A gondola ride away from the slopes: A review of the Westin Mammoth in California
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Spring break comes pretty early in Texas, which is usually good news for the years when we take a family ski trip. Early March is typically still a good time to catch some powder before things get too slushy, without having to brave the extreme cold of true winter skiing. This year, an early March spring break also meant that we were able to take our planned family vacation just before COVID-19 started to bring domestic travel to a halt. In fact, we got back home one day before things in the U.S. started to turn upside down.
While it had been on our travel wish list for a long time, this was our first trip to both the Westin Monache Resort Mammoth and to the city of Mammoth, which is relatively close to Yosemite National Park in eastern California, near the Nevada border.
Mammoth, located in the Sierra Mountains, is known for getting snow — and lots of it. Last ski season, the area got almost 500 inches of snow and the mountain was open for skiing and boarding well into the summer months. While the area’s snowfall has been under historic norms this year, Mammoth Mountain usually has snow, even when other relatively nearby resorts don’t fare as well.
The bad news on the booking front is that the Westin Mammoth is now a Marriott Category 7 property, up from a Category 6 before this year’s round of Marriott Bonvoy category changes. The hotel now costs between 50,000 and 70,000 Marriott points per night for a standard room, depending on the travel date. You can find some off-peak 50,000-point-per-night rooms during the off-season, which means you can use an annual certificate from the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card on those dates (worth up to 50,000 points). However, you won’t usually find that off-peak point price during the ski season.
During the ski season, expect rooms to cost 60,000 to 70,000 Marriott points per night.
But there is good news. The Westin Mammoth has multiple room types available for booking, starting with studio suites and going up to two-bedroom suites. We met up with family members who live in California for our stay and shared a two-bedroom suite booked with cash. The two-bedroom suite with a full kitchen and two full bathrooms cost between $400 and $500 per day for our spring break travel dates, but keep in mind that was the cost for two families, instead of just one. That was a much better overall deal than each spending 60k – 70k Marriott points per night for smaller studio rooms.
There’s also a $25 resort fee per night which includes a shuttle to and from the nearby Mammoth Yosemite airport, evening wine and hot chocolate in the lobby, valet parking, movie nights, yoga, WiFi and other perks. Unfortunately, the resort fee does not cover the use of the ski valet — though your Marriott Bonvoy elite status might.
The Westin Mammoth is about 15 minutes from the Mammoth Yosemite Airport (MMH) and sits directly across the street from the Village at Mammoth, which is a collection of shops, restaurants, a lift ticket office, the hotel’s ski valet and a free gondola. This gondola takes you directly to the base of the Canyon Lodge section of the Mammoth Ski Resort.
That means that the Westin Mammoth is not a ski-in and ski-out property. It is pretty easily accessible to the mountain, but there are 75 stairs that you need to take to go down to the village area. That’s not so bad, but it is a little brutal to haul back up the 75 steps at the end of the ski day.
Our family of four arrived at the small Mammoth airport on a Friday afternoon, and the hotel’s shuttle bus was already there and waiting. I didn’t actually notice the Westin Mammoth listed on the shuttle’s exterior, but there were plenty of friendly folks working in various capacities at the airport to ask for assistance, so it wasn’t hard to find where we needed to go.
About 15 minutes later, the shuttle pulled up to the base of the parking lot at the hotel (it oddly does not go all the way to the front door, perhaps due to the incline of the parking lot).
There was no line for check-in at the hotel and we were thrilled to learn that the two-bedroom suite was already ready for us. We were also invited to come back later in the evening for wine and hot chocolate in the lobby.
As we were already in a two-bedroom suite, there was no further upgrade to our room. We selected breakfast for two as the Marriott Platinum amenity, which turned out to be even better than expected.
Our two-bedroom suite at the Westin Mammoth was reminiscent in many ways of the two-bedroom suite we utilized with my parents at the Westin Princeville in Kauai. It was not an opulent suite, but it was quite a functional one.
When you first walk in, there’s a full kitchen with stocked utensils, pots, pans, cups, plates, soap and a dishwasher.
There’s a relatively large table for six in a space that leads into the living room.
The living room has a gas fireplace, pull-out sofa and mounted TV. This became the place for all the cousins to have the ultimate ski slumber party.
While closets and wall-mounted hooks may not sound exciting to you, on a ski trip with multiple people they are life. Thankfully, the suite had a full closet for storing gear off of the living room, along with hooks for hanging jackets and such.
The master bedroom had a king sized bed, dresser, its own good-sized closet and view of the gondola. As is always the case, the Westin bed was indeed Heavenly.
This was not a high-tech room by any stretch, so while there were enough outlets on the wall, there weren’t those fancy bedside lamp outlets you may find in more updated rooms.
Within the master bedroom was an en suite bathroom with both a separate tub and shower.
The second bedroom was located off the living room and featured a queen bed, small closet and similar, but smaller, features compared to the master bedroom.
The second full bathroom was not attached to the second bedroom, but was located off the main living area.
The two-bedroom suite also had a large patio with a gorgeous view that was spectacular at both sunrise and sunset.
While it was very functional, like many similarly-styled Westins (the Westin Whistler comes to mind), this suite is due for an upgrade. There were lots of nicks, stains and wear and tear that went beyond what you’d expect for a hotel that draws $500 – $1,000 per night and is in a very high Marriott award category tier.
We also had the opportunity to see a standard studio at the property, so I took some photos for those who would be booking into this base room type using points. (Long story, but short version is we had two rooms booked the first night … the suite and the studio.)
The king bedroom studio was the same style as the suite, but was housed all in one room. There was a small kitchen, the bed and a pull-out sofa in one shared space.
