“The Mountains are calling and I must go.”- John Muir
Many years ago while I was living in Rhode Island, a wise woman came to my house and observed my three very close-in-age children, and said, “You should learn to ski. It’s the one thing your kids will always want to do with you- even when they are teenagers. And yours are all so close in age, you could all learn together.” At the time my three children were all under three years old. It took me over two hours just to get out the door to go to the grocery store. Getting them ready for a mountain seemed to be an impossible task.
Fast forward a few years and her remark was still stuck in my head. I signed them up for lessons at our local “hill”. They all learned to put on skis and boots and move a bit on the snow. I wouldn’t call it skiing, but it was definitely ski-like. Then we moved to California. We decided to take this ski thing seriously. We flew to Park City, Utah, and went to Deer Valley Resort (stay tuned for a post on Deer Valley). The kids took two days of lessons and my husband and I took a half-day lesson.
It’s six years later (and more lessons for the kids) and we haven’t looked back. We ski every year. That wise woman was right! My kids are now 13 and 12. They looooove skiing. They love our ski trips and my husband and I do too! I declared myself a competent skier this year, even though my son has declared me the “most beginner” in the family. The kids’ skills definitely surpass mine, but that’s okay. We can still all ski together and if a run is a little much for me, I just meet them at the bottom!
We decided to invest in Ikon Passes for the 2021/2022 ski season. An Ikon Pass is an annual pass that can be used at many different mountains all across the country. To take full advantage of the pass we went to Mammoth Ski Resort for some spring skiing. Let me tell you all about it.
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Skiing at Mammoth Ski Resort
Mammoth Ski Resort is about a five-hour drive from Los Angeles. It’s a really beautiful drive, so five hours is manageable. If the weather is snowy, you will need chains for your tires and be prepared for a longer than five-hour drive. The drive takes you through the desert and then into the mountains. You drive through some old abandoned towns, as well as some small cowboy towns. It’s fun to explore along the way. Here are some places to stop.
Restaurants in Mammoth
Copper Top BBQ, Big Pine
If you are a BBQ lover, you must stop at Copper Top BBQ in Big Pine. The Tri-Tip Sandwich is a-ma-zing! Served on a pretzel roll. So good. There is always a line, but it moves fast. You order at a window, receive a receipt, and then go inside to wait for your number to be called. As a bonus, the restrooms are nice & clean!
Schat’s Bakery, Bishop
Another food option is Schat’s Bakery in Bishop. At Schat’s you can find sandwiches and bakery treats and amazing bread. The Sheepherder bread is their specialty. Be sure to grab a loaf and bring it up to the mountain with you. It makes a great snack or breakfast! Schat’s has outdoor tables where you can sit and eat. There is always a crowd a Schat’s so be prepared to wait a bit, but the wait is worth it. So much better than the fast-food options!!
Noodle-Ly is a pho/noodle spot. We got takeout and loved it! The Khao Sai was amazing!! And the pho broth is delicious. It is the perfect meal after a day on the slopes.
Giovanni’s is a pizza/pasta spot that has something for everyone. The minestrone soup was the highlight! So good!
Things to Do Near Mammoth
Manzanar is a National Historic Site located in Independence, CA. It was a Japanese internment camp used during WWII. The museum is well done- moving and thought-provoking and educational. If you aren’t familiar with this part of our history, the book Farewell to Manzanar is a great start. It’s a memoir written by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and details her life at Manzanar as a child.
Where to Stay in Mammoth
We rented a condo on the mountain at Eagle Lift, through VRBO. There are rental units throughout the town of Mammoth Lakes and units available directly through Mammoth Mountain’s website or you can search on Hotels.com. There are public transportation and parking lot shuttles.
Where to Rent Ski Gear in Mammoth
We rented our equipment through Black Tie Ski Rental. We supplied them with our height, weight & shoe size in advance. They came to our condo with all of the equipment and fit us there. It was so convenient! Then we left our equipment outside our condo and they came back and picked it up. Really easy. Really convenient. You can also rent at the mountain or in town.
