Outdoor Adventure Abounds in Mammoth Lakes
By Margot Black
Tucked away in the middle of the Eastern Sierra is one of the most legendary playgrounds for outdoor enthusiasts: the town of Mammoth Lakes, home of Mammoth Mountain. With a summit of 11,053 feet, Mammoth Mountain is known for getting some of the best snow in California -- and lots of it. This majestic mountain destination serves up a mammoth-sized variety of winter activities that include skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing, snowmobiling, scenic gondola rides and Sno-Cat tours. There's adventure here that will satisfy every age and every level of expertise.
Our family's journey to the mountain was easier than ever before because Advanced Airlines started offering direct flights from Burbank to Mammoth Yosemite Airport. Advanced Airlines is a public charter flight service, so we got to board our flight to Mammoth Lakes without having to deal with TSA and the possibility of last-minute commercial flight cancellations. And we arrived in record time -- approximately one hour door to door. It was almost like having our own private jet.
We stayed at the Westin Monache Resort, which is in one of the best locations for skiing on and off the gondola that takes you to Canyon Lodge. Situated directly across the street from the Village at Mammoth, the Westin is right at the epicenter of everything a family could possibly need. Additionally, we got to use the hotel's ski valet to store our gear so that we didn't have to schlep all of it back to our room.
Black Tie Ski Rentals came to our hotel room the night before we skied for some in-room fittings. The whole process of getting our rental gear, storing it during our stay and directly accessing the gondola was about as family-friendly as it gets. Once our gear had been taken care of, we strolled over to the Village and enjoyed some fusion Mexican cuisine and a Mammoth Margarita at Gomez.
We spent our first morning up on Mammoth Mountain taking private ski and snowboard lessons. I always love starting any ski holiday with lessons from a private instructor or in a group class to get familiarized with the mountain and the area. After a long break from being on skis, a lesson was just the ticket to feel safe exploring the terrain. There's no way I would have been able to keep up with my speed-racing snowboarder son, so taking lessons enabled us both to learn at our own pace.
After working up an appetite, we skied over to the Yodler Restaurant and Bar for a scrumptious and hearty chalet-style lunch overlooking the mountain. This is hands-down my favorite family-friendly spot for spectacular ski food. We tucked into a baked pretzel, a sausage hunter's platter and some chicken schnitzel while enjoying a hilarious and most unexpected performance from somebody trying to blow an alpenhorn.
For families, I generally find that ski time lasts around three to four hours. So, for a change of pace, we scheduled an Apres Sno-Cat Tour that took us up to Minaret Vista, where we were treated to hot chocolate and awe-inspiring views of Mammoth Mountain, the Minarets and Ritter Range. After our tour we walked to the Village and ate dinner at Shelter Distilling.
The next morning, we strolled back to Village Plaza and stopped at the Side Door Cafe for a scrumptious breakfast to fuel us up for our ski day. Then we took a Mammoth All Weather Shuttle (MAWS) from our hotel 20 miles north to explore June Mountain, Mammoth Mountain's sister resort. This delightful little adventure within an adventure fully captured the beauty of the road less traveled. Not only did June Mountain have half the attendance of Mammoth Mountain, but it also boasted wide runs and spectacular views. And the absence of lift lines on a Saturday made it feel like we were skiing on our own private mountain in Switzerland.
Our magical day exploring from Mammoth Mountain infused some great variety and outdoor adventure into our holiday. We took our shuttle back to town and had dinner at 53 Kitchen & Cocktails, a family-friendly restaurant featuring phenomenal American fare. The next day, we walked to the Village for breakfast at Toomey's, enjoyed skiing on the mountain the whole day, and appeased our appetite for a classic cheeseburger at a place aptly and hilariously named Burgers Restaurant.
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