Tag Archives: Snowboarding

Christmas at Mammoth and June

10 Jan

We finally made it to Mammoth for Christmas! Last year our flight kept getting cancelled but this year we managed to get ahead of the storm (we also got upgraded! Yay!)

I always love de-planing at Mammoth. The mountains are so pretty and the air is so cold and crisp. =)
IMG_20161219_162507On James’ birthday his aunt and uncle took us out for a fancy meal which was super nice of them. We had a couple of sunny, not-too-busy days to get our snow legs back before the storm. Plus lots more eating and drinking!

On the day of the storm it was cold, wet, and the visibility was pretty bad.
IMG_20161223_120034Storm days are always my favourite because the snow keeps getting refreshed and hardly anyone is on the mountain, and everyone who is there is so happy! It was definitely the best day of the trip. =)

The weather was pretty cold this time – I wore five layers most days. My gloves are pretty ratty now, so for the next trip I bought a bright pair of mittens so I’m nice and easy to find.
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All the days leading up to Christmas were pretty decent crowd-wise – last year the Christmas to New Year period was awful, so we were pleasantly surprised.

This is James looking majestic on Christmas Day.
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The highlight of the day had to be meeting up with Woolly and a random Santa!
IMG_1116 (2)It was a great way to spend Christmas morning/afternoon – the snow was nice, the sun was out, and everyone was in a good mood.

But then … disaster! As we were walking back from the resort James got paged. =( He spent the rest of the day (4pm-1:30am) on a work emergency. Here he is, looking very depressed with his festive hat and champagne flute.
IMG_20161225_184938Poor thing. =( We were all eating our delicious Christmas dinner and he was in the corner on a conference call with a plate of food.

The next day Ian, James and I headed to June Mountain to escape the Boxing Day crowds. It was busier than the last time we went but not too bad.

This is the view from the resort – gorgeous!IMG_20161226_141636I can’t remember which run I took this photo on – it was a green run that had beautiful views all the way down which made up for the fact that the snow was fairly crappy.
IMG_20161226_140628Last time Ian and I were at June we took the ski-back trail, but there wasn’t enough snow this time so we had to take the chairlift back to the parking lot.

Going down was a very different experience to going up! I was holding my snowboard and had the bar down because if the chairlift suddenly stopped I didn’t want to go tumbling down the mountain.

The most nervewracking part was when I took my phone out for some photos – the board was wedged between me and the bar, and I had a death grip on my phone … which I couldn’t even feel because my hands were so cold.

No regrets!
IMG_20161226_142151Then our last day we spent at Mammoth again, and that was our Christmas holiday! I snowboarded seven out of the eight days we were there, which isn’t bad.

It was great seeing James’ relatives again, and I’m looking forward to our next trip out!

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Finally! Mammoth Snow!

29 Jan

Last year we went snowboarding at Mammoth Mountain for the first time and conditions were pretty dire (though we still had fun).

Thankfully this year has been much better! The first few days of our trip were OK, but being between Christmas and New Years, were busier than I like. I am snow-curmudgeonly like Chuck – I only like to go on weekdays.

But then the storm hit! I think Mammoth got something like 3-4 feet of snow in as many days. It was cold, windy, and amazing – because everybody left. I’d board down without seeing a single other person, and it was snowing so hard that by the time back up to the top all my tracks had filled in.IMG_20160105_115338I think I took this photo on Day 2 of the storm and you can kind of see how heavily the snow is coming down. James is resentfully plodding through the snow because we had to unstrap to get to Chair 12 and it was really, really not worth skating there.

Cheer up Jamesy; it’s not so bad.
IMG_20160105_115326On an unrelated note, later that week he switched to skis.

Mike also joined us in Mammoth for a couple of days. On one of the days we were boarding together I was seduced by some pristine tree snow and was stuck for like … 20 minutes. I kept thinking I could rescue it without unstrapping, but finally just had to dig myself out and walk.
IMG_20160106_105207(When I took that photo I sent it to James. And he messaged back and was like “are you stuck? :(” Because he knows me. He knows I wouldn’t unstrap unless I had to)

Anyway, by that time Mike and I had gotten hopelessly split up so he went on without me and called it early. It was a shame though, because the second half of the day got so much better! Conditions got colder and windier and again, everyone went home! It was amazing having so much snow to (almost) myself. I kept telling myself just one more run, but giving in and going again.