Skiing on Mammoth Mountain
The mountain was great! We had so much fun. How can you not? Being outside all day, in the sunshine and getting exercise- there’s nothing better. Mammoth is a big resort with three lodges. Each lodge has different food options and a different vibe. There are also small outposts that sell food and drink at some of the lifts. My daughter swears by the Impossible Steak & Cheese found at the Rollercoaster lift. Give it a try.
There are trails for every ability and they have lots of playground/terrain parks with jumps and rails and boxes. Mammoth uses a six-tiered rating system, versus the typical three tiers. Green circle is easiest, green square is easier, blue square is slightly difficult, blue diamond is more difficult, black diamond is difficult, double black diamond is extremely difficult. I found the rating system pretty consistent across trails and consistent with what I’ve experienced at other mountains.
Mammoth has a really fun vibe. Music is playing at some of the lifts and you can find slingback cabana chairs where food and drink are served mid-mountain. It’s just FUN!
Mammoth Village has a gondola that will take you over to the mountain. There are restaurants and ice cream and souvenir shops. If you have an Ikon pass you receive a 15% off discount at the Mammoth Retail Shop. Those sweatshirts are even cuter with a discount!
Skiing at June Mountain
June Mountain is Mammoth’s sister mountain. It’s about a half-hour away from Mammoth. You follow the same travel route as above. June is a very family-friendly resort. Kids 12 and under ski free, which is THE BEST! We’ve been making a yearly trip up to June Mountain over the last few years.
Where to Stay Near June Mountain
The majority of rentals are rented through Rainbow Ridge Realty. I haven’t had much luck finding rentals through VRBO or Airbnb. We rent condos with a few other families each year and just have a grand old time for ourselves. We’ve stayed at Interlaken and Edgewater and both worked out well for us. You can find both of those on Hotels.com. June Mountain has a nice big parking lot and the town of June Lake is very small, so you are never far from the mountain.
Where to Rent Ski Gear at June Lake
I always rent our gear at Ernie’s Tackle and Ski Shop. They are friendly and professional. You can also rent gear at June Mountain.
The Slopes at June Mountain
June is a smaller, very manageable mountain, with one lodge. The Chalet (lodge) is where you have your lockers and your food, your rentals, and a small retail store. There are also outdoor patios. We sometimes bring our own food and leave it in the locker, then eat on the patio.
You can cover much of the mountain in one day and you never have to wait very long for a chair. There are plenty of runs for beginners and a few black diamonds for the more advanced skier. They use the more traditional three-tier rating system for their trails- Green Circle, Blue Square, Black Diamond. They also have a few playgrounds/terrain parks that are geared towards families. June Mountain is all about the families and the views are breathtaking. It’s truly a great, relaxing spot.
Does June Mountain or Mammoth Mountain Have Better Skiing?
So which mountain is better? Well, both mountains are worth a visit! June is small and designed for families; Mammoth is definitely not small and is lively and fun. Mammoth has more experienced terrain. June can build your confidence to tackle harder terrain elsewhere. My family has tackled a few black diamonds at June Mountain! Check their websites and start planning your winter ski trip(s)! Both mountains are about five hours from Los Angeles and six to seven hours from San Francisco. Coming from Las Vegas?-Just about a five-hour drive. Maybe I’ll see you there.
I’m forever grateful to that wise woman who told me to get my family on the slopes! Being outside all day is just good for your soul. Skiing with my children gives me the chance to watch them navigate a ski slope, get up after falling down, be brave and push themselves to go farther and faster. They help each other out and offer a hand to friends as well as strangers. Witnessing these life skills in your children is just awesome. Skiing gives your kids the chance to see you do something hard. You lead by example and push yourself to go farther and faster. All of this is just so good. It brings out the best in all of us.
Here’s hoping for a great 2021/2022 season! Pray for snow! We’re already booking trips! Stay tuned…..