Mammoth Mountian, California

February 25 - March 4, 2017

Mammoth Group

Saturday:  We headed out with a group of 24 snow enthusiasts, including two snow boarders (Alex and Maria E.) and three new members (Alex McIntyre, Rick Russell & Maria Huber.)  Everyone was on time at the airport for our 8:45 departure and SW provided a group check in, which nicely expedited matters.   After an uneventful venture thru security, most of us headed out in search of breakfast with some of the luckier ones finding Crab Eggs Benedict accompanied by a pretty tasty Bloody Mary.  We were on the same plane with about 45 members of Columbia Ski Club.   Unfortunately, they checked in a nano second ahead of us and got all the good seats, leaving most of us to hunker down in a middle seat until we arrived in Phoenix.   Flights were uneventful and all bags not only flew free, but also arrived with us.   Val & Gary Mills, as well as Kenny Greenslet, Maria Huber and Kevin Green met us at Reno airport.  Even though we hustled thru Raleys with the efficiency of an Olympic mogul skier, our laid-back bus driver, Dick, managed to stretch the ride out for the full four hours.  Maybe this was a good thing, as an SUV decided to bang a U-turn right in front of us.  Appreciative chuckles were heard throughout the bus as Anne remarked that it seemed strange for an apparent Pennsylvania driver to be out there.  Upon arrival, Dick decided he didn't want to pull the bus into the 15-foot high circle of snow that surrounded the entrance to Juniper Springs. No big deal, except the bell captain wouldn't let his crew walk out to the bus on the ice.   It was suggested that we each drag our own bags across the ice to the lobby, and THEN they would transport the baggage to our rooms.   Challenge number 1 for the veteran trip leader.  Fortunately, the majority of the JS resorts staff was quite capable, and so Chalese stepped up and took the bull by the horns.  Very soon after, our unhappy driver was pulling the bus up to the front door, finding it a bit easier by going counter clockwise around the entry circle.  By now, we were more than just fashionably late (almost a full hour) for our welcome party. Bobby the Jailbird Ever the Class Clown, our dear Bobby Jones showed up wearing his prisoner costume – an allusion to his run-in with Canadian Border Patrol on a previous trip.  He is one very sketchy character.  After introducing everyone, including 2 each of Maria, Bob, Steve, Ken & Rick, we turned the floor over to Chalese.  She was completely nonplused by the earlier snags, and regaled us with all there was to know about the resort, the mountain and the surrounding area while we enjoyed adult beverages and yummy snacks.  Black Tie delivered skis, boards and all the accouterments in their typical efficient manner.  After what was about a 20-hour day for the majority of us, we adjourned to the condos and exhaustedly settled in.   This was also the first of three days of asking all the locals we encountered, "Where can we find a good party for Fat Tuesday?", to which the reply was almost always "What's Fat Tuesday?".

Sunday:  Once again, Chalese went the extra mile for the club by arranging to have the mountain hosts meet us at nearby Eagle lift for our mountain tour, rather than us having to take two lifts in search of their usual meeting spot.  Nattily outfitted with our neon green HSC kerchiefs, the majority of us took off for a comprehensive tour of the aptly named Mammoth Mountain.  The wind was brisk, a precursor to the impending snowstorm.  At the top of the mountain, we were pelted by blowing sleet under cloudy skies. Still, snow conditions were good overall.  Kudos to all of the guides for a superb excursion.  One guide, Randy, took us over to view one of the extremely dangerous, CO2 filled fumaroles. He explained that Mammoth still experiences seismic activity, with tremors occurring multiple times a day.  This causes fissures, into which CO2 is released and trapped. Eleven years ago, 4 ski patrollers were tragically killed in an accident there.  We gave that area on Sierra Peak a wide berth.  Day two of nobody having heard of Fat Tuesday.  This outrageous display of ignorance threatened to severely tarnish my reputation for being the trip leader who always includes a wild night out with beads and hurricanes as standard ski trip fare.