The day after the storm was beautiful and clear. James headed out with me and I showed him some of the fun runs I’d found.
IMG_20160107_094657This was a comparatively tracked out bit but I don’t have a lot of action shots of James so I’m sticking with it!

They opened the backside and it was freaking glorious – about 3 storm days worth of untouched snow. There were huge lines at the gondola to get there, but it was worth it.
IMG_20160107_111002Each of those channels is at least knee height and you’d glide through them like butter. The steep terrain was easy – it was the flats where I had to worry because the couple of times I got stuck it was a bloody ordeal to get out.

So pretty! The trees looked like coral.
IMG_20160107_111844That yellow sign in the distance is a cliff warning. Welp, will be giving that a wide berth!
IMG_20160107_125052We were in Mammoth for 13 days and I boarded 11 of them. I was so exhausted by the end – both my feet had blisters and my legs were just not working anymore. I’m glad the storm was more towards the start of the trip. It played havoc with our inbound flights, but if I could time every trip for a storm I would be a very happy snow bunny!

Heading home. Going to miss that gorgeous view.
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A Great Time at Mammoth Mountain

24 Jan

James’ uncle and aunt have a cabin in Mammoth, and they very nicely offered to let us use it. So we bought tickets (using James’ $500 credit from our detoured United flight) and planned a Thursday to Tuesday trip. Unfortunately for us, the storm that was supposed to happen petered out – that’s one of the luxuries I miss about being 1.5 hours from the snow – you could decide the night before (or the morning of!) whether it was worth making the trip.

But anyway, the Mammoth airport is freaking adorable. It’s really small and there what looks like a conveyor belt which is basically just a gate they put your luggage through (so there’d be a backlog if like … five people were slow picking up their bags).

IMG_20150115_163205We took a taxi to the cabin and were greeted by two bears carved out of tree trunks in the front garden. The driver, a Mammoth local, chuckled and said “we like our bears around here.”

We drove to the local Vons (which apparently is the same thing as Safeway) to stock up on supplies. The selection was just as good, if not better, than my local Safeway and the prices were similar – maybe a bit higher but not noticeably so.

Also, a couple of years ago Vons made the news because a bear walked in, stole some apples and left!

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image from the Sierra Times

(“We like our bears around here”)

On Friday morning Steve made us pancakes and we headed to Mammoth. The cabin was within walking distance to a gondola that took us to Canyon Lodge which was very convenient. Cath and Steve were really disappointed with the snow, which apparently hadn’t been added to since Christmas. Admittedly conditions were pretty crap (a lot of rocks even on the groomers, with the added annoyance that I’d see one and go “better avoid that rock”, and then go right over it because I was staring at it) but that was mitigated by the excitement of discovering a new mountain. James and I boarded the whole day and when we got back Cath and Steve made falafels and plied us with wine.

Ohhhhh my God.

Snowboarding all day and walking back to a delicious homecooked meal? Heaven! This was a pattern that would repeat most days we were there. We’d get back, Steve would make us cocktails, and then we’d have dinner and sooo much wine. Then snowboarding the next day!

I discovered that my favourite runs were also Ian and Steve’s favourites. I can’t wait to see what they’re like with more snow.

This was at the summit (11,053 feet). I’ve seen photos where the snow covers most of that pole so you can see what a slow start to the season it’s been.

IMG_20150117_150518James was tired and actually having a bit of trouble at the elevation so he took the gondola back down while I explored on my own for the rest of the day. I also got the impression that he wasn’t having the best time. =( He said “I’m slowing you down. I don’t think you realise just how much better than me you’ve gotten”, which made me simultaneously sad and pleased.

He wants to bring his skis next time because Mammoth has a lot more flats than Stevens. Cath and Steve let us keep our boards at their cabin, so James thinks he might save his board for powder days and ski the rest of the time.

