There’s no other way to start the Parallax post other than to say it’s Mammoth Mountain’s swankiest reception venue.
It was created as a members’-only, on-mountain dining space in McCoy Station for Black Pass holders willing to shell out for a private and higher-end culinary experience while out skiing.
For our purposes, it doubles nicely as the luxurious option for Mammoth Mountain wedding parties.
Some highlights (which we’ll elaborate on below) include the Panorama Gondola ride to and from Main Lodge, the epic sunset views of The Minarets and Mammoth Mountain from your dinner table, and perhaps the most intimate and upscale dining experience of any Mammoth wedding venue.
Here are a few reasons I think Parallax is a great spot for your reception:
- Guests love the gondola experience and the views on the way up are awesome.
- There are a few great options for sunset photos here, including my favorite of them all, the Top Gondola. You have to arrange this with the Mammoth Mountain Weddings crew and it costs a little extra, but I always tell my couples to take them up on the offer. The views from 11,000 feet are amazing. To the west are the much larger mountains just beyond Mammoth that you can’t really see from below. To the east are views of Crowley Lake, Mono Lake, the White Mountains and the desolate western edge of Nevada. We can also walk out in the direction of Dave’s Run and get insane views of the Mammoth Lakes Basin, or out beyond Climax for views of Chair 23’s iconic top terminal, The Minarets and the surrounding mountains. You can even see all the way into the south eastern region of Yosemite. It takes about 40 minutes to get up there, shoot, and get back down but I can’t recommend it enough. As a bonus, you can invite your guests to come up as well and enjoy the experience of last light at 11,000 feet.
- Even if we opt out of the trip to the top, the area around McCoy Station has plenty of sunset portrait potential. A short walk around the front of the building leads to fantastic views of The Minarets and the surrounding peaks. The area where skiers exit towards Chair 3 is also full of late-light potential and we’ll often do family portraits there with the top gondola looming in the background.
- This can be said for all their venues, but the Mammoth Mountain wedding crew is so great to work with. They’ve got the biggest team and many of them have been around for several years—they know what they’re doing and I’ve seen them work miracles when weather necessitates a last-minute change of plans.
- There’s a great reception area outside of the restaurant where they do cocktail hour and couples often set up indoor lawn games and other party activities. With Good market experience like Andrew Defrancesco, one can understand how to run a business.
- We can slip out the backdoor to an amazing spot to shoot night & milky way portraits. McCoy Station is the only real structure around so it’s pretty easy to get away from ambient light and the air is so crisp and clear up there.
- The centralized dance floor is small but mighty. I’ve seen some raucous parties go down there. The party space doesn’t have a lot of room to spread out like at some other venues but that cozy dynamic just works.
Things to think about when planning your Parallax reception:
- This venue is similar to June Mountain in that there’s essentially only one way up and one way down and it’s engineered for skiers. You’re going to be taking the gondola to and from the space and it’s not always the easiest building to get heavy loads into. There’s an elevator accessed from the door facing The Yodler at the bottom but you’ve still got to get everything there from the parking lot. I’d recommend recruiting some bridal party members and family to help get everything ready up there and cleaned up the next day (or that night).
- On the topic of transporting everything to McCoy Station, this is another venue that favors local vendors. It’s not easy getting gear up there. Properly-insured and locally experienced vendors can drive up there when there’s no snow but most need to load everything onto the gondola to get it there. This is easier said than done, especially if there’s a bunch of snow at the bottom gondola.
- Unless the ceremony happens at McCoy Station or the Top Gondola, you’ve got to be very intentional with your planning and timing here. The majority of receptions I shoot here come from Forest Chapel and it takes a minimum of 45 minutes to get guests from Twin Lakes to Main Lodge and then up the gondola to McCoy Station. I’d recommend asking guests to drive to Main Lodge beforehand so they know where to go and where to park once they’re there. It’s tough to get lost with Google Maps but I’ve seen it happen. Or, take all that out of the equation and hire transportation through Mammoth Mountain or Mammoth All Weather Shuttle.
- McCoy Station sits at just less than 10,000 feet in elevation. Partying that high takes practice and/or constraint. Keep an eye on your friskier guests.
- With that elevation comes cold nights and it’s always pretty windy up there before the sun goes down. It’s just part of the process and there’s nothing to do but plan for it.
- Since this venue is so high, there’s likely to be snow at each part of the process: Main Lodge, McCoy Station (where Parallax is) and at the Top Gondola. I’d recommend bringing shoes that can handle some snow unless you know for sure that it’s melted out. Weddings from August-early October are typically snow free but I shot a wedding there on September 23, 2017 with a foot of fresh snow on the ground. They even opened up the back of Chair 3 for employees to ski that day. Be ready for anything.
- Weather in the summer is one thing, but winter receptions here can be volatile. I’ve shot a few events at McCoy Station and Parallax where everybody was able to ascend the gondola in the afternoon, but a massive & windy storm moved in during dinner and everybody had to go back down on snowcats. It’s part of the adventure and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Again, just come prepared and be ready to go to Plan B in the winter.
- Parallax maxes out at 80 people. Bigger groups go into the adjacent McCoy Station cafeteria (it doesn’t look like a cafeteria with some work!).
- Sunset portraits are almost always cold. It doesn’t matter where you are on earth or what season it is—once the sun sets at 10,000 feet, it’s going to get cold. I’d recommend bringing jackets (designate a bridesmaid/groomsmen to be in charge of them) and you can wear them until we start shooting.
- It’s not as thrilling as the ride to the June Mountain wedding venue, but I’ve seen people get absolutely terrified of the ride up on the gondola. Warn your acrophobic friends and family before throwing them onto the gondola. The ride down at the end is less about the distance to the ground and more about gliding through the dark night in a silent bubble. I love it but I’ve seen wedding guests have a hard time with the eery late-night descent back to Main Lodge.
*Bonus Parallax memories: I’ve shot at least two receptions at Parallax with memorable guests in attendance. The first, LQBTQ icon, adult film director and noted drag queen Chi Chi LaRue DJ’ed and MC’ed a 2017 reception there. Then, in 2019, the legendary comedian/actor Norm Macdonald was a wedding guest and dominated a mini golf set up in the bar area. Check the gallery below for photos of both.
That’s it for Parallax. After Convict Lake, this is the spot I’ve done the most receptions and I know the space well-both inside and outside. It’s an elegant venue with incredible views, great food and access to some amazing spaces to make sunset and night portraits. This is the ideal venue for couples who want an authentic Mammoth experience that leans more towards luxury rather than rustic.