift!”


Location: Mammoth Lakes, California
Get there: Sixty minute flights are now available on United Airlines from L.A., San Jose, and San Francisco to Mammoth Lakes Airport. By car, Mammoth Mountain is about 320 miles from L.A. and San Francisco, and 310 miles from Las Vegas.
Season: July to October
Number of trails: 40
Vertical drop: 3,100 feet
Must-ride trail: Twilight Zone
Can’t-miss event: Mammoth Festival of Beers and Blues
Bike and gear rental: A full day aboard a Rocky Mountain Flatline and protective gear is $168.
Website: Mammoth Mountain Bike Park

Words and images by Ryan Cleek



Additional Press from Mammoth Resort:

Brian Lopes
Aaron Gwin


70 Comments

  • 20 1
 Pinkbike needs to add "Mammoth Mountain" to the Bike Park photo gallery category.
  • 1 0
 mammoth was sick this year it will be soo much better when they get the dirt better it just needs a little more jumps in it and kamikaze to shock treatment is so fun
  • 1 0
 i went this summer.... soo legit, if u wanna get really good fast, get up there cus the loose dirt and the rock sections and what not will get u good, and its just super chiller
  • 7 0
 My father took me and my brothers to mamoth in '88 or '89 I believe. Fully rigid rock hoppers raging on Kamakazi (We probably didn't go above 20mhp, but it felt like 60). It was the first time I heard someone talking about "motorcycle forks on a mountain bike." Mountain biking has come a long way!
  • 2 0
 respect.
  • 4 0
 And it's so close to bishop which is a must see town, such good markets, bakeries, and butchers! Oh and mule days... Google it.
  • 2 0
 Are there still any old school lines there? Maybe for my 40th (OMG) birthday next year I'll throw together an retro machine with RS1s and buy some lycra......well maybe not the lycra, but it'd be pretty rad to rip down a big mountain with 2" of crap travel and cantilever brakes again.
  • 1 0
 i miss the west coast mammoth is amazingi just hate the dusty dirt thats maby a reason for the paver stones. u cant replicate the dirt u get in the mtns of western NC where i live now but there is bearly any lift acess when these mtn out this way start hopping on the mtn bike scene they would be rackin in some cash,id give anything to have lift acess out this way.
  • 2 0
 im pretty sure the sierra nevadas beat out NC any day. and i love that trail of dust that follows behind, such an awesome feeling.
  • 5 3
 I'm surpeised there was no mention of the old Kamikaze run. It was one of the big DH events back in the begining, with top names like Missy Giove, and Greg Herbold ( also known as H-Ball )... ah, the good ole days.
  • 21 0
 "and the notorious Kamikaze downhill, where racers reach speeds over 60 miles per hour while descending over three miles of fire road"
  • 7 0
 durp durp...
  • 5 0
 Whoops!!! Missed that!
  • 1 0
 speeds over 60??????????????? that blows my mind.
  • 2 0
 ^^ speeds over 60 - and that was when bikes were rigid dude.... they've reached higher speeds now. i had a computer on my trek fuel ex 9 and even on that i topped out at 52. it is a pretty wide fire road and there are some hips and transfers you can incorporate in the hillside but going 40+ for most riders over 5 inch washboards is a bit tricky. and it's slippery as f*ck so you can feel your front tire wash out sometimes.
  • 1 0
 No shit. I'm an East Coast kid, so I honestly can't even comprehend the scale of those mountains. Sounds and looks pretty damn amazing though.
  • 1 0
 Read the article next time.
  • 1 0
 The top recorded speed on the Kamikaze, set by a Team Yeti racer, was 68mph!!
  • 2 0
 Go ride it before you complain about pavers. At mammoth it's a necessity. They don't have real dirt in Mammoth, most of it is kitty litter... go into your bathroom where you keep the KL box and see if you can pack it down Smile
  • 3 2
 Wonderful place, amazing scenery but paver stones? I had to check again if it's about a mountain bike park - I feel so old fashioned... I mean just the idea of crashing on these... whatever
  • 2 0
 Second that. Looks like Volkswagen factory test track.
  • 8 0
 Paving stones are a necessary evil, depending on soil conditions. I a place like mamoth, where the dirt is essentially stone dust, trails would be beat to crap in no time. So, using paver stones in, and leading into, the berms, helps keep the trails in good shape, minimizing the cost of ongoing trail maintenance, as well as keeping the trail nice and smooth for shredding. Even places like Whistler, which actually does have good soil, uses paver stones on certain section of their trails.
  • 2 0
 yah, but those pavers roll so fast. Smile There is a trail system near here that has paved hills. They roll scary fast.
  • 3 4
 Pavers suck, i'd take a blown out berm over a paver berm anyday... Pavers get slippery when they're dusty. I fell on a paver berm and broke my finger horribly...
  • 1 0
 And pavers arent as bad as everyone thinks, i almost like them better than normal berms now, they just flow alost better in trails
  • 4 0
 I rode Mammoth for the first time and was stoked at how much better it was than Northstar. Absolutely loved the pavers, so fun! They are probably the reason why I’m planning my second trip. Mammoth, keep up the good work and please build more paver features.
  • 2 0
 I can only say that you can choose to ride these or not, any lift owner and trail builder deserves certain level of respect for what he is doing. Lots of work has been put into doing these, thumbs up for you. Bike parks in general leave a big question mark i my head, whether MTB does any good to the environment (huh one might think: more of us use it, along with hikers. the more will come to defend it if some corporate fkr will reach his hand for it). Anyways I prefer those who sht on eco thoughts to stick to bikeparks and riding such stuff rather than ruin nature building hundreds of bad local trails all over - or even worse get on a MX or Enduro motorbike.