On Sunday James and I had already snowboarded two days in a row, and we weren’t keen on fighting crowds for crappy snow.
IMG_20150117_111538Instead, Cath, Steve and Ian showed us around the area, which was really nice of them. We went to see the tufas at Mono Lake:

IMG_20150118_112736And also to an abandoned mining town:
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Unfortunately Cath, Steve and Ian were so disappointed with the snow that apart from a couple of hours the first day where they showed us the ropes we didn’t get to ride with them. Hopefully by the time Chris comes to visit the conditions will be better and we can all get out together. I’ve snowboarded in worse, though admittedly not much worse. But even though the snow was crap I still had a really great time catching up with family.

Goodbye Mammoth! Fingers crossed next time you have some more snow for us!
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End of the Snowboard Season

7 Apr

We’re well into April now and the winter snow has turned into spring slush. My legs have never been this achey – I spent over an hour and a half foam rolling my quads last week. =( On the plus side the lift lines are short and the snow is soft for me to practice little jumps.

I bought a weekday season pass to Stevens for next year. It costs the equivalent of 4 trips, so not too much of an investment, and it also lets me ride for free for the remainder of the season.

The other thing I splurged on were new bindings which are awesome – they’re Rome Madisons (Madisons? More like Radisons). James and Kyoto mounted them for me.

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I tested them out at Crystal a couple of weeks ago with Caroline, and there’s such a difference compared to my old bindings. My heelside turns in particular are way smoother and I feel like I have a lot more control. The only downside is that they’re slightly heavier, but it’s worth it to not spend several minutes before and after (and sometimes during!) a run fiddling with my bindings. With the way my (and Mike’s) bindings fell apart I’m never going to buy anything K2 again.

But anyway, it was great hanging out with Caroline, and pretty cool to see the aftermath of the in-bounds avalanche.
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Also last week James and I went to Stevens and he brought his snowboard instead of the skis he’s been on all season. Even though it was a Saturday there were no lift lines and crowds so we got a lot of runs in. It took him maybe 3 runs to get the hang of it again. I think his knees are OK as long as he doesn’t snowboard regularly during the season.

He waved, but was otherwise too cool to look at me. =(
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Afterwards we had Ethiopian food at Altaye in Rainier Beach (not actually a beach). I need to eat Ethiopian food more often because man, it is delicious and cheap.
IMG_3520Depending on the snow I might head out one or two more times this season. There’s less urgency now that I can snowboard as much as I want next season (and now that my legs are getting destroyed in a single run).

James Takes a Day Off To Go Skiing!

5 Mar

James took Monday off to come with me to Crystal. =) He skied but said next time there’s a day like that he’ll take his snowboard instead. I think he was a bit frustrated at how often his skis were popping off in the ungroomed snow.

There was lots of fresh snow but it was quite heavy and wet. The mountain was shockingly empty – probably the least busy day I’ve been this season (including Superbowl Sunday). We never had to wait for the lift and hardly saw anyone else on the runs. It’s indescribably better than going on a weekend.

I think my favourite part of the day was an amazing run we did down a near-pristine hill. We had to hike a bit to get out of it since we didn’t know where we were and hadn’t built up enough speed. I thought it was sooo worth it but although James acknowledged the run was fantastic I think he was a bit traumatised by the walk.

Look at that view!

The second best part of the day was when I was on a flat and an enormous flock of birds flew past me. There were so many of them that I spent maybe 10 seconds in the middle of a tiny bird storm. I waited for James, trying to think how I’d describe it, and as he went across the flat the birds flew past again. =D 

I wish I’d taken a photo of it because it was crazy. The only thing better than gliding on the snow surrounded by 100+ birds was seeing it happen to James. It was absolutely one of the highlights of the day.

Afterwards we went to The Cheesecake Factory. I’ve been meaning to go because our friends told us it has giant portions and it seems like such an American experience. Plus it was right outside where the shuttle dropped us off.

