In mid-March, we loaded up the truck and took off on our first long family road trip (nearly six hours on the road!) and first family “snow vacation” (that’s what we kept referring to it as with the girls). Mammoth Lakes has received record amounts of snow this season – in fact, the Mammoth Mountain ski resort has received more snow than any other ski resort in the U.S. this year! Luckily, we somehow scheduled our trip in between snow storms, so we got to enjoy all of that snow without having to deal with blizzard weather and driving conditions – whew!
Day 1: Drive North, Welcome Center, & Mammoth Brewing
After careful and extensive planning and preparations, we were able to leave our house at 6:38am for the roughly six hour drive north. The drive was pleasant and relatively uneventful. Since our kids don’t have or use phones or tablets, they were happy to pass the time playing games (Guess Who? and I Spy), pretending, listening to music, and eating tons and tons and tons of snacks. We stopped once in Pearsonville (population: 17) for a gas/restroom/stretch/nursing break, and arrived in Mammoth Lakes before 2pm. We unloaded the truck and attempted to settle into our rented condo at Sierra Park Villas; however, our activities were abruptly halted when we realized that the condo had not been cleaned since the previous renters vacated it. Ug. I called the owner and he very quickly got a cleaning crew over to the condo, but it meant that we had to immediately leave the condo for two hours while they cleaned. None of this was a really big deal, though, and we were just mostly very glad that we arrived in the early afternoon and not late at night!
Since we were forced out of our condo nearly as soon as we got there, we started exploring our new surroundings right away. We first went to the Mammoth Lakes Welcome Center. The kids played in the snow banks and walked around where they could, but, as would become a recurring theme throughout our vacation – there was really too much snow to do much else! We did get some valuable information about where to go sledding in a nearby park, peeked in the old saloon on site, and broke off some icicles that could have doubled as swords.
After our short adventure at the Welcome Center, it became very clear that Lillian would need better snow boots for the remainder of our trip. I had bought as little snow gear as I could for the kids before the trip, mostly relying on hand-me-downs and borrowed items from neighbors, so I wasn’t exactly excited to spend $50 on size 6 snow boots that would not be worn very much, but there wasn’t any way around it. While we were throwing down money at Footloose Sports for new boots, we also bought an over-priced (nonrefundable!) sled.
We drove around town and over to Main and Eagle Lodges, refamiliarizing ourselves with the area after not being here in six years. Then we stopped into Mammoth Brewing Company for an early dinner. This was a great choice because they have a casual eatery upstairs where the kids could run around and we could try some of their new (and unusual) brews.
Day 2: Shady Rest Park Sledding & Tubing at Woolly’s
In the morning, we bundled the kids and ourselves up and took our expensive new sled out for sledding and snow play at Shady Rest Park. Surprise – it was exhausting, tearful, cold, sweaty, and painful. We hiked up the sledding hill and then pushed the girls down their first run. Their sled picked up speed, hit some bumps, and launched them both into the air. They landed on the icy, hard snow and, Lillian especially, scraped up her face pretty bad. Major parenting fail.
William did not go sledding. I mostly propped him up next to snow piles and trees for photo opps.
After The Crash, the girls rather quickly regained their confidence and went sledding again – this time, though, with Dan. They also made snow angels. Vivian used a much safer vehicle – her own rear end – to do a little solo sledding.
After a quick lunch at the condo, Dan took Vivian to Woolly’s Tube Park for an even faster and more thrilling sledding experience. I had prepaid for this activity, so she was forced to get over any new sledding fears really quickly. Luckily, they both had a blast at their first tubing experience.
Day 3: Skiing & Snowboarding
This is the main reason we came to Mammoth Lakes – to ski and ride! In an exhausting morning rush (exhaustion is always the theme when “vacationing” with small kids/babies), we dropped Lillian and William off at child care and Vivian off at ski school. Then, Dan and I tackled the mountain together for the first time in six years. We made tracks all over – from the back side to Eagle and from Main/Mill/Canyon/McCoy to the top. After stopping into child care to nurse William at lunchtime, we ate lunch at McCoy Station and then took the gondola to the top to take on Cornice (one of the only black diamond bowls we feel comfortable going down at the top). We were lucky that the conditions were so great because Cornice is tough, even on a good day. We both felt relieved that skiing and snowboarding is actually like riding a bike – even after not doing it for many years, we both very easily picked it back up.
After collecting all of the kids from child care at the end of the day, we went back to the condo. Dan and Lillian headed off to the hot tub while I made dinner (we had our weekly Gobble box shipped up there).
Day 4: Mono Lake & Woolly’s Saturday Parade
After three days of serious snow play, we took a break to drive north on Highway 395 to check out Mono Lake, which none of us had ever seen before. Unfortunately, the visitor’s center in Lee Vining is closed in the winter (side note: quite a few places where we planned to go were closed at this time of the year like the Hot Creek Trout Hatchery and the Mammoth Ice Rink), but we were still able to take in views of the lake and build a snowman (Olaf, of course) outside the visitor’s center.
We drove back to our condo after a slight detour to June Lake, which is another lake we’d never visited before, and June Mountain. This afternoon, Dan stayed home with the littles while they napped and Vivian and I participated in Woolly’s Saturday Parade in The Village Plaza.
After take-out dinner, the girls and I frosted and decorated shamrock sugar cutout cookies (I had made and froze the dough in advance and then Vivian and I rolled, cut, and baked the cookies before the parade) in preparation for St. Patrick’s Day.
Day 5: St. Patrick’s Day, Skiing, & Snowboarding
The girls were very excited to wake up and see a long trail of gold and green coins leading from their bedrooms to a pot of (chocolate) gold hidden in the kitchen. A leprechaun had also left beaded necklaces for them to wear to celebrate the day.
We hit the slopes again after dropping Vivian off at ski school and the littles off at child care. Once again, we tried to cover as much as the mountain as we could before we had to pick everyone up at noon. After we did pick them up, we took the gondola to the top of the mountain to eat lunch and check out the interpretive center. Lillian had already ridden the gondola twice while in child care, but it was Vivian and William’s first ride – one loved it (Vivian), one didn’t (William).
After we disembarked from the gondola, Dan took the littles home to nap and Vivian and I went up the Discovery chairlift three times and skied down the bunny slope. Mostly, I skied with her between my legs, but she did a little skiing and practice stopping on her own at the top. She loved skiing – going fast, riding the chairlift, everything! We were so relieved that she had a positive first experience on the slopes and we’re looking forward to her becoming a good skier as she ages.
Day 6: Drive Home to Orange County
Our drive home was as uneventful as our drive to Mammoth Lakes. We stopped by Convict Lake to see it, ate lunch at Alabama Hills Cafe in Lone Pine, and stopped for gas in Adelanto.
We had a really fun (and, also, as stated above, really exhausting) time playing in the snow in Mammoth Lakes. We were glad to be home in our own beds, though, and breathing more moist air. It is our hope that we continue to take ski trips as a family over the years so that all the kids learn to – and love to – ski/ride with us!