I do MTB because I like to be in nature, I like natural trails, sure having a blast in a bikepark is great sometimes but still, when I'm in BPs I prefer riding a natural, worn off track with break bumps and washed out corners, rather than rolling on this kind of stuff.

And Nobble, my first thought was: sht that must be terrible to crash on it, second thought - fk especially for fingers... heal up man!
  • 2 1
 Even whistler has pavers. It is necessary on some trails due to traffic and soil. Get used to it.
  • 1 0
 Sometimes yes, but i feel their use should be mininized rather than maximized...
  • 1 0
 True, but in the middle of a ski run, they will not put in the effort to build a huge berm every year, that will get destroyed every winter. Just makes sense when you look at mammoth, or aline at whistler.
  • 2 1
 pavers are not a part of mtb ing. never have , never will be . pavers make no sense what so ever.none. i love mammoth, hate pavers.
  • 5 0
 Just don't wreck on the pavers....guy went down in front of me coming down A-line this year and it was like a human sized cheese grater.
  • 1 0
 At stacykohut:

Obviously, natural dirt is preferable. But this doesn't change the fact the pavers do have a place. In high traffic locations with poor soil conditions, pavers are an excellent way to reduce trail damage and minimize the amount of trail maintenance.

Of course, they do need to be used correctly. Given the photo in the article, and the stats on paving stone usage (total of 210 tonnes?), the use of pavers at Mammoth does seem like it might be excessive.
  • 2 0
 Waki and others,
Pavers help a trail a ton, they are a necessary part to Mammoth mtn based on the soil type. Come ride those trails and you will see. But what the article failed to mention was the numerous other trails the mtn offers without a single paver: Timber Ridge, Juniper, Follow Me, Bullet, Chain Smoke are all proper DH or x-country trails that have no pavers because they arent necessary.
  • 1 0
 I remember seeing Mammoth in Sprung 5. The trail they were racing there was about as far from paving as you could get, it was like a dusty boulder field.
  • 1 0
 whoever is complaining about pavers is basically complaining about these uber popular A-line type crazy smooth jump trails that have 6 bajillion riders go over them every year. You cant always have those kinds of trails without this kind of work. Not all dirt sticks together well. People who are complaining about the pavers have never built any high use trails.
  • 1 0
 LOL

Livewire, the most popular trail at northstar is an "a-line type jump trail"


Guess what, no pavers...
  • 1 0
 Actually, the first jump on livewire, right next to the lift has pavers in the landing. Or maybe that is just a trail you have to take to get to livewire? I'm not sure only ridden there once. That being said, when I was there in July, most the berms were garbage, and don't they use a sprinkler to try to keep stuff from falling apart? Can't do that everywhere....
  • 1 0
 Thanks knife you get my point. Mammoth is definitely not a wet mountain.
  • 3 1
 Mammoth is soooooo sick! Especially for the one-off type of terrain it has. If you can ride the pumice you can ride anything...
  • 1 0
 I have been going to Mammoth for almost 6 summers now, and they have stepped up their game this year. All the trails flow and the pavers are a big part of that. Now that got Aaron Gwin as a part of their mountain, watch out.
  • 1 0
 Looks like fun can't wait to get up there!!! I heard Mike Montgomery was postponing his record jumps? any truth to that? I know he is up there this weekend though? Sorry for the derail
  • 1 1
 Pretty cool article, but there are a bunch of misleading/ wrong stuff in the article.
*First the photo that says"Mammoth Mountain is incredibly vast. This view shows a fraction of the terrain." 99% of the terrain you see in that photo is wilderness, which means no bikes allowed.
*Second the photo that says "A glimpse into the immense cross-country terrain." In that photo there is one mountain bike trail, it goes around the lake on the right. The rest is paved or wilderness
*Third the photo that says"Free shuttles run from Mammoth Village to the gondola." The shuttles aren't free, you have to have a trail pass to load your bike on that shuttle, although it is free for hikers to use, but NOT for bikers"
*They also quote "this year the Mammoth trail crew enhanced their Down Town beginner trail, by making it wider and more newbie friendly and enjoyable for first-timers." They actually took an epic singletrack, with blownout hammered turns and took a bobcat tractor and widened the whole thing, put in 3 or 4 paver turns and called it good. IMO the trail was destroyed, it is so dam bumpy that you better have a full suspension bike, but flat enough that you dont want a full suspension.
Take my opinion however you want, but I live in Mammoth, rode the park a bunch this summer, and have ridden over 12 bike parks in the USA and Canada.
  • 2 0
 "The home of the two wheel drift!"

Now that's marketing that appeals to me!
  • 2 0
 What happened to mike montgomery going for world record distance and backflip at mammouth mt?
  • 1 0
 It's this weekend!
  • 2 0
 Pavers suck (to crash on). Pavers are necessary (for some soil conditions). Both true statements.
  • 1 0
 Correct me if i'm wrong, but i thought Northstar has been around longer as a bike park?

I need to visit mammoth though...
  • 1 0
 Absolutely ove the place. The pavers are a great idea. The place would blow out if they did not have them
  • 1 0
 first time i haven't taken a trip to mammoth in the summer in probably 4 years, I wish i went this year!
  • 1 0
 Yeah Cleek! Great work! I am going to have to get down there one of these days.
  • 1 0
 you and me both!
  • 2 0
 I love mammoth
  • 1 0
 Definitely on my to-do list before I carc it, looks awesome!
  • 1 0
 Mammoth is freakin' awesome! I wish i could've gone this year..
  • 2 0
 I WANT A BIKEPARK!!!!
  • 1 0
 I want Ireland to have a bikepark too, that'd be so sick.
  • 2 0
 Were meant to be getting a UCI standard track down the south thats meant to host European champs in 2013/2014 but not sure whats going on!
  • 1 0
 Mammoth is on my places to ride next year.
  • 2 0
 mammoth is the best
  • 1 0
 Best experience ever!!!!!!!!!!!
  • 1 0
 dope
  • 5 0
 Great review! Thanks mammy for delivering the budget this year! Next weekend will be my 4th trip this season...the pavers are well placed and create insane flow. California and colorado resorts stepping it up!
  • 2 0
 Glad it's getting better. "the notoriously loose and unpredictable pumice landscape" is fun-ish, but not 5 hour drive fun. Keep building it better, and people will come.
  • 1 0
 this place looks epic
  • 1 0
 Love that place!
  • 1 1
 If China now still do not have such professional venues and facilities.
  • 1 0
 Great write up Ryan!

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