We ordered lots of cocktails (post-snowboarding tradition). Here is a blood orange margarita and an Asian pear margarita:

And later on, a dirty martini and chocolate banana liqueur milkshake:

I didn’t really think about it at the time, but the cocktails really drove up the price of the meal. If we ate here again I would definitely not drink so much. But it was so much fun. =) We were laughing the whole meal – or at least I was!

James: (with affectionate disapproval) You are drunk on snowboarding and mild amounts of alcohol.

When our meals arrived I was initially a little disappointed at how un-huge the portions looked. But after snacking on the bread I didn’t actually have a lot of room left over.

I ordered the chicken bellagio (and ate about 1/3, leaving the rest for James to take to work the next day).

James ordered the buffalo burger with a side of onion rings (and ate all of it, the fat fuck).

We also ordered 2 slices of cheesecake because we had a voucher for free cheesecake. I could have sworn I took a picture of them, but apparently I didn’t. James got the Reese’s Pieces one and I got the Oreo cheesecake. James ate about half his and we literally took 2 bites of mine (one each). In all fairness my milkshake was pretty much a dessert in itself.

The bill was $92 before applying free cheesecake vouchers and I think it went down to $70 or so afterwards. Like I said earlier, it would have been normal chain prices if we hadn’t included the cocktails. Our American friends don’t think much of The Cheesecake Factory but I’d be lying if I said we didn’t have a great time.

You can definitely get better food, better value food, and better value better food elsewhere, but The Cheesecake Factory really hit the spot for a post-snow meal. The service was great (there were heaps of waiters. It looked like there were 2 for every diner – maybe TCF is the Apple store of chain restaurants) and they even managed to find a spot to store James’ skis and my board while we ate. =)

It was an awesome day at Crystal. I hope we can sneak one more weekday trip before the season ends (with James bringing his board instead of skis). But next week we’re off to Hawaii to learn how to surf.

It will be fun to see beaches and sand again, but I think after a week I’ll be ready to come back to the beautiful mountains of the PNW. =)

Snowboarding Update!

24 Feb

After a slow start to the season we had about a week and a half where the mountains were getting bucketed with snow. The down side of course was that the weekends were super busy. It used to be that we could arrive at 10 and still get a spot in summit parking but the past couple of weeks I’ve heard that if you’re not there by 9:30 you have to park in the overflow lots and take the shuttle up. I wouldn’t know – we get there at 8. =P

Aside from the crowds the past week was near-perfect; not too cold, good visibility and amazing snow. This was the line for Hogsback before it started running.

Aside from the long lines it was a great day. We frolicked in the powder, explored some routes through the trees and killed our quads on long, steep (but soft) hills. I’ve been practicing going fast down hills and trying little jumps – the jumps were particularly fun on Sunday because the snow was so forgiving.

I’ve also been going to Crystal on Thursdays while the going is good. On those days I haven’t been pushing myself terrain-wise – I just hang out on the un-groomed blues. At the end of the day I’ve been riding switch on the baby slopes, which I insanely suck at, but need to do since I eventually want to hop little 180s.

This was the bottom of a green run that didn’t get a lot of traffic. Once I got the hang of cruising on top of the heavy powder it was a lot of fun, and I had the area all to myself (so there was nobody around to see the times I got trapped and took several minutes to get back on my feet).

The huge dumps of fresh snow tire my legs out a lot more than normal – like the difference between running on the road and running on sand. My legs were already aching after the first run but it was soooo worth it.

I’m still determined to get James out to Crystal on a weekday. He just finished a 6-month long project where the last 2 months basically had him working past midnight most nights (including weekends). I’m super proud of him because he worked so hard on it and it’s a huge feather in his cap. As soon as the project finished he got really sick for a week, and now it’s stopped snowing in the mountains. =(

We’re off to Maui next month as well, so hopefully there’s some good snow before or after so he can experience the glory (and thigh-burn) of a weekend powder day.

So Cold!

8 Dec

The past few days have been soooo cold! Highs of 0C and lows of -6C. Brrr! Our apartment is really well insulated, so although we’re wearing hoodies we haven’t turned on the heat. And poor Mouse is coping in his usual way.

