Another post that is not only quite late but also nothing to do with surfing, unless you generously compare snowboarding to surfing; and I did of course foolishly hope that a proficiency in the former facilitated the learning process of the latter.
I’ve never had a white Christmas, but I have had a white Third of July. I could make this nice and tidy by saying it was July 4th, but alas I was back to sea level for fireworks by then. Besides, we celebrated our much cherished and yet taken-for-granted freedom all weekend long by doing exactly what we wished, which was to frolic around Mammoth Lakes and shred up the slopes with what snow remained at the resort that is so dear to my heart.
Ben and I arrived at the decided-upon camp site late at night and met up with other half of the party to arrive, backcountry extraordinaries Jesse and Serena. I love pitching a tent at night when it’s pitch black (there was no moon at the time) so that the landscape is a complete surprise come morning. We were in the high desert, so the ground is covered in snow in winter but covered in green shrubs and grass by spring. In the not-so-far distance, the mountains rose up dramatically. Being camped near some grazing land, a herd of braying cows woke us up and peered at us warily from time to time as we set up a fire for breakfast.
Nearby our campground, which was really just a clearing without amenities or national park fees, there was a smattering of hot springs, and I was intrigued because I’d never set foot in one before. Fortunately the springs weren’t highly publicized and Jesse knew about them from a previous stint camping in the area, so we were the only ones there. Brilliant!
Mammoth Mountain, the ski resort I am now referring to (keep up!) had been pushing this “We’re open for the 4th of July!” concept pretty hard, because that’s just kind of a ridiculous feat in California, so naturally I had high expectations. I barely recognized the resort at all, what with all the brownness showing through the snow, oh, and a zip line for the kids… And yet I was still overcome by a nostalgic familiarity with the gondola tracing steadily up to the top of the slopes and the graceful(ish) curves of snowboarders and skiiers harmoniously intertwining like ribbons on a maypole.
At first I lamented the fact that we couldn’t access Dave’s Run or take Chair 23 among other favorites, but there was still a lot to do and plenty of groomed terrain to cover. And instead of getting overwhelmed with the multitude of runs to take and fighting over which side of the mountain is best, which might happen during peak season, we calmly found a hiding/chilling place in the snow for some PBRs and returned to this spot now and again for relief from the blazing 3rd of July sun.
A reminder regarding apparel: while a bathing suit top makes sense in exceedingly warm temperatures on the slopes, it offers the arms and torso no protection from the sun or from gritty snow preserved with salt. So, wear a gallon of SPF, and don’t fall. Violá, you’re golden.
All photos courtesy of Serena Butler. Stupid cations courtesy me.