Monday, January 5, 2009

Snowboarding at Mammoth Mountain - advice and observations


Thanks to my buddy Pierre, I was able to have a nice little getaway to Mammoth this past weekend so that I can end my holiday break in style :) Being that I was staying in a condo full of Mammoth veterans and snowboarding pros, I was able to pick up some nifty tips that I think are worth sharing.

1. Happy hour at Whiskey Creek
From 4-5:30pm, all their food is half off plus $1 off pints and $4 off pitchers. They have a great selection of Mammoth Mountain Brewery beers so you can try them all! :D And the food is pretty decent stuff too... think one step above TGIFridays (coconut crusted shrimp, teriyaki glazed chicken wings, spinach salad with goat cheese and candied walnuts, etc). We had a ton of food, 2 pitchers of beer, and it all came out to less than $20 per person after tax+tip. SWEET! Granted it's a bit early, but just come after the mountain closes at 4pm... you'll be starving and exhausted by then anyways!

2. How to save on locker storage
Once I rented all my overpriced gear, I was still left with a pair of tennies that I needed to store somewhere. At first, I used a locker which seems like a waste at $2 per use. I mean, I already dropped $83 for a 1-day lift ticket and $34 for the equipment rental. But if all you have are a pair of shoes, you can just throw it on top of any locker and chances are, it'll still be there when you return in the afternoon. Of course, there's always the risk that your shoes won't be there, but I guess that's the chance you gotta take if you wanna save $2! Or if you want to be a real deviant, you can have a friend give your shoes to the Lost and Found counter. Then pick it up yourself at the end of the day! (thanks to deviant Pierre for this idea).

3. Restroom lines at Canyon Lodge
I've never not seen a line for the ladies room on the main level of Canyon Lodge where all the eateries and the crepe guy hangs. But if you go to the first floor, the lines seem either non-existent or short. FYI - the lockers at Canyon Lodge are not manned, so trick #2 would work best here :)

4. Achy knees from lift riding
Being the geriatric senior citizen I am, my knees are not the greatest and dangling that snowboard off one foot all day can wreak havoc on my knee (which it did). You have two options here. One is to cross your free foot across bound foot for support (so if you ride regular, cross your right foot behind your left). The other option is to simply alternate the foot that you dangle that snowboard from. So even if you ride goofy, don't always suspend the board from your right. This technique requires that you can dismount the lift with either foot leading which was a bit challenging for me. But totally worth it at the end of the day when your knees aren't killing you. Besides, if any part of your body hurts, it should be from your crazy falls or riding like a madman/woman. Not from riding the stupid lift.

5. Other safety concerns - especially for snowboarders
Kneepads - an absolute must for beginner ~ intermediate riders. I learned without them and paid a hefty price in purple knees for 2 weeks. Even as an intermediate rider now, they've saved me a bunch of times.
Helmet - I didn't think I really rode fast enough to necessitate a helmet, but I was averaging about 1 bad head fall per day that would have been less concussion inducing if I had a helmet on. (don't worry, no concussions here, just a few lost brain cells :) )

6. Replenish those fluids
A small hot cocoa on the slopes will only set you back $1.75 (no tax like inside the lodges) and is definitely the fastest and cheapest way to address the loss of fluids and sugars while riding. Dunking Twix bars (or other candy bar of choice) into said hot cocoa in its creamy chocolatey goodness is also delicious.

7. Beef jerky
Anyone who doesn't love beef jerky is guilty of sacrilege against the Lord. With that said, there are two main beef jerky joints along the highway that most Mammoth visitors are familiar with. The larger one in the town of Bishop closer to Mammoth and a smaller one further south in the town of Olancha. In the name of research, I went to both of them yesterday. My pick is definitely the one in Bishop. It's larger, has a larger selection of jerky as well as other meat items like sausages and bacons made out of funky elk meat and such. Also, you can buy as much or as little jerky as you want by weight ($35 per pound). The stuff ain't cheap. A piece of jerky about the size of your palm will be around $3. But it is really really gooooood. The jerky shack in Olancha has a smaller selection of decent looking jerkey, but they are pre-packed so you can't pick and choose by weight. The smallest pack runs around $9 for 4oz, so I think the prices are similar. And the sample of the Olancha jerky I tried tasted saltier than the Bishop jerky. Don't be afraid (like me) to ask for samples at either location... they are pretty generous with it and you wanna make sure you try the stuff before plonking down $10+ for overpriced dried meat (well, it's not really overpriced IMHO I think they're quite delicious and worth it :d).

Some other personal analogies/observations of note:

How is snowboarding like childbirth? (Note - I've never given birth, but I've heard many anecdotes of it)
Well, childbirth is one of those things that are excruciatingly painful during, but once it's done you apparently somehow magically forget about how flesh-rippingly painful it was and think "wow, it's so great to have a kid... maybe i can go thru this experience again." I feel that snowboarding is similar in that during the process of waking up at the crack of dawn, falling more times than you want to admit, and dealing with your achy body afterwards, I always think "I am never gonna do this again." But later as the soreness of body and shock to my wallet passes, I think "hey, that was kinda fun. maybe I could do it again". A sucker is indeed born every minute.

How is snowboarding like marijuana?
Everyone seems to love it. So I tried it and thought I might love it. I tried it, it was ok. I didn't love it. I still don't love it. If all my friends were doing it, I'd probably do it again. But I wouldn't initiate a snowboarding trip. Some people say you have to try it multiple times to really get the hang of it and appreciate it. I've gone enough times to ride a blue/black run in semi-comfort. But I still don't love it. It's fun and ok, but I'm not exactly counting down the days til I'm back on the mountain again.

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