Monday:  Everyone loves fresh powder, and we received about 8 inches via the storm that blew in overnight.  While most of the group decided it was a fine day to shop, rest, party, etc., five hearty members (motivated no doubt by the fact that they had purchased a 6 day lift ticket) ventured out into the blowing snow. Lowell, Jackie, Val and Gary found it an adventure, albeit a bit of a challenge.  
Rick #2, so named because he was the new guy, and we already had a Rick of longer tenure, reported that trying to ski deep powder while lost and blinded by blowing snow was not exactly his idea of a great ski day. But he persevered and lived to ski another day. This courageous show of tenacity thus earned him an upgrade from “Rick 2” to “Rick R”.Brewery Tour  Meanwhile, Plan B for Rick #1, Steve L, Anne, Bill and Pat was a brewery tour.  Anne was unanimously voted unofficial, Special Asst. Leader in Charge of Snowstorm Alternative Plans, SALCSAP. (Since we didn’t pay her, we gave her a nice title.)  Rising to the occasion, she quickly contacted, scrutinized and confirmed our excursion.  The van from Eastern Sierra Brewery Tours arrived forthwith with the knowledgeable and friendly owner, Mike. A fun day ensued.  The first brewery was in June Lake, so we had a scenic ride out there, which enabled us to view both the lake and the ski resort.  Second stop was at Mammoth Lake brewery and the final stop was at a nano brewery called Black Doubt Brewing.  The legal occupancy for the tiny area, which housed the entire brewing operation, was 8 people. Amazingly, they manage to produce both a beer that tastes like a wine cooler and one that tastes like coffee.  Today's answer to the Fat Tuesday party possibilities inquiry was "Pat, we're too busy shoveling snow to party".

Tuesday: Not quite perfection yet, but plenty of fresh powder. The winds were lingering but the sky was clear. Today my ski guardian angel told me not to ski with my usual group and I am so happy I heeded her warning.   Having conquered The Cornice, intrepid adventure seekers Steve L, Anne, Linda, Bill and Rick H. decided to meander over to the only other single black diamond in the area - Dave's run.  Who knows what happened to that sign.  Perhaps some dude named Dave took it home as a souvenir, or perhaps the local Sasquatch decided to play a trick on the visiting group of Marylanders.  They only realized that they had missed that single black run when they arrived at all of the double blacks that cascaded down from the top of Mammoth.   Side slipping became the favored technique at the top, but all survived to tell the tale. Skiers on the mountianMeanwhile, on a different part of the mountain, I enjoyed barreling down the steep groomers with Nancy, Ken, Beth, and Steve.  It quickly became apparent that we have some dedicated speed demons in the group, but I did  manage to entice a few of them into a short tree run and some small bowls.  Alex took a lesson in hopes of finding some more challenging terrain without having to be alone in the drifts.  Smart girl – safety first.  Many of us wandered thru the village that evening, but nary a bead or bare bosom was to be found.  Fat Tuesday officially became Flat Tuesday and that is the last I have to say on that sorrowful subject.

Wednesday:  Finally the perfect day.  Blue skies, warm temps and great snow.  Layers came off and just about everyone hit the slopes early.  The sign for Dave’s Run was apparently still missing, as the Mills and Swartz families involuntarily skied down HuevosGrandes, another double black diamond, which was ungroomed and very challenging.  But, as Jackie said, they “did the deed”.No harm, no foul.In our first instance of unfortunate encounters on the mountain, Anne was taken out by what she described as “a linebacker”.  Thankfully, no serious injury occurred to either party, and it didn’t ruin this sublime day on the mountain.  Many of us lunched at McCoy’s, giving us a chance to swap stories about runs, and sometimes even swap ski groups.  The food there was delicious, fresh and doled out in enormous servings.  That evening, the Juniper Springs staff continued to provide us with excellent service, this time by efficiently transporting all of us both to & from the group dinner at Giovanni’s.Mammoth park Starting off with pitchers of suds, bottles of wine and other liquid refreshment, the group mingled and enjoyed garlic & cheese bread before ordering off their superb &reasonably priced menu.  I heard nothing but complimentary remarks on the food, and I can certainly vouch for the salmon.  Everyone was a winner during our drawings for free tchotchkes, which ranged from hats to stickers to Mammoth Mountain air fresheners.  Jackie was especially happy to win a resort ski hat as she had just lost a favorite one recently.  We did have a moment of trepidation when a server wearing a Pittsburgh Steelers jersey appeared with trays of our food.  Turns out he was a pretty nice guy and had a great sense of humor.  At the end of the night, he even came outside to take our group picture for us. 

Thursday:  One of us made morning more difficult than it needed to be by putting on ski boots before ski pants, and then having the joy of doing it again.  As reported by my condo mates, “Someone always needs to remind Pat:  “after putting on long johns, however, before gruntingly putting on ski boots,  Snow pants.....first right leg, then left leg.....then and only then ski boots!”  I really wish they had told me sooner. Otherwise, it was another perfect day, with some people even abandoning their jackets for vests.   Skiing was fantastic, with lots of people taking to the trees for some extra adventure and a few people tackling some of those single black diamonds they had been avoiding earlier in the week. catchin some raysLunchtime at McCoy’s again provided an opportunity for many in the group to catch up over chili and fries.   Sasquatch was among those dining there and he even posed for a picture. Kenny G was victim #2 of a snowboarder. He was hit so hard it took about 15 minutes for him to regain his equilibrium enough to get up. A very sore shoulder is no fun but thankfully it was not worse.  The Knights of the Neon Kerchief may be secretly stalking the perp but I am not at liberty to discuss that.  A lunchtime injury was also reported:  seems while it was parked at the ski rack,  Lowell's ski got sliced from the top through the core.  But the base is ok and held out for the last day.Otherwise, it was just about a perfect day on the mountain.  Unless, of course, you missed a turn, had to pole all the way down Pumpkin, and then, just as you thought you had FINALLY reached the top of “Slow me the way to go Home” chair 8, it stopped.  Wouldn’t want to mention any names, Steve and Anne, but sometimes you just have to relax and enjoy the good company and nature’s beauty around you. Although many of us skied with Rick Russell today, we didn’t realize until later on that it was his birthday.  So unfortunately, by that time we had all made dinner plans that involved staying in.  Fortuitously, a nice couple from San Diego, who was also enjoying the hot tub, joined him at Roberto’s Mexican restaurant to celebrate.

Friday:  Be still my heart. It was yet another gorgeous day in the eastern Sierras.You just couldn’t have had a more Utopian ski day.   All of the locals repeatedly told us that it had been the best week of the season.  Disappointingly, there were noticeably more locals on the mountain this day, as many of them decided to take a long weekend.  Lift lines jumped all the way up to about 5 minutes!  With the knowledge that our week was ending and a storm was coming everyone set out to enjoy a great ending to a great week.  Bob Bossoli reports that Candy had gone in early, as her legs were very tired from skiing the previous 3 days in a row.  It was just around noontime when he and Bobby Jones decided to take a "water" break at the Mill Café.  Being lunchtime and with more people on the mountain, the place was pretty crowded.  They were able to share a table with a man and his son, and take a break.  Bob J. went off to get water, couldn't find any but was able to find a substitute in two Blue Moon draft beers, which they aptly used to toast Tom Mecklinburg's memory. Snow bank
Regrettably, paradise was lost when Bill and another skier were involved in a collision on just the second run of the day.  Local skiers stopped to assist and ski patrol arrived quickly.  It was determined that the mountain Uber service (aka ski patrol sled) was going to be necessary for Bill.  About a half hour after arriving at the Ski Patrol HQ and being checked out by the medics, I noticed that Bill’s GoPro was still recording.  Pretty sure this is not his favorite 23 minute film from the mountain.  But I am happy to report that he is improving daily, although he is still sore and bruised.Kudos & heartfelt thanks to the Ski Patrol and their medics for a very professional job well done. After getting Bill settled into his condo with ice and hot towels to alternate, I began to look online for an acute care clinic that might be able to provide some pain meds for Bill.  The first one he called could probably have helped him out, but turns out it was a clinic for medical marijuana, and Bill had neither a script nor a CA drivers license.  So, on to plan B.  Being that we were in CA, of course there was an app to download so you could interface with a medical doctor and have your RX called in to a local pharmacy.  Condo mates Duane and Maria E. stepped up and accompanied Bill to pick up his drugs so I could tend to all of the last day preparations for departure.  Thanks! We all gathered at 6pm to eat & drink up leftovers, swap more stories and take a final group photo.  In my experience, this type of party usually involves lots of semi-stale chips, cheese and maybe a meatball or two.  HSC members, superior by nature, really brought their ”A game”.  Not only were there lots of meatballs, but also fresh quesadillas, fresh salad, humus and veggies. But the award for going above and beyond goes to Kennygg and Kevin, for frying up and serving genuine Maryland crabcakes

