In addition to the incredible skiing and snowboarding, this particular weekend, Mammoth Mountain played host to their annual Night of Lights celebration.
I will get into greater detail on my Day 3 article. In fact, there were so many activities, I had to break this article up into multiple sections just to be able to share the entire experience with you. So, are you ready? Then let's go!
(Please keep your arms and hands inside the tram at all times).
Day One - We were picked up promptly by Dave, our super-friendly Super Shuttle driver. I instantly liked the guy since he laughed at my jokes all the way to the airport. Super Shuttle offers a range of choices to get you to and from the airport. The basic Super Shuttle is a van that holds 6-8 passengers. This option is the least expensive, but it makes more stops, making it a longer ride. The XPRESS(which is what we took) is a comfortable mini-van, which makes a maximum of two stops, which worked great for us, since Lawrence and I live fairly close to each other.
The third option is the Execucar, a Lincoln Town Car (which we took on the return trip) for passengers who prefer more comfort and privacy when they travel. The great thing about any of the Super Shuttle choices is you're dropped off right at your terminal, you don't have to hassle parking your car and you save money on the expensive airport parking. You can now make reservations to and from 33 airports in 26 cities. For more information on all of their services, call direct at 1-800-258-3826 or go to the website, www.supershuttle.com/
Okay, back to the adventure. We were picked up from The Valley and arrived at LAX in plenty of time. We were dropped off, got our boarding passes through Horizon Airs self-service computer check-in (only about two minutes if there isn't a line). Then a brief security check and on to our gate where we were greeted by "Wooly”, Mammoth Mountains furry and friendly mascot. Also waiting for us was a table filled with an assortment of bagels, cream cheese, hot coffee and orange juice. They really make you feel at home. Then we boarded the plane and we were up, up and away to the fresh snow waiting for us on the Mountain.
We flew on the inaugural flight of the season from LA to Mammoth Lakes on the green (literally) eco-friendly plane. The 76-passenger Bombardier-400 prop plane is comparable to the CRJ-700 jet aircraft (which only holds 70 people). The green Bombardier not only holds more passengers, but also burns 30% less fuel and puts out 30% less carbon emissions in the atmosphere. For a two-hour flight, the travel time is only about a fifteen-minute difference.
From Los Angeles, Reno and San Jose, the difference is negligible. As you fly into the Mammoth/Yosemite Airport, you get to enjoy the spectacular and breathtaking view high above The Sierra Mountain range. Just so you know, Horizon has recently implemented a $15 service charge for every checked bag. It's a small price to pay for the service and most other airlines have already been charging a fee for years. Not only is Horizon one of the last carriers to charge for luggage, a lot of other airlines have actually increased their fees. Don't expect a meal or a movie on this flight, which whisks you to the mountain in less than an hour, (fifty-five minutes to be exact).
What you will get is friendly service and a quick trip to mammoth Lakes. We were served complimentary beer and wine on our flight up, (check with the airline when you book your reservation to see what they're offering on your flight). Horizon Air, which is partnered with Alaska Airlines has also added an additional round trip flight (2 daily) to and from Los Angeles to Mammoth, and brand new flights to and from Reno and San Jose.
Upon arrival, we were taken by shuttle bus to the Grand Sierra Lodge. Our rooms were actually one-bedroom condominiums with a fireplace, separate living room and separate dining area. There is a full kitchen with granite counters, stovetop, microwave, refrigerator and coffee/tea maker. If you feel the need to cook on your vacation, the kitchen also comes complete with plates, glassware, utensils and pots and pans. The bedroom has a large closet with two bathrobes and a king-sized bed with Egyptian cotton sheets. Sit in the living room and kick your feet up in front of the fireplace or relax in the bedroom and watch some TV with premium channels, satellite service, pay movies and a DVD player. Each unit is also equipped with high-speed Internet access and has its own balcony with a view. For more information go to the website www.grandsierralodge.com/
Because Lawrence and I were on the 8:40am flight out of LA, it was still early enough for us to still get in half a day of skiing. I jumped into my ski clothes and met Lawrence in the lower lobby, which is actually street level, for a brief walk through the village to the ticket office and equipment rental center. The Grand Sierra Lodge is right in the middle of an area in town called The Village, a quaint, one-street area of the mountain with high-end shops, restaurants and bars. The best part (no, not the bars) is the brand new Gondola that takes you from The Village right to the mountain without having to take the local shuttle bus. We literally walked out of the resort, through The Village, and we were at the Gondola in three minutes. But wait, I'm getting ahead of myself.
