Monday, January 10, 2011

Mammoth Lakes, California

Mammoth Lakes California is about 4 hours from Edwards. This year they had had a record snowfall of something like 15 feet in the month of December, which is obvious by the walls of snow along the roads! Being from New England, Dan and I just have to get out of the desert every once in a while to see it, just to know it’s still snowing somewhere! Even if you aren’t much of a skier, Mammoth can be tons of winter fun. And don’t worry if you are too busy to go this winter, due to its high elevation the ski area sometimes stays open all the way into July!
Lodging in Mammoth Lakes is not cheap by any means. The best deal I found was the Cinnamon Bear Inn, a little Bed and Breakfast located in town. The rates here rivaled even the Quality Inn but I can’t recommend it. The bed was very uncomfortable, the walls (and ceilings) were paper thin (do people really need to walk around in their ski boots at 5am?), and the shower head was so low that at 5’3” I still had to lean back to get my head under the water!! Moving on. You will pay twice as much but sleep twice as well at one of the resorts hotels. Look at for lodging options. Mammoth Mountain Inn and Juniper Springs Resort are located right on the slopes if convenience to the slopes is what you are looking for, or the Village lodge located right in the heart of the resort village is convenient to the shops and restaurants and has a gondola that runs right to the slopes. Or take the bus for free from almost anywhere in town. For something a little more remote and rustic try the lodge or a cute cabin at Tamarack Lodge, especially if you want to go x-country skiing on the resorts many trails. This lodge caters more to the x-country group, and is located about a mile from the main village, but the bus runs there as well.
If you are on a budget look around and you might find something better than I did, or go in with a few other people for a condo which seems to be a better deal.
Not much to say on this topic, again go to the mammoth website for tickets and information, but it’s a ski resort - you’ll figure it out. Make sure you ask for a military discount, as far as we could tell, there is a 50% off discount on the full lift ticket on weekdays and 25% on weekends. As far as rentals, go to outdoor rec here on base. While you are there pick up some equipment for some of my other winter activities listed below.
Scenic Gongola
The scenic gondola costs $23 dollars for adults, and is worth it! The view from the top is awesome and there is a little interpretive center and Top of the Sierras cafe. Plan it go around lunch and grab a bowl of chili or chowder to warm you up! Plus you will need a picture by the Mammoth Mountain summit sign, of course. If you have a lift ticket I think this trip is free but if you are too scared to ski/board down (yikes, I would be!!) you can still go to the top just for the view.
Dog Sledding
Highlight of the whole trip was dog sledding, hands down! Call ahead for this activity as they are a little hard to get a hold of due to to the fact that they are out with the dogs most of the day. The number is on their website and try both numbers - I had more luck getting an answer or a voicemail at (760)914-1019. The price is $90 per adult for a 50 minute ride, but it was sooo worth it!! Bring cash or a check because you are basically meeting a couple guys and their dogs in the middle of a frozen meadow... i.e. no credit card machine! Bring your camera for the excellent views and dress to be outside for an hour. Get there early to meet and pet the dogs, who are so sweet and love the attention! They love to run, but this is not a fast ride, just a fun way to be in the beautiful outdoors and experience an old-fashioned way of getting around.

Here is one activity in Mammoth you won’t have to pay a lot for. Rent snowshoes from outdoor rec and head down to Tamarack lodge. You can use their snowshoe trail for free. Walk down a groomed trail until you get to the start of the snowshoe trail where the tracks of other snowshoe-ers will guide you around another beautiful peak. Even if you get warm walking the trail, bring your jacket and hat because you will be on the exposed side of a mountain about halfway through the trail. The trail is not well marked, so be adventurous like we were and head off the trail back to the general direction of the lodge (okay we weren’t being adventurous, we were lost...). Off the trail you will get the true experience of snowshoeing through deep powder!
Never been snowshoeing? Let a New England girl give you a quick lesson. 1. Strap on snowshoes snugly around snow boots. 2. Start walking...
Yes, it may feel awkward at first and you have to lift your feet higher than normal and set them a little wider apart, but for the most part this is an activity that is fun and requires no real lessons. You might be surprised how much you still sink in the snow, but take your foot out and step down in some fresh powder... you might be up to your waist in snow!
X-country skiing
So on to the activities we didn’t do - x-country skiing trails are also available at Tamarack lodge, for this you will need a trail pass and rentals, unless you brought skis and poles from outdoor rec. Lessons are available, and the trails are extensive! Make sure you check out the lobby of the lodge with its stone fireplace and old-timey feel, and pick up some hot chocolate at the snack bar before you head back into town.
Tubing is available at Sledz which is on the red bus line on the way to the main lodge. They have a tow rope for hours of fun without getting tired. They also only take cash I’m told, but the price is something like $25/hour.
We happened to notice a skating rink in town on our way out to dinner, located on Old Mammoth Road next to Rafter’s restaurant complete with large light-up snowmen. We forgot our skates and didn’t stop to ask about rentals or pricing, but check it out if that is something you like to do (they might have skates at outdoor rec too, you would have to check).

Lunch at Top of the Sierra
Here is a list of the places we ate at and a brief description. We liked almost everything we ate, and there were plenty of other places we never tried that are probably great too!
Whiskey Creek - brewery-style restaurant located beneath the Mammoth Brewing company tasting room. Very good food, a little higher priced.
Shae Shat’s Bakery - although Shat’s in Bishop claims no affiliation, this bakery hopes to benefit from Eric’s fame, who knows what the real story is, but the bottom line is if you want a latte and pastry, Shat’s is the perfect stop.
Top of the Sierra Cafe- this is the one at the top of the scenic gondola, go for the chili or soup. I had the veggie paninni which turned out to be a dry salad on dry bread... only not so great thing I ate the whole trip.
Rafters - very snazzy place, great if you like wine! Portions are smaller, so get a salad too or save room for creme brule!
Base Camp cafe - very casual but good food, we had breakfast here but heard the dinner was good too! Less expensive choice as well.
Tom’s Pizza - Pesto Pizza was awesome, felt like a college town pizza place, TV’s to watch the game.
The Auld Dubliner - located in the village this Irish pub had good food and lots of beers on draft. I had the shepherd’s pie and Dan the Guiness beef stew, both of which were good traditional Irish comfort food.
Most of these restaurants have websites and menus online - I find knowing a few places I’d like to try before we go takes some of the time out of “where should we eat this time?”

So if you have a long weekend and you are prepared to spend some money, Mammoth is an awesome destination for some winter fun!

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