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    LGBTQ+ Welcoming Mammoth Lakes: Closer Than You Think

    By John Chen–

    I recently took a winter wonderland trip to Mammoth Lakes to frolic in, on, and around all the amazing fresh powder the Eastern Sierras received through mid-February. Although I have been to Mammoth Lakes several times, my visits centered around summer recreation on the lakes and the stunningly beautiful golden fall colors that canvas the foothills, the valleys, the lakesides and the canyons. This was my first foray into the snow.

    I grew up in Los Angeles, and most Southern Californians head either to nearby Big Bear Lake for a quickie, or to Mammoth Lakes for a far more extensive and immersive winter sports and recreation experience. Now, in my 25th year as a Bay Area resident, I’ve always wondered why most Northern Californians don’t think about going to Mammoth Lakes for a weekend getaway or even consider the destination during a long holiday weekend. Things that make you go hmmm … .

    Hey, come closer, I have a secret to share with you. From the Bay Area to Stockton, and cross the Sierra Nevada Mountains on California Hwy 88, I made it to Mammoth Lakes in less than six hours with a major pit stop for gas, snacks, and bathroom. That’s just a hair over the amount of time on heavily congested I-80 or U.S. Hwy 50 during peak hours to Lake Tahoe.

    Upon arrival, I went into the Mammoth Lakes Tourism and Recreation Office, where friendly, knowledgeable staff greeted me and were eager to help. Lara Kaylor, the Director of Communications, put a fun itinerary together for me that included skiing, snowboarding, tubing, snowmobiling, riding the gondola, après ski scene, as well as recommendations for breweries and distilleries, coffee shops, brunch, lunch, and an intimate dinner at the Lakefront Restaurant.

    Brian Wright, the Director of Marketing, took some time to be my personal tour guide around town, the lodges, natural hot springs, the frozen lakes, and up to the summit at just over 11,000 feet! Suffice it to say, my visit to Mammoth Lakes embraced a whirlwind of fun activities from sunrise to sundown to high moon.

    While in the Mammoth Lakes Tourism Office, I noticed various rainbow décor, and on the reception counter, there were stacks of rainbow Mammoth Lakes stickers. Since “inquiring minds wanna know,” I asked and Kaylor was frank, forthcoming, and explained, “Mammoth Lakes is very LGBTQ+ friendly and inclusive from our community members to our businesses. Our residents all drive Subbies (Subarus) and own dogs.” Kaylor and several Tourism staff chuckled and winked. “In fact, one of the biggest annual events we host is the Elevation Gay Ski Week in March. This year [2023], Elevation will be from March 15–19. Our community very much looks forward to this major celebration week every year!” 

    Wright added, “During Elevation you can see LGBTQ+ Pride affirmation signage everywhere in town. Our ski slopes are adorned with thousands of rainbow ski gear and all types of Pride accessories! Even our mascot, Wolly Mammoth, is ‘proudly’ dressed for the occasion. This March, we are looking at several thousand gay skiers, snowboarders, snow lovers, and people who just want to be here because they want to hang out and partake in après ski, [all the super fun events after a day on the slopes].” Wright continued, “Even if you can’t make Elevation, Mammoth has a lot to offer LGBTQ+ visitors in a safe, supportive, and welcoming environment.”

    Wright was right! Throughout my visit, Wright, who is an ally and was my personal guide, wore LGBTQ+ Pride accessories on his head, around his neck, and on his chest at restaurants, breweries, lodges, ski slopes, and around town. At a popular local breakfast and lunch joint, The Warming Hut, our waiter Rich Collins sat down next to me to take my order and without hesitation invited all my friends to visit him and try, “the Cuban, the Rueben and the Texan.”

    Wright concluded, “We are voted by USA Today just this year as one of the most welcoming destinations and the best ski town in California. We are also very accessible from the San Francisco Bay Area via a short flight. We have free shuttles that run from early mornings to late nights that transport visitors and their gears pretty much anywhere they want to go or whatever recreation they would like to do at Mammoth Lakes.”

    For more information on visiting Mammoth Lakes year-round, go to

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    Follow Mammoth Lakes on social media @VisitMammoth

    John Chen, a UCLA alumnus and an avid sports fan, has competed as well as coached tennis, volleyball, softball, and football teams.

    Published on March 9, 2023