Monday, February 12

Mammoth's Sway

This years trip marks the 10th year anniversary of my Mammoth Mountain love affair. Historically the elitist in us has never allowed girlfriends or outsiders on this exclusive trip, especially mushy couples who's never seen snow before. Baby sitting new snowboarders has never been a strong suit of mine anyway, neither is my unavailing mentor Kris. Training newbies are always limited to one run then were off on our own, leaving the newbies to fend for themselves. Kris even treats women the same way. Being his first protege, i got the brunt of his wrath. He practically sent me to the wrong Ski Resort. You see i was suppose to meet up with him in Big Bear Mountain but without notice he and his snowboarding pals changed the venue to Summit Mountain last minute. What a guy huh? Come to think of it, maybe thats why i turned into an elitist...

Except for the 1st couple of trips, where the cabins of choice were the pricey, lush, and spacious kinds, we've resorted to affordable, cramped, amenities lack luster, condo style cabins. Snowboarding, we realized is the mainstay in Mammoth Mountain not lavish living. Besides, who needs lavish when you're exhausted from a full days riding? All we ever did with the plush living space was lounge, drink, and play poker. All i ever did in the King size bed was sleep maybe 4 hours, yeah 4 hours, i can do that on the couch. Who needs a full kitchen when all we ever make is Spaghetti or Stir Fry? Who needs a Patio overlooking the Mammoth Wilderness when it's 10 degrees Fahrenheit outside with a wind chill of -20?? In consequence this annual trip has become more business-like. There is no shopping or making snowmans. There is no sleeping in. Kris sets his alarm for 5:30 am (yes 3 hours before the Ski Lifts start running), then runs around banging an empty trash can with a baton like Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in the movie Full Metal Jacket. I then make my customary Military style breakfast (primarily because they're too lazy to make breakfast) made out of green eggs and sausages that no one really likes, but eat anyway. I'm still waiting for someone to take the spatula away from me.

Kris and I have no mercy on the slow folks either. Believe me, we have stranded people before and screamed at many for delaying the itinerary even women (heed my warning lol). Even the buying of lift tickets, choosing of ski lifts, and the bathroom breaks are systematic on these trips. Yes there is an Exact Science to this. The first run is always a warm up run, no fancy or tricky stuff. The next few are spent wandering about the front end of Mammoth Mountain. Then, right before we take a break, we ride the Gondola up to the Summit of Mammoth Mountain, almost 13,000 feet above Sea Level. You see the Summit is the only place in this mammoth resort that you get to see and appreciate the sheer size and beauty of this dormant Volcano (Yes Mammoth Mountain is a Volcano). There are many ways to get down from the Summit. For the meek and the less adventurous, there is the fairly safe backside trail, as long as you don't lose your balance and concentration. One small mistake can cost you your life, or at least a free ride on the stretcher. Remember not to stop at any time because this narrow terrain (uhmm with a 200 foot dead drop on its edge) has no shoulder for trailing SnowBoarders to go around, they'd basically have to run you over... For the stoic of hearts, a choice of Black and Double Black Diamonds or basically a 60 degree shoot down the face of the Mountain. Oh, don't lose your back side because that 100 yard dive is no fun (just looks fun... and oh, btw, they pack the snow up there with dynamites to force Avalanche in the morning. So you know, it doesn't happen during the day when people are around. As a result, some of the snow bricks are the size of SUV's). After a quick break, we hit up the Park to take a few Intermediate to Large size jumps, though not worthy of an ESPN highlight reel (no rails or Sean White type Half Pipes either). When we satisfy our Park needs we head out to the more adventurous Back End of Mammoth Mountain. This is when the real fun begins. You see the back end of Mammoth Mountain is unlike any of the friendly Packed & Trimmed Trails on the Front End. They don't bother trimming this side of the Mountain, and even if they wanted to they couldn't. I mean it's inaccessible even by Snowcat (It's like a Bulldozer except with a snow trimmer).

This is where people get lost and die of hypothermia..... I'm just kidding. The terrain back there is fun because it is as beautiful and pristine as it is unpredictable. There is no way to tell the depth or the shallowness of the ice any where. Riding involves not only turning and carving but looking ahead checking for any imperfections on the trails that could possibly send you to a nasty spill. There are boulders to look out for and Trees to dodge (Though riding through the trees is incredibly challenging and fun). In some years, the snow was so deep the Trees were completely buried. I mean all you see are Tree Tops. Fun and challenging as this side of the Mountain may be, it is equally dangerous and downright exhausting. Your legs and calves take the brunt of the abuse.

If you ever get to conquer this mountain or at least see it in its glorious entirety, you'll never forget it. It is the only way to completely appreciate this Gem of a ski resort. Be careful though because this Mountain is vast and unforgiving, if you're not careful it will tear your spirits apart (if not your spirits at least your ass lol). The Mountain is beautiful and awe inspiring but equally menacing, her sights picturesque but ominously shrouded, and her snow inviting but yet dangerous. Injuries happen on any given day. On the backside, the only rule is to Snowboard at your own risk. There are no lifts back there so don't get lost for she is vast!


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