By Carole Horst
We’ve always thought of ourselves as a beach family, gearing holidays toward sand and surf, but when Snowcreek Resort in Mammoth Lakes offered me two nights at one of their accommodations, my husband and I thought, "The mountains? Why not?"
Our kids (two girls, ages 7 and 11) were over the moon, dreaming of all the snowy pleasures denied them by the limitation of temperate Los Angeles weather and a lack of parents willing to drive up to Big Bear in January.
Crestfallen faces greeted me when I told them that there would be no snow.
"What are we going to do then?" they asked.
Turns out the Mammoth Lakes region caters to the summer traveler of any age to such a degree that there is no room for boredom. Or for missing the snow.
Once we got past the spectacular scenery of the Sierras (OK, that never happened -- you never get past that. Unless you cannot be seduced by 13,000-foot peaks), we settled into one of Snowcreek’s Lodges (pictured right), a three-bedroom, 3.5 bath townhouse kitted out with state-of-the-art kitchen, huge TVs, lovely views of Mammoth Mountain and gorgeous landscaping colored with wildflowers and untamed grasses.
Much, much nicer than our own home, we all agreed, especially since the girls each had a room with a TV in it -- verboten at home.
In the garage we found some bikes and took an exploratory ride around town, which is peppered with friendly folks and their friendly dogs, which thrilled my girls as they are avowed dog lovers without, alas, their own dog. The Snowcreek property also has a gym, restaurant and indoor and outdoor pools that we had access to, as well as an 18-hole golf course and driving range.
But we left that to the golfers and splashed around the huge outdoor pool. We had a big day on Saturday, July 24 -- the Children’s Fishing Festival on the Snowcreek grounds.
The ponds were stocked with big trout, while state wildlife department staff, professional fisherman and enthusiasts spent the morning helping the hundreds of kids (and their parents) bait hooks, cast and reel ‘em in.
My kids had never fished before, and my 11-year-old was driven to tears by the sight of trout thrashing on the end of the lines, fighting for their lives. But even she was brought round by Rick, a fly-fishing enthusiast who showed her how to catch and release, as well as the process of fishing.
Each child caught and released about a dozen fish (Did I say that they stocked those ponds? To the gills. Sorry, couldn't resist), then we had a quick lunch at Publik Square, a sandwich place on Old Mammoth Road with yummy, healthy fare. The guy making your sarnie, Ryan Farnes, owns the shop and will also make you the best snowboard you can find in town. But that’s the kind of place Mammoth is -- we only saw three chain restaurants in town.
Bike riding is a very popular sport in Mammoth, as is hiking. The town and neighboring mountains are strung with biking and hiking trails geared for all levels. But for a greater challenge, you can access bike and hike trails — beginner through double black diamond (and I can personally vouch that the trail called Kamikaze is freakin' awesome) — from the top of Mammoth Mountain by taking the gondola from the Mammoth Adventure Center to the 11,000-plus foot summit.
And the views! You can see Yosemite peaks from up there. Heck, you can see heaven from up there!
Even in the middle of July -- snow! The girls were too thrilled to even remind me that I said there would be no snow. They spent almost two hours throwing snowballs at each other and rolling around in it.
And that’s what made us into mountain people.
The truth is, there is a lot to do in the Mammoth Lakes area in the summer, and the town is geared to help the novice do it -- from fishing to biking to horseback riding to hiking to kayaking, local sports outfitters have affordable gear packages for rent.
It’s their business to make you want to come back.
And I would drive 5 hours just to eat at Petra’s Bistro again. In a town full of casual dining, Petra’s serves inventive dishes with the best local ingredients in a relaxed atmosphere.
The service was attentive and educated, the wine list had depth (they serve many of the best wines by the glass), the food terrific (the chef could work in any L.A. kitchen) and best of all, they welcomed the kids.
My 7-year-old had creme brulee for the first time there -- and judging by the way she wolfed it down, it won't be the last time.
We were sad to leave Snowcreek on Sunday, since it is nicer than our house, but we compensated by an easy hike to Devil’s Postpile National Monument and Rainbow Falls, both stunning natural rock formations a shuttle bus ride away from the Adventure Center.
We promised to come back in the winter for the skiing, but knew that the summer in Mammoth may be better. No frostbite.
P.O. Box 1647
1254 Old Mammoth Rd.
Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546
When Carole Horst isn't admiring the view from Mammoth Lakes Resort with her husband and two daughters, she is covering the entertainment world as associate editor at Variety.