Monday, March 03, 2008

The 5 Things I Learned From Snow

This weekend my baby brother, Eric, and his new bride invited my family up to Mammoth for the weekend - along with some of his new in-laws. The company he works for, DPR Construction, very generously allows some executives the use of a fabulous rental home at no charge. This was our third trip up there together - and we always have a total blast.

Because it's about 6 hours from home - when the kids were younger - we would drive about 2/3 of the way up and stay at an "upscale" hotel in the middle of BFE and then continue the final two hours the next morning. This trip was no different.

No head lice, free sugar-laden breakfast. So far, so good.

LESSON 1: Drive straight through.

As we passed through the last big outpost on the trek (Bishop) - we realized that it might, perhaps, be a good idea to stop by an establishment and see if they had more hardy, snow-repelling shoes for my son. Mind you - this is in addition to the new snow pants, shirts, socks, long underwear, hats and gloves that we purchased before leaving.

"Luckily" we found a HellMart just outside of town. After about 2 hours, 1 shopping cart full of crap, and a couple of hundred bucks - we are finally on our way again.

LESSON 2: Let the kids go barefoot and naked in the snow.

The weather was absolutely beautiful. It was warm, sunny, and the mountain just received 15 inches of new snow a few days before. It was really beautiful. Just before you get to the turn off for Mammoth, there is an old, famous place called "Tom's Place" where there is supposed to be some great sledding opportunities.

Since we had never been there - we decided to give it a whirl. I followed the signs for a "sno-park" - and after driving for 6 miles up a 1 lane road (the scenery was awesome!) - we arrived. At a sign that said "ROAD CLOSED". Being the ever intrepid explorers that we are, we decided to park and head out to the great outdoors. 20 minutes of changing into snow gear later - we grabbed the plastic dishes and headed up the snow-covered road.

After 200 yards - we were done. The 8,000 foot elevation had taken its toll - and then I had the "great" idea to just slide down the road. We did. It was a BLAST.

LESSON 3: Sometimes the best present IS an empty box.

We got our wet, tired butts back into the car - and headed back to Tom's Place. As we got there - we realized that the sledding place was actually right next to the road and we had inadvertently traveled into the State Park. Oh well, no harm, no foul.

We ate at this "rustic" Tom's Place Cafe (with attached bar). This place was... ummm... "charming." It had all the things you want in a kid-friendly environment - like a stuffed deer's ass above the kitchen, various "informative" signs touting friendly service slogans, provocative beer posters - but hey - FREE crayons and coloring books!

We arrived safe and sound at the "cabin" - a 5 bedroom, 3 bath, multi-story, multi-million dollar little hideaway about 1 block from the chair lift. Needless to say, the 2 plasma TV's, fireplaces, gourmet kitchen and wrap-around decks were, according to my kids "pretty cool."

Um, yeah. "Pretty cool!" Amidst all the creature comforts, Xbox, satellite TV, 46 board games, 12 puzzles and an entire library of books - my kids wanted to do only one thing: go outside on the driveway and play in the snow.

So we did. It was awesome!

LESSON 4: In a snowball fight - 8 year olds will