Divine Daytripper Freelance Travel Writer


Mammoth Mountain, California

Fearless Friends at Mammoth


I went on an annual ski trip to Mammoth Mountain with a group of 13 friends.  I met most of these people from college.  They now have children, significant others, and extended families.  We are a raucous group of fun-loving, thrill-seeking, energetic individuals hell-bent on finding adventure on skis. 

We took the Panorama Gondola up to the lookout point at 11,053 feet for a group picture at the Mammoth Mountain sign.  The day before, the weather was beautiful: sunny and clear.  Today, the wind was howling a lion’s roar ferocity and blowing needle-like snow into our faces.  We took the photograph with full ski regalia: goggles, gloves, gators and great big smiles that if left cheery too long would freeze our teeth right off.

After the photo was taken, we descended the mountain by groups: the set with cold and weary youngsters took the gondola back down to the main lodge and the expert skiers took the Cornice Bowl dropping down into Scotty’s Run. Jordan, my 15-year-old son, Margaret, my beloved friend, and I opted for the Upper Road Runner Road, a blue route down the backside of the hill, the most direct route to mid-mountain where the wind was gentle and conditions more tolerable. 

The environment was brutal.  Cold, pelting snow offered us a free microdermabrasion treatment courtesy of Mother Nature.  This down-hill adventure was not to be enjoyed, but to be endured.  Still, it brought a dormant passion out of me.  An exhilarating, energizing force that made me feel alive.  Nature can be so raw and powerful that to co-exist with its dominant strength requires courage and fortitude.  A can-do attitude that delivers the message: I can do this.  I can be with the wind and the snow.  I can find comfort in the discomfort.  I can get down this mountain.  I was filled with inspiration and passion.  This is what it felt like to be alive.

While we were making our descent, I began to think about passion in a new way.  The association most people connect with passion is romantic love.   A hot, steamy love affair to bring out the missing element associated with being alive.  The savoir faire.  The juice.  The viscosity.  The elemental life force that brings our senses into present time and makes us feel the personal satisfaction of being in a physical body. I realized that skiing brings out the passion in my life.  However, passion requires risk.  Playing it safe may provide security and comfort, but it will not offer the explosion of emotion unbound that leads to passion or feeling alive.  Sometimes we have to put our head in the lion’s mouth simply because that’s the risk required to find our pulse.

My son and I were the last one off the mountain on that cold and windy March day.  We always try to take the final chair lift moments before the ski operator closes the lifts.  We took Chair 23 up and skied down Solitude into Lower Dry Creek ending at the Mill Café entrance, the best place in Mammoth to park.  Our friends Paul and Margaret had the Blazer ready for us to load our skis and board.

Before our night’s adventure, we stopped at Schat’s Bakery, home of the original Sheepherder bread and a Mammoth institution.  We buy baklava, an almond horn, a bear claw, some white chocolate chip macadamia nut cookies, vanilla-flavored pound cake, and fresh sourdough bread.  Together we shared our sweet treats while grooving to the sounds of U2 singing their greatest hits.

We stayed at the home of our gracious hosts Lyn and Jackie Morris in Crowley, a 20-minute drive on Hwy 395 south of Mammoth Mountain.  Their resort-like, tri-level, custom-built, hill-top home features a 360-degree panoramic view of the White Mountains and Crowley Lake.  The camaraderie of skiing all day then being together at night for good food and stories creates a sense of well-being and communion in the tribe.  Together we prepare epicurean treats like sushi, spaghetti, sweetened condensed milk tortilla casserole, and bananas foster.

We told stories around the dining table over wine and water that ranged from extreme skiing to sublime victories.  Lyn told the tale of jumping a cornice on a double black diamond into waist high powder without an avalanche beacon or shovel.  We laughed over a chicken and fish story involving a ski binding release rescue.  The kids share their personal victories of snowboarding down a challenging run without falling and finding a new place on the mountain to explore. 

My transcendent triumph was skiing with my son, all afternoon without fatigue or fear.  Sure, he was snowboarding switch – meaning he was strengthening his weak side.  And no, he didn’t take me on any double black diamonds or moguls.  I warned him if I had to, I could still bend him over my knee and spank him.  He always laughs and tells me I have to catch him first.  The idea that I could keep up with this fearless demon empowered me.  I know we have a life-long common bond – the love of skiing.

Our last morning in Mammoth was ethereal.  It didn’t involve any physical expression. I was eating a bowl of blueberry granola and gazed out the window. I saw a rainbow.  My heart took flight.  I felt Mother Nature’s smile.  At that moment in time, all was right in the world.  We finished packing our things, said goodbye and began making our way home.