Chillin' at the Canyon Lodge: Mammoth Mountain, CA
By Tammie Thompson
Like a city with several bus or subway lines, Mammoth is so large it can be intimidating to many families. But like a city, it has several neighborhoods, connected by chairlifts, gondolas and shuttle busses - each with its own neighborhood of trails, lodges and chairlifts.
Canyon Lodge is such a place. You can start, end or just chill here. Families are attracted to the Canyon Lodge for its many family friendly activities, novice and intermediate trails, plus the relatively new gondola access to the new Village at Mammoth.
We parked it at the Canyon Lodge for a weekend - well not exactly in the Canyon Lodge, but in the neighborhood. With kids of varied ages, exploring the neighborhood was a task that everyone enjoyed. Factor in bountiful snow and pristine California weather - and chillin' at Mammoth couldn't be more fun.
Condo options abound in the Canyon neighborhood. The 1849 Condominiums are a good choice for families. Affordable, they offer a variety of bedroom options and come completely furnished. Added plus: walk to lifts, spa, extensive video rentals and access to the Village Gondola.
Taking advantage of the close proximity to the lifts, we utilized our extra half hour to sleep in, pack a backpack lunch, and walk straight to the lifts. The Canyon Lodge is a full service base lodge with ski school, rentals and children's programs. It's also a perfect spot for toddlers with a roped off beginner area complete with moving carpet, balloons, and a visiting Wooly themed character.
Our tweens headed straight up the hill to hit the Family Fun Park with its mini pipe - perfect for aspiring rippers. Kids as young as four were rippin' it up in the Family Fun Park. It wasn't long before my crew gravitated over to the Unbound South Park to tackle the X-course (my favorite) or the hits and jibs that sprout up everywhere.
Mammoth is, well, mammoth. Huge. It's best to come up with a game plan to meet back for lunch at your base - Canyon Lodge. The Grizzly Square Food Court will please any finicky eater (and we had plenty). On sunny days (which are many) the Canyon Beach BBQ is worth checking out. And in the afternoon the deck is rocking with live music. I'll be chillin'!
The shear size of Mammoth means that you won't be able to explore it all in one day- three for that matter. With so many chairs, trails and wide-open terrain - no one will be bored. From the Canyon Lodge there's some of the best intermediate terrain in the west just a chair or two away. We hit fresh corduroy at 11 am! Rolling, sweeping trails from the top of chair 25 connect to the Eagle Express for lots of vertical and max turn time. Plus the crowds tend to gravitate towards the other side of the mountain - so it's clear cruising.
If it's stormy, or you're tired, or just need a break or diversion - head down the Village Gondola for an afternoon of shopping or dining. The gondola is free and at present only open until 6pm. But the six-minute ride is well worth the adventure. We browsed the shops and dabbled in fine chocolate and hot cocoa. The Village continues to develop, offering families more options. Tucked away at the side the Village is the Mountain Center, which offers the Family Center, designed to suit the needs of families with small children. A rep will walk you through the process of ski school sign up, rentals and ticketing. Hand holding at its finest, the process is streamlined and very helpful.
Mammoth's many "neighborhoods" each have their own treasures. From the Little Eagle Family dinners at Little Eagle Lodge to a snowcat dining adventure from Mammoth Mountain Inn, there's much to for a family to discover.
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