I can probably guess what you're thinking, even without having met you: why on earth would we go to Mammoth, California, over Winter Break (a.k.a. that time when ski resorts are crazy busy) even though we don't know how to ski?
There's a pretty disappointing answer that we constantly keep giving everyone who asks: simply because we want to experience "the snow." As residents of the California coast for our entire lives, our days are filled with sunshine, saltwater, and drought (but who's complaining?). So when our friends offered to have us stay in their Mammoth house for part of Winter Break, we decided that there would be no better way to "expand our horizons."
When we arrived, my brother and I started pestering our parents with thousands of questions. What were "flurries?" What were "chains?" What were "gondolas?" What were "chair lifts?" How easy was it to get this so-called "frostbite?" and other embarrassingly amateur things like that. The truth is, we were really just in awe. The way the snow "flurries" just floated down from the sky and dusted the trees, and then condensed into ice the next day was admittedly incredible to us. We found ourselves dying to go outside... but also in dire need of ideas of what to do.
We began to plan it out. Our Mammoth trip was going to last for five whole days - what in the world were we going to do for those 5o-ish hours of daylight?
Mammoth Travel Trip For Those Who Don't Ski #1: Snow can keep the whole family occupied for a surprisingly long amount of time.
We didn't realize it at the time, but all of our planning would be for naught. The house we were staying it was located right across a nice, gentler slope, which we discovered was perfect for sledding. Dotted with pine trees, we found this slope was an ideal spot to have snowball fights, build forts, practice snowboarding (with a board created to learn how to snowboard on), and, of course, sled. Almost all of our days were spent on this slope, crashing around in the snow, speeding down it, or sometimes just lying there, watching the snow gradually pile up on the pine trees around you.
Mammoth Travel Trip For Those Who Don't Ski #2: The gondola rides to the Village are worth a shot.
We decided to take the gondola to the Village for lunch on our 2nd day in Mammoth. This was probably mainly because my brother and I got so excited watching the gondolas swing back and forth right in front of our house, and we couldn't wait to experience it, too.
The gondola was actually a great way to see all of Mammoth. We really enjoyed pointing out interesting places, or possible slopes we could later play at. The "ride" was short, but was still worth it. However, we quickly learned that most regulars to Mammoth don't even bother to eat at the restaurants at the Village which we took to be a sort of bad omen. The Village itself is cute, and reminded my mom and I of the Grand Californian DisneyLand Hotel, which we had been to recently. Again, it's not a must-see, but is definitely worth the small trip. Once we had eaten there, we agreed that despite what we had heard, the food was very good.
Mammoth Travel Trip For Those Who Don't Ski #3: Ski lessons aren't always a must-do.
Because we were new to this whole "chains" and "icy roads" thing, we were extra cautious when faced with driving. When we learned a snowstorm was rolling it the day before we were due to leave, we decided it would be safest to leave two days earlier than originally planned. Hence, we were unable to do ski/snowboarding lessons, which we later realized worked out perfectly well. The house we were staying at was equipped with a multitude of gear, so after digging around a bit we found a "learner" snowboard, which is basically a snowboard without the boot straps. Think: a skateboard without wheels.
We brought the learner snowboard out to the slope across the house and practiced. We found that snowboarding was much like surfing. After we began to get the hang of it, we really enjoyed playing around on the slope and figuring things out by ourselves. It was a ton of fun for the entire family, even when we fell. This may not be the way to go with all families, but it certainly was an exciting, enjoyable experience with our's.
Mammoth Travel Trip For Those Who Don't Ski #4: Embrace the "Let It Snow" feel (warm fireplaces, hot chocolate...)
Half of our days in Mammoth we spent curled up by the fireplace with thick blankets, hot cocoa, and a good book (oh, and don't forget the peppermint bark!). As the snow cascaded down outside, we would play around inside with each other, or just sit by the fireplace talking and laughing and having a really good time. I think we more expected to be out and doing something for almost our entire trip, because we like to experience as much as we can in a new place. But one of the highlights of our trip was the "down time" spent with each other, hot cocoa in hand.
A little bit about us...
We're a family of four (a daughter, a son, and their mother and father.... oh, and a six-month old Standard Poodle puppy). But we all share one thing in common: our love of travel and adventure!
Hotel of the Month
Solage Calistoga: the image of perfection. We stayed here recently on our trip to Napa Valley and couldn't have been more amazed at this stunning resort. The rooms, each one an individual cottage, were immaculate and private. The property itself contained multiple pools and other amenities, all of which were designed beautifully. One of our favorite parts had to be the Michelin-star restaurant, which served some of the best food we'd ever eaten. Solage Calistoga was the perfect fit for our family (and dog!), and we are eager to stay there again.