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WEEKEND GETAWAY : When Snow Melts, Mammoth Doesn't

July 18, 1991|RON EGGERS | Ron Eggers is a free-lance writer who occasionally contributes to The Times Orange County Edition.

Most people think of Mammoth strictly as a winter destination. When the first snow falls, they head to the slopes.

The resort gets far fewer visitors during the summer, but it's making an effort to change that. To draw visitors to the area during the warmer months, the slopes have been turned into a mountain bike park.

This weekend is a particularly good time to try Mammoth as a summer destination because the 1991 World Cup National Mountain Bike championships are being held there. More than 7,000 spectators will be watching 1,500 bicyclists compete Thursday, July 18, through Sunday, July 21, in five categories.

The peaks of Mammoth extend above the 11,000-foot mark, and some of the more rugged terrain is difficult enough to handle on skis, nevermind bikes.

One grueling event in which endurance outweighs speed is the hill climb, which challenges riders to attack the slopes. There are also dual-challenge races and a cross-country event.

There's no cost to watch the competition, but there is a $7 fee ($3.50 for children) to ride up on the gondola.

The easiest event for spectators to follow is the Observed Trial competition. Held close to the base of the mountain, the trials provide the opportunity to see just how well riders can handle their bikes.

If you'd rather be riding than watching, you can sign up either in advance or, if there are still slots open, up to an hour before the heat, on the day of the race you want to compete in.

Many of the riders are avid cyclists, but there are both beginner and more advanced classifications in each event.

If you prefer not to compete but still want to get on a bike, you can pay a special $12 daily-use fee (normally $15) and ride to your heart's content. There are more than 50 miles of trails on the mountain, as well as a BMX area and a slalom course.

The area is also a great place to do the thing that people like to do most while on a getaway: relax. There are some 50 hotels, motels and lodges in the area, a number of good restaurants and enough stores to keep shopping enthusiasts busy.

You can get to Mammoth either by heading toward Las Vegas on Interstate 15, and then taking the Highway 395 cutoff in the high desert, or by taking one of the northbound freeways until it meets up with I-5, then following it out to Highway 14, past Lancaster/Palmdale, past Mojave, until it joins up with the 395. Then it's just a matter of continuing north for a great ride along the eastern Sierras.

For more information, call: Mammoth Lakes World Cup, P.O. Box 24, Mammoth Lakes, Calif. 93546. (619) 934-0651; Mammoth Lakes Visitors Bureau, P.O. Box 48, Mammoth Lakes, Calif. 93546. (800) 367-6572 or (619) 934-8006.

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