Sierra Nevada Resort, Beloved by the Rat Pack, Gets a New Look

The hotel has been a Mammoth mainstay for over five decades, but a recent renovation hopes to entice people for more than history

February 7, 2023 7:22 am
Bears from the resort's vintage sign are being re-homed across the property
Bears from the resort's vintage sign are being rehomed across the property
Sierra Nevada Resort

Opened in 1967 by legendary real estate developer and former Los Angeles Lakers owner Jerry Buss, Sierra Nevada Resort has been a beloved fixture on Old Mammoth Road and a go-to for travelers spending time in the mountain town, overnighting en route to Yosemite National Park or beyond in the Sierra Nevada. A favorite getaway among Hollywood stars, the original resort hosted big names back in the day, too, like the Rat Pack and Jerry Lewis, among others. 

After a top-to-toe makeover, Sierra Nevada Resort recently reopened with a brand-new look that skews decidedly less rustic, becoming a more modern mountain retreat.

“The resort is a historic property that has been a pillar of the Mammoth community since it opened,” Brent Truax, the hotel’s managing director, tells InsideHook. “Throughout the renovation, the goal was to thoughtfully reimagine the property for a new generation of travelers while keeping its early Hollywood legacy, vintage charm and iconic features intact.” 

Guest room details at Sierra Nevada Lodge
Guest room details at Sierra Nevada Resort
Joshua Wilder Oakley

Historic Property With Hollywood Credentials

San Francisco-based studio EDG Design led the multi-year project and preserved notable architectural details from the original layout, including the grand lobby fireplace that reaches through exposed cedar beams to a lofty vaulted ceiling. A baby grand piano once owned by Clark Gable, which sat in the lobby for years and was featured in the 1944 movie To Have and Have Not, is still there, along with the original hand-carved wooden bar. 

The hotel was always a social hub, now even more so thanks to its refreshed Lobby Wine Bar helmed by Chip Ermish, an advanced sommelier and Wine Spectator Restaurant Award winner who has been with the resort for decades. The best time to catch Ermish with questions about the wine list (it has a nice mix of international and California labels), or to try a “Friday Night Flight” of Champagne and a locally inspired charcuterie board, are Thursday through Saturday evenings, when he tends bar. It’s easy to picture yourself here posting up for a fireside chat in one of the well-loved but welcoming leather chairs or perching on a rawhide stool, beverage in hand before dinner. A gallery wall nearby pays homage to several of the aforementioned Hollywood guests, with black-and-white photographs of John Wayne, Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra. 

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A Year-Round Base Camp for Travelers

The new “Americana-inspired” look continues through public spaces to the deluxe rooms, fireplace suites and bi-level chalets. Decor is rugged and unfussy — a blend of modern alpine furniture, Western patterns in neutral tones, illustrated maps and artwork by local photographer and prominent outdoorsman Josh Wray. Gear-laden travelers will appreciate the in-room ski and snowboard racks, which were custom-made using forest fire timber salvaged from Yosemite. Several room options also feature heated floors and toilet seats and come stocked with complimentary firewood for tending fireplaces, all welcome touches during winter.

With kitchens, dining rooms and multi-bedroom configurations, the chalets are ideal for families and small groups. Some are dog-friendly, but you’ll want to book early for those. Most accommodations are available now, but a handful of chalets and 10 freestanding cabins won’t be finished until later in the year. Summer will be a sweet time to come back, though, when the infinity-edge pool and recreation area open, along with an outdoor food garden with local trucks serving everything from savory crêpes to vegan dishes. For now, you can soak in the heated spa tub or gather around one of the firepits to stargaze among the pine trees after a day on the slopes. 

Although the hotel is within walking distance of downtown Mammoth, popping next door to the swanky new Bar Sierra (formerly Rafters Restaurant) is appealing for two reasons: proximity to your room and its dedication to California produce. There are 16 local craft beers on tap and a menu of comfort classics like baked mac and cheese and cornbread with honey butter, although Truax shares that the signature house-smoked BBQ ribs have been an early menu favorite. 

Fans of the original Sierra Nevada Resort & Spa vintage-style sign might be sad to learn that it’s being replaced, although there is a silver lining for everyone who has a soft spot in their hearts for those carved wooden bears: They’re all being refurbished and rehomed across the property.

“This place has been a fixture here for over five decades and everyone loves the resort’s story so it’s been an honor to see it reimagined,” says Truax. “We couldn’t have been prouder to debut in time for ski season and start welcoming a new generation of adventure seekers to Mammoth.” 


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