Mammoth, California
Credit: Jed Jacobsohn / Getty Images

For an outsider, Mammoth Mountain Ski Area can be something of an enigma. The closest substantial mountain to the Greater Los Angeles area – and the go-to resort for B-listers (stars head to Park City) and Shaun White – is separate from other resorts in the Sierras, making it a bit of a hike for anyone not from SoCal. It's natural to wonder whether it's worth the hassle when you could just as easily head to Tahoe. It is.

At more than 11,000 feet, Mammoth is the biggest mountain in California, and it takes advantage of that size by offering fantastically varied terrain. World-class groomers give way to loose glades and forest trails lead toward aggressive verticals. Combine that with more than 400 inches of annual snowfall and 300 days of sunshine – it is the Golden State after all – and it's easy to understand why Mammoth finds itself on every "Best Mountain" list every year.

Even Mammoth's major handicaps - location, location, location - have been rendered almost moot. More flights into Mammoth Airport are now available, including nonstop shuttles from L.A., Las Vegas, and San Francisco. Whatever the town of Mammoth Lakes lacks in the way of lodging or excitement, Mammoth Village more than makes up for in rowdiness. Granted, it's not Aspen, but with all the mountain has to offer in the way of terrain, it doesn't need to be.