Food and beverage
The food and beverage offerings at the Westin Mammoth were pretty limited. Other than a very, very small selection of bottled drinks and a few packaged snacks in the lobby, there’s only either room service or the Whitebark Restaurant, Bar and Lounge.
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The website states that the on-site restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, though I’m pretty sure it was only open for breakfast and dinner on our visit.
We ate there for breakfast on all four mornings of our stay. Thanks to the Marriott Platinum breakfast card, our breakfast was 100% free each morning, other than the tip. Two adults are included for free with the breakfast card, and children also eat free with their parents under that offer.
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It seems that the restaurant recently converted from only offering set menu items to Marriott Platinum elites and above, to allowing any entree or the buffet, etc. at no additional charge.
As for the food itself — it was really, really good!
On the weekend, there was a small breakfast buffet set-up, presumably to help those who wanted to get to the mountain ASAP. There were also to-go boxes and to-go coffee cups in case you wanted to make your plate and retreat to your room.
The buffet items did not change from day to day, but included some tasty options: pancakes, bacon, potatoes, scrambled eggs, yogurt and granola. I’d have loved some fruit in the line-up, but for the price I paid, it was fantastic.
On days the mornings that the buffet was put away (and we weren’t in a big rush to get to a 9 a.m. ski lesson), the menu was an even better choice. You’ll find acai bowls, omelettes, smoothies, kids menu items such as pancakes on sticks and more.
The service varied from great to a little slow but still friendly, and it really was a treat to enjoy breakfast downstairs, complete with coffee and smoothies, each morning without owing anything beyond a tip.
We ordered room service one night and it arrived as scheduled within 30 to 40 minutes. The menu was pretty light and the food was pretty basic, but no one complained about the kid sliders and french fries. Josh’s steak wasn’t award-winning, but it was edible.
If you can, you may be better served just heading across the street for more food variety and/or ordering some pizza.
For what it’s worth, we really enjoyed Shelter Distilling in the Village for both food and drinks (kids are welcome). Gomez’s Mexican Food was also a good choice.
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We stayed at the Westin Mammoth because it was close to skiing, and we skied as much as we could while we were there. That means that we cared very little about what else the hotel had to offer — other than the hot tub, of course.
First things first, let’s talk about skiing and boarding. Once you get down those 75 previously mentioned stairs and cross the street, you’re in the village where you can visit the hotel’s ski valet, located right below the gondola.
The ski valet is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily and there is a $10 fee per day, per room to store your skis, boards and boots overnight. However, the fee is waived if you have any level of Marriott elite status, which you can get by having any of the Marriott co-branded credit cards, including the no-annual-fee Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card.
It’s a little weird to have a resort fee plus a ski valet fee, but we didn’t have to pay it so I didn’t waste too much thought on it.
A quick elevator ride up from the ski valet and you are at a free gondola that will take you the eight minutes or so over the to the Canyons base area. We never had any wait on either side of the gondola, despite going back and forth at peak times of the day.
When booking any lessons at Mammoth, keep in mind that this canyons area will be the easiest to access when staying at the Westin, so pick that option over the other base areas.
We were able to meet our four-year-old’s ski instructor about 50 yards away from exiting the gondola, which made for very simple mornings. (And for what it’s worth — this ski instructor got my young kiddo actually skiing in just one day!)
Pool and hot tub
The pool at the Westin Mammoth is heated to a level warm enough for kids to happily jump in during the winter, though adults were more frequently found enjoying apres ski in the hot tub. While the resort has two outdoor hot tubs, only one was functional during our four-night stay.
There were crowds during the evenings at the hot tub, but it wasn’t uncomfortably full during our stay.
Near the exit to the pool area is a gym with a small variety of equipment available to use if you don’t get your fill of movement on the slopes.
If you’d like a warm beverage, each morning you’ll find coffee in the lobby, and each afternoon you’ll find hot chocolate.
There is a kids club on site, though it never seemed open when we would go by during our stay. (Keep in mind that our trip was when hotels were starting to make COVID-19 adjustments, so I don’t know if that was a factor.) The posted hours were from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. daily for children 4 to 12 years old at a rate of $10 per child, per hour.
Also on offer at no additional charge at the Westin Mammoth on select days are afternoon and early evening yoga classes and weekend family movie nights. The movies are shown at 6 p.m. and include free popcorn.
The Westin Monache Resort at Mammoth is not a fancy resort, but it can make for a good base camp for a family ski trip to Mammoth. I’m pleased with the price we paid for a ski season stay to get a true two-bedroom suite in return. However, I think that the resort is in an inflated category as a Marriott Category 7 hotel. This is especially true given the fact that it’s due for an upgrade. The room looked a bit dated and had noticeable wear and tear, but it wasn’t just the rooms that factored into this feeling.
For the duration of our four-night stay, only one of the hotel’s two guest elevators worked. This means that they were routing guests through the staff storage areas to the staff elevators, which definitely weren’t made for guest use. It would be understandable if this happened for a day or two, but it went on the whole time and repeat guests told us this was common on their previous stays, too.
Minor inconveniences and needed upgrades aside, we had a fun time. The best trips for us right now are the ones where family or friends can all get together, and this hotel made that possible while keeping the slopes and restaurants easily accessible.
Our stay happened at an odd time as the world was getting ready to enter a period of isolation and self-quarantine, and that has made us appreciate even more getting this family adventure in our memory banks.
The Westin Mammoth is not my all-time favorite ski-friendly resort, but I would return if a future ski trip to Mammoth is in my family’s cards.
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