The first stop was the ticket office to pick up our 3-day lift pass. If you decide to ski more than a few days, you can get a multiple day lift ticket and save some dough, (for drinking after the day is done). Lawrence and I decided to demo some new equipment and headed upstairs to the rental department. Oh, I forgot to mention the best part of Mammoth, the people. I've skied at most major resorts throughout the United States and none of them have the friendly down-home feel of Mammoth. It's about as far from corporate owned ski resorts as you can get. Everyone is incredibly nice and really make you feel like you're family.
A prime example of this was when we went to get our equipment from the rental department. In my haste, I left my small bag with my ski gloves back at home. Yeah, bummer. I asked E.J. (who runs the rental dept.) where I could get some gloves. Without hesitating, he said, "Do want to borrow mine? I won't need them for a couple of days" and proceeded to give me his brand new gloves still in the bag. I was floored. Nobody does that. Except in Mammoth. Thanks again E.J. Actually, Lawrence needed a pair of goggles and the other rental employee lent him his as well. It was unbelievable, but that's how wonderful the locals are in Mammoth.
Okay, on to the demo equipment. I have been an expert skier and certified PSIA instructor for years having grown up in Bloomfield Hills Michigan where I raced on the ski team. So, I need advanced equipment and chose the Rossignol CX-80 all-mountain skis and matching Rossignol Axial2 140 TI bindings. For those of you looking to buy new equipment this season, know that most manufacturers are now selling "system skis", that is, they now will only sell their brand of skis with their brand of bindings. The good ole' days of buying any skis and putting any bindings you want on, are over. It's actually a smart idea, not only for corporate sales, but it actually increases the performance of the equipment by combining the same brand from the manufacturer.
I've used Rossignol equipment for many years and give two enthusiastic thumbs up for their new line of skis chosen as Outside Magazines "Gear of the Year" for 2009. The skis keep their edge whether you're flying downhill or hitting the powder off trail. The Rossignol bindings are really high-tech in both look and performance, but are still easily adjustable for different size boots. Speaking of which, I tried out Nordica's new line of "Hot Rod" ski boots. The buckles were extremely easy to adjust and with a strap on top of the boots tongue, really make it easy to get your foot in and out. There is a Velcro strap on top of the boot instead of a fifth buckle which really added to the comfort level. And did I mention style wise; the boots really are "hot". For poles, I went with the standard Scott issue.
Okay, we're geared up and ready to rock! As we stepped outside the second level of the ski shop, we were only 20 steps away from the scenic Village Gondola, which takes you over part of the town and up to the Mountain. Each Gondola can hold up to twelve people, which wasn't an issue for us since it was a Thursday and there were no lift lines anywhere. Mammoth had just gotten dumped on the week before, and there was plenty of snow with all lifts operating and almost no one on the mountain. It was Heaven. Since it was the first day of the season for both Lawrence and I, we decided to take it easy and get acclimated. After all, we had two more full days of skiing to get crazy.
That night, we met some other journalists and the PR people from Mammoth for dinner at the Lakefront Restaurant. This five-star gourmet restaurant serves both French and California cuisine and touts an exceptional wine list. Lakefront is located inside the historic Tamarack Lodge and overlooks Twin Lakes in the Mammoth Lakes Basin. Both the food and the service were exceptional. We started with the creamy Butternut Squash Soup (the best I've ever had by the way), followed by a salad of European Seasonal Greens tossed in Asian Caesar Vinaigrette and topped with Grilled Sea Scallops.
For the entree, I had that night’s special, Filet Mignon Grilled aux Tres Sauces Prime Beef Tenderloin that was pan-seared and finished with a port wine demi-glaze. The beef was then cut into three sections, each topped with a different cream sauce. After dinner, our group went into the cozy fireside room for coffee and dessert. I had the delectable Chocolate Delice Mousse served like a sundae in a tall glass and topped with Tahitian vanilla whipped cream. What an amazing dining experience. My compliments to Director and Chef de Cuisine Frederic Pierrel. Reservations are required. For more information go on the website at www.tamaracklodge.com/dining/
We were then shuttled back to the Resort for a good nights sleep. The four-day trip had just begun and I wasn't about to get burned out the first night. It had already been a long day since we had to get to the airport for our early morning flight. The first day on the mountain was so incredible; I could have flown back that night and still been ecstatic. Luckily we still had three more days to go.
For more information on all that Mammoth Lakes has to offer all year round, call 1-800-Mammoth or visit their website, www.mammothmountain.com/
To read my other articles on this great trip click on these links: