A view so stunning it's damn hard not to drop an expletive


There is one characteristic which makes Mammoth Mountain different from any other skiing resort in the world - at least, any that I've ever encountered. Swearing, or as local officials more quaintly put it, profanity, is banned.

I know this because it was printed on my free map of the slopes, but I was also reminded by Dave, a square-jawed young American. We were travelling up the mountainside in a gondola towards the 11,053ft summit; he, smart and confident in the bright blue uniform of a "host" (one of a team hired to keep an eye on ordinary skiers); me, bulging in an ill-fitting and out-of-date jump suit.

"If I hear someone cussing, I'll put a slash across his ski pass [one- day price: $40] as a warning," Dave explained happily. "Most people only do it because they are so excited. But if they continue, I'll tear up their pass - at least, if they're using four- letter words. We want this to be a place where families can enjoy themselves."

These are, of course, admirable sentiments. But in the circumstances they were also rather unreasonable. For, peering out of the gondola windows at the surrounding white expanse, it was almost impossible not to utter an expletive in sheer amazement. Those little green bushes in the snow below were not, as they seemed, young Christmas trees, but full grown 30ft pines, buried to their leaf-tips.

This year, parts of the Sierra Nevada mountains, a range that begins north of the Mojave Desert in eastern California and runs northwards for 400 miles, have been covered by more than 20ft of snow. This is not merely good news for the thousands of wealthy young southern Californians, who pour northwards in their Jeeps and Broncos to their winter playground, and who can now look forward to skiing on 4 July, Independence Day; it is also a godsend for the vast metropolis of Los Angeles. This year's heavy rains have ensured - albeit briefly - that the desert city, so often plagued by drought, can be sure that it has a healthy supply of the one commodity it usually lacks: water.

To get to Mammoth, the skiers weaving around the slopes beneath our gondola had completed a journey that should have reminded them that this is a profoundly serious issue in America's far west. Most of the resort's visitors come from the LA area, and make the five-hour journey northwards up the Interstate 395 and along the arid bottom of the Owens River Valley, scene of the most bitter war over water in US history.

Ninety-odd years ago, the valley was a thriving farming community, marketed by eager estate agents to newcomers as America's Switzerland. But that was before LA city officials covertly bought up most of the local land and water rights and built a 233-mile aqueduct, channelling the water southwards to their rapidly expanding city. These days it is one of a complex of giant canals and aqueducts which feed water from the Rockies and Sierras to heavily-populated southern California.

Evidence of this huge water grab - which prompted a spate of bombings during the Twenties and was the theme of the movie Chinatown - is still impossible to avoid. The highway sweeps across mile after mile of barren waste, a seemingly endless expanse of rubble and sagebrush. There are no fruit orchards, no wheat fields, and little agriculture beyond grazing. What were once the valley's booming farming towns are now service centres, mostly comprising motels, garages, fast food joints and bric--brac shops for tourists.

To what extent any of this worries Mammoth's non-swearing guests as they sweep through the valley floor in their smart new four-wheel drive vehicles is hard to assess, but there are precious few signs they care. You only have to drive the other way down the highway - south into LA - past the swimming pools, the scores of golf courses, the endless lush gardens, to realise that the recent seven years of drought has done nothing to abate the city's profligate use of water. At the moment the city's reservoirs are full to bursting, but LA will eventually suffer for this - when the next dry spell comes along, and the snow is not so thick at the top of Mammoth Mountain.

people And here is why...
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
voicesBy the man who has
Arsene Wenger tried to sign Eden Hazard
footballAfter 18 years with Arsenal, here are 18 things he has still never done as the Gunners' manager
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
newsFloyd 'Creeky' Creekmore still performed regularly to raise money for local hospitals
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson star in The Twilight Saga but will not be starring in the new Facebook mini-movies
tvKristen Stewart and Stephenie Meyer will choose female directrs
William Hague
people... when he called Hague the county's greatest
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Arts and Entertainment
Twerking girls: Miley Cyrus's video for 'Wrecking Ball'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran performs at his Amazon Front Row event on Tuesday 30 September
musicHe spotted PM at private gig
indybestKeep extra warm this year with our 10 best bedspreads
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

General Cover Teacher

£120 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Are you looking for part time/ ...

SEN (SLD/PMLD) Teacher

£120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a quailed Teacher ...

General Cover Teacher

£120 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Currently looking for teachers ...

SEN Teaching Assistant Runcorn

£50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant EBD , Septemb...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?