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Almost anywhere with snow on the ground offers opportunity for the cross country skier. Here are a couple of suggestions:

Hot Creek - (4.9 kilometers Round Trip) Beginner. This route follows the road into Hot Creek from the end of the plowing near the Hot Creek Ranch to the Hot Creek Geothermal Area. This route is shared by skiers, hikers, snowmobilers, and snowshoers. Conditions can be highly variable depending on the amount of snowpack present. Inquire at the Ranger Station for current conditions. Wilderness SnowShoers

Minaret Vista (4.9 kilometers Round Trip) Beginner. 'This route begins at the Mammoth Mountain Ski Area. Park in the ski area parking lot and take the shuttle to the main lodge. The route follows the upper portion of Highway 203 which is snow-covered in the winter. Follow the flat route located directly west of Chair 11 and adjacent to the entrance to the Mammoth Mountain Chalets. The first 1/4 mile of this route follows a ski trail where downhill skiers are descending, so stay to the side of this trail. The route is shared by walkers, snowmobiles, and a dog sled operation which takes people up to Minaret Vista. The view from the vista is impressive. The Minarets, Banner and Ritter Peaks, and the upper San Joaquin River drainage can be seen. The narrow, steep road beyond the vista descends 800 feet in the first 2.5 miles and crosses a major avalanche path. It should only be attempted by experienced winter travelers.

Cottonwood Lakes (13 miles ) Intermediate. This tour is a great introduction to backcountry ski touring, combining a high trailhead with very gentle terrain. Once in the Cottonwood Lakes Basin, the views are alpine and there are many opportunities for day tours and bowl skiing.

Sabrina Area (33 miles) Advanced. This tour begins at the spectacular Lake Sabrina. After skiing around the drained lakeshore, follow the Middle Fork of Bishop Creek as it climbs up benches to the beautiful Blue Lake. You even can link up with the main route by skiing over the low saddle to the west and dropping down the very steep slopes to Moonlight Lake.

Rock Creek Area (20 miles) Intermediate/Advanced. This canyon has long been considered the finest in the range for backcountry skiing. Treasure Lakes, at the base of Mt. Dade and Bear Creek Spire, is arguably the finest spring base camp location in the Sierra.

Located at the east side of the town of Mammoth Lakes, these 7.4 kilometers (4.5 miles) of trails weave through the forest over fairly level terrain, and offer easy and sheltered touring. These trails are marked with blue diamonds and junction signs placed in trees. In addition copies of this map are posted at each junction with 'you are here' markings. It is important to keep track of the blue diamonds as these trails turn on and off of campground roads. There are three loop trails, the A, B, and C.

The A Loop (4.1 kilometers - 2.5 miles) can be started at either the front of the Ranger Station (4.3 kilometers 2.6 miles)or at the Shady Rest Winter Trailhead. By using the A Trail Shortcut ( 3.0 kilometers 1.8 miles) the distance for this loop can be reduced by 40%.

The B Loop (1.5 kilometers - .9 miles) starts approximately 200 feet west of the winter closure point on the Sawmill Cutoff Road on a road accessing the Forest Service employee housing area.

The C Loop (1.7 kilometers - 1.1 miles)crosses the snow-covered Sawmill Road at two locations and connects the A Loop and B Loop.

All of the loops contain short steep sections which will challenge the novice beginner skier. The beginner can negotiate these sections by making wide traverses or by side stepping.

If you need to use the restroom, you will find them adjacent to the parking lot at the Shady Rest Campground or inside at the Ranger Station. Have fun and be safe and don't forget your smart winter safety tips.

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