Mom vs. Mountain: A Family Skiing Adventure at MAMMOTH MOUNTAIN, CA

Liz Laing hits the slopes with her powderpuff newbie kids for their first ski adventure.

Mammoth MountainAfter hearing for years that Mammoth Mountain has some of the best skiing in California, I decided a ski trip with my family was long overdue. It had been a few years since I last skied and my three kids would be learning for the first time. Let me preface that by also saying that skiing is one of those sports best suited to learning at a very young age before the “fear factor” sets in. Unfortunately, my kids were all past this golden age of fearlessness, but they gave it a go anyway – some more successfully than others.

After an easy five-hour drive from LA, we arrived at Tallus Luxury Homes, a new collection of swanky residences located near the center of town. Each of these stylish homes is three-stories and features four to five bedrooms, a gourmet kitchen, multiple dining areas, a fireplace, an outdoor spa, separate kids’ room and a media room. (Sharing the house with a few friends or another family is ideal and economical). We found there was plenty of room for all — the kids played in the clubhouse (with classic arcade games and a heated swimming pool), and we cooked dinner together and hung out in the great room, sipping wine by the fire. Afterward, we’d retire to the media room and watch movies. Truth be told, our stay at Tallus was so comfortable and inviting , by the end of our stay, we didn’t want to leave.

Tallus Clubhouse Swimming Pool

Tallus Clubhouse Swimming Pool. Image: Liz Laing

Our true mission here though was not to just cozy up by the fire, but conquer the mountain. Well, maybe survive and have a few laughs on the slopes would be a more apt description. That first evening, the folks from Black Tie Ski Rentals, a ski rental delivery service, came by to fit us for the next day’s skiing. What’s not to love; there was no waiting in lines the next day or being worried about inferior ski equipment. Black Tie provided top-notch equipment and outstanding service, not to mention the convenience of having it all delivered. The next morning, I snuck out on my own in an attempt to get my ski legs back. After one run however, my thighs were burning hotter than our chalet’s fireplace. Clearly, I must be doing something wrong. After a couple of hours I called the Tallus shuttle and headed back to collect the kiddies. (Tallus offers complimentary shuttle service to town, the ski lifts and the airport).

Mammoth Ski Kids

Author's kids ready for the slopes

All decked out in their winter suits, the kids were both excited and anxious. I began to worry a bit as putting on their ski boots proved to be a challenge. I knew if I hung around watching their lesson, they would become even more nervous so I cut the cord and headed off to meet friends for lunch. I figured I’d have plenty of time to watch them ski when I picked them up, or so I thought. We dined at Parallax, at McCoy Station, half way up the mountain. I underestimated how long it would take me to ski down and get them after their lesson. I also misjudged how much pain I’d be in. Of course, it didn’t help that I got lost along the way and somehow ended up on an expert’s only black diamond run (this girl has no use for those diamonds) and although I did manage to make it down without falling, I wasn’t too happy about it. The lesson here? Downhill skiing is an amazing experience, but it’s best to stick to the runs that match your comfort level.

Anyway, time was ticking away and even though my legs were like jelly and my entire body shaking, I pushed on. Finally, I made it back to the ski school and found my kids, who had already taken off their skis. I was disappointed to have missed seeing them ski, but relieved to make it back in one piece. My 11-yr. old enjoyed her lesson the most and couldn’t wait to ski again. Her younger brother took a bit longer to warm up to it and their older sister declared she never wanted to do it again (you win some, you lose some).

The next day, after a couple of Advil and a soak in the hot tub, I managed to take the kids tubing at Woolly’s Outdoor Adventure Tube Park where they had a blast! The set-up is a rope tow pulls you up the hill (YES, no hiking). At the top, you choose a lane and head down, head first, picking up a fair amount of speed and trusting that your tube will actually come to a stop. Most of the time it does. (Tip: you can drag your feet to slow yourself down.) When my boyfriend teased me for dragging my feet and bragged about going faster, he ended up flying over the hill at the end that is designed to stop you. Call it karma.

Tubing at Woolly's Mammoth

Tubing at Woolly's Outdoor Adventure Tube Park, Mammoth Mountain. Image: Liz Laing

Afterward, we headed to Mammoth Brewing Company for some beer and root beer tasting, just across from The Village’s parking lot.  The complimentary tasting includes 10 different local beers and a very tasty root beer. Be sure and take home a growler (big jug) of your favorite brew. My fave was the Owens Valley Wet Harvest Lager, a fruity and refreshing beer that comes in a 22 oz. bottle or on tap. My favorite restaurant in Mammoth is Restaurant Skadi, which offers a fine dining experience in a modern alpine setting. I was surprised to discover such a gem of a restaurant tucked away in Mammoth and found it comparable to any of the finest restaurants I’ve visited. Proprietor and Chef de Cuisine, Ian Algerøen, excels at creating alpine dishes with sophistication, creativity and flavor. The savory wild mushroom and Jarlsberg cheese crepe with Porcini mushrooms and a sherry coulis melted in my mouth.

On our last day, we stopped by the Sidedoor Cafe for lunch, which specializes in crepes and paninis. The kids gobbled up their dessert crepes and hot chocolate and I enjoyed an excellent latte. The Sidedoor Café is located at the base of the Canyon Lodge Gondola in the Village, so we decided to hop on for a quick ride (this gondola is FREE since it’s considered public transportation, but the scenic gondola departing from Main Lodge to the summit is not). As skiers got off at the top of the ride, two of my kids were happy just to stay in the gondola cab and safely head back down. Frankly, so was I. Skiing and Mammoth were exhilarating, but my body aches and pleasant memories would be enough to last me until next season.

The ski season in Mammoth typically runs until June, with some of the best skiing in March. Call 800-Mammoth (800-626-6684) or check the Mammoth Mountain website for more info.

All images, Liz Laing.

Liz Laing

Liz Laing

Liz has been a freelance travel writer for nearly a decade, writing for multiple outlets such as Mothering, US Airways, Alaska Airlines, CBS Los Angeles, MadeMan and wandermelon, to name a few. Growing up in New Mexico, Liz also traveled to Japan and Europe, including touring with a modern dance troupe throughout France. She’s now also added photography and web design to her talents, but her greatest accomplishment has been raising her four wonderful kids, who have already been bitten by the travel bug.
Liz Laing

1 Comment

  1. Christie {Visit Mammoth} on March 19, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    Love it! you hit some of my favorite spots. I’m totally a Canyon Lodge girl, Restaurant Skadi is one of my favorites, and I always take guests to the village for crepes at the side door. Looks like you have the quintessential Mammoth Lakes experience.

    As an aside, when I need to get my ski legs back in the beginning of the season, I always ski at a level far below what my actual ability is (basically blue runs for me). This allows me to build up some endurance and stay on the hill longer 😉

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