Surveying the sledding options along the 395 corridor
With daily lift tickets topping $180 at Mammoth Mountain, sledding has become the new “family sport” of the Eastern Sierra. The Eastside has terrain for every type of sledder, if you know where to look.
For the speed demon, there’s a popular hill along 395 between June Lake and Mammoth Lakes. You can’t miss the parade of parked cars on the west side of the highway that mark the spot.
This hill is the Super-G of sled runs. You’ll see 6-year-olds flying six feet in the air and losing both their boots on the landing. Derek Van from Los Angeles was one such daredevil. Wednesday was his first time on this hill, but he sledded with the reckless abandon of a veteran, or a mad man. He would hit two G’s of force, launch like the Challenger, land with what looked like a concussive blow, then pop right up and speak eloquently about his craft, while scrambling to get his boots back on.
“Bring grippy shoes,” Derek advised prospective sledders.
Much more worrisome are the flying parents, who are not as resilient to the falls.
Matthew Hetrick from Santa Barbara invented a cushioning device to protect his lumbar. Sledding with his wife Lesley, and kids Jamie and Malia, Matthew decided that one more run would break his tailbone right off, and so had to adapt. He put a folded blanket into the plastic sled and said the suspension was much improved. This was not the only trick he had up his sleeve, though.
His daughter Malia happily said, “My parents use me as a human shield!” Wise move, Matthew.
The wisest of all was Derek Moisant from Bishop, who brought his skis along with his four kids to the hill. “I haven’t skied in 10 years so I thought I’d break them out.”
On the quality of this hill in particular, he said, “There are no trees so its perfect. It beats anywhere but Woolly’s Tube Park.” (It is unknown if Moisant has skied Woolly’s Tube Park.)
Woolly’s is good, especially the lift, but the price is unreasonable. At $45 per sledder for an 1:15 hour session during the holidays, it just doesn’t make any sense when compared to free hills. Woolly’s also serves adult beverages, but the savvy sledder knows that the backcountry is BYOB.
For the powder hound, there are near limitless untracked options along the Mammoth Lakes Scenic Loop. Drive back there until you find a grove with low tree density and lay down fresh lines. Alternatively, there is a spot on the scenic loop about a half mile off of Minaret Road that can be even faster and steeper than the 395 spot. You’ll often find teenagers there risking life and limb for Instagram glory.
For the glade lover, there is a slalom route busted through the trees across Lake Mary Road from Mammoth Brewing Company. After you’ve worked up a nice beer blanket at MBC you can just walk across the street with your sled and hit a route that’s reminiscent of a slide at Six Flags Hurricane Harbor. It’s got sharp turns and steep drops, and its proximity to frothy pints makes it a local favorite.
(Above) Finley Allen holds onto her saucer.