Saturday:  We hit a small snag as we prepared to depart.  Even though I had checked with the front desk on Friday to make sure they knew we would be leaving at 7am and would need baggage pick-up at 6:15, the bellhops failed to appear.  So, we did have to bring down our own bags, but there were plenty of baggage carts to go around and we departed at 7:04.  Way to step up friends.  Thank you for not complaining.  Our return driver, Edward, was a gem.  He provided us with a choice of about 20 DVDs to make our return trip to the airport more enjoyable.  We watched “The Big Chill” and most of “Inglorious Basterds” before arriving.  It took a few minutes for SW to get an extra person for check-in, but everything went smoothly and once again, all of our luggage arrived with us.  We had better seats for the return, which helped offset the bumpy ride.  Mother Nature has to take the rap for the turbulence.  Also, we invented a fun new game we will call the “SW Middle Seat Manipulation”.  Here’s how it goes:  You and a friend are sharing a row, one at the window and the other on the aisle.  As the flight attendants have now announced that there are only middle seats remaining, and scores of people are still streaming onto the plane, the window seat occupant is vigilant for anyone who may be eyeballing YOUR middle seat.  As that person approaches, you lean across the middle seat and angrily say to your co-conspirator “Well, if you didn’t want to come on this trip you should have just said so, instead of acting like a jerk.”  Co-conspirator replies “You’re the one being a complete jerk” and the people avert their eyes and keep going.  Best part of the game is that you are both winners at the end.  High five, Rick H.Even if you couldn’t keep a straight face.Well, I guess I’d better backtrack a bit and say that not ALL of us got out ahead of the storm.  The Philadelphia portion of the McIntyre clan, Ken, Nancy and Alex, thought it was a great idea to be able to sleep in.  Oops.  Seems that Mammoth Airport closed down ahead of the storm and there were no car rentals available.  So, they hired a driver, arrived in Reno and found themselves facing another delay due to the storm.  After missing their connection in SF, I think they finally got home around Tuesday.  Maybe a bit of an exaggeration, but I’m sure it felt like that to them.

Mammoth Mascot

A heartfelt “Thanks” once again to everyone on the trip.  This is my Swan Song as a ski trip leader, and it was fantastic to go out on such a positive note.  Please continue to support Anne, Steve and any future leaders who put themselves out there to make it a great vacation for you.  You are the best group of friends anyone could ever ask for.  We have a great time, look out for each other and always find a way to have more fun than should be legal. Pat

Pat, as this is your Swan Song, I would like to Thank You for the many trips that you have lead over the years. Several of which I have had the pleasure of being on, and those that I wish I could have gone on (like this one, sorry Anne). You continued to set the bar high and have mentored a great group of trip leaders to take over for you. Now you get to relax and not worry about all those little details that most of us don't even know about.

Thank You, Thank You, Thank You - Dennis


Just a few general thoughts shared by Mammoth Mountaineers:

Duane Wallace: For the fourth year in a row, the Harford Ski Club has encouraged me to continue this new adventure in skiing with wonderful trips to great locations with terrific folks! Thanks, Duane. You are a wonderful addition to the club. Keep coming back.

Nancy and Ken McIntyre:Thanks! It was a great week. 

Jackie:We skied trees, trees and more trees

Maria E:You know you're in California when the free town bus driver is wearing a pussy hat--hand-knitted, with ears--

Almost everyone:  lovedswapping stories in the hot tub at the end of each day.

Mammouth Nano Brewery

hot tub fun