Our friends who have been here a few years longer than us say it’s the coldest they’ve experienced in Seattle. It’s so cold that fountains are freezing over and people have been playing ice hockey on Lake Washington.

And because we’re a bunch of idiots and apparently -6C wasn’t cold enough, we were like “let’s go snowboarding!”.

When we were in the carpark one guy was like “dude my nose hairs are freezing!” and I laughed but James told me later that he was thinking “how did he know?!” So yeah, James discovered frozen nose hairs are a thing at -11C.

We wore three layers on our torso and legs, two layers of gloves with heat packs inside our gloves (“the heat packs! They do nothing!”) and also wore facemasks, which were all frozen at the end of the day. On the plus side it was gorgeous.

photo taken by Chi Kai

Poor Chi Kai actually took his hands out of his gloves to take that photo. He had regrets.

To save his knees James skied – his first time in 10 years. He found it really disconcerting not being able to look back up the hill to see if anyone was there, and he hated hearing people behind him, not knowing if/when they were going to pass. He said I zoomed by him a couple of times and freaked him out.

Me: Is it because I was too close?
James: It’s because you were too speedy!

Which really pleased me because I was trying to go faster than normal to get out of my comfort zone. I fell a lot more than usual but less than I was expecting! I’m really keen to demo a stiffer board to see if that changes how confident I feel going fast.

The guys called it a day around 3:30pm, which was a pity because the last half hour was the best! Hardly anyone was still on the mountain and (other) James and I could get straight on the lifts.

Normally the snow melts off my board on the way home but it was so cold that it remained intact. So that night Mouse had his first encounter with snow.

Do you know what is soooo satisfying? Soaking in a hot bath after a long day of snowboarding.

Today it was -1C for most of the day and James and I recovered by doing hot yoga at a class that Madeleine was teaching. She said it was so cold outside that the room wasn’t as hot as she wanted even though she had the heat at full blast. It felt plenty hot to me though – I was dripping the whole time!

I thought it was really interesting – some poses were a lot easier in the heat and I felt all rosy afterwards. James didn’t like the sweatiness and how full the class was – he said he accidentally kicked the girl behind him a couple of times.

Then we tried a bunch of McDonald’s burgers that we don’t have in Australia (McRib, Southern Chicken and some bacon jalapeno one) and napped for the rest of the afternoon. Well, I napped – I think James played computer games.

Also I found some photos from last week when we went to Stevens but it was raining so we aborted and headed over the pass to Leavenworth instead. James and AJ were excited by the icicles hanging by the side of the road and made Mike stop the car so they could pose lightsaber style.

The whole time they were like “OMG our hands are freezing!” but the idiots kept holding onto the icicles while I took photos. =D

Leavenworth is a Bavarian-themed tourist town. There are lots of German restaurants (including one that serves schweinshaxe that we all kind of want to try). I don’t know if if it’s normal or because it’s this time of year, but they have Christmas lights everywhere:

And a Christmas market! It was very empty and depressing when we were there, but maybe the not-so-great weather made everyone stay home.

Even the petrol station was done up Bavarian-style.

And weirdly enough there was an Australian themed store in the middle of it all.

They had $10 vegemite, a cool mug that had “The Outback. Leavenworth, WA” (and an outline of a kangaroo) that I kind of regret not buying, didgeridoos, and random non-Australian things like crafts and Bigfoot-related memorabilia.

Then we headed home, helped Mike install his snowboard wall mount and chillaxed for the rest of the day.

I think a plus side of this cold weather is that it feels quite Christmassy. Actually I’m a little torn on that because it feels like how I always imagined Christmas should feel (still waiting on that Seattle snow though) but all my memories of Christmas are like .. 30C+ weather with Chinese food (my family) and smoked salmon and BBQs (James’ family). The other day James caught me listening to Tim Minchin’s White Wine in the Sun and having a bit of a homesick sniffle.

Still, this year there is talk of maybe doing Christmas at Whistler, so that could be pretty cool. And our plan is to go back for Christmas next year so there will be plenty of time to hang out with friends/family and get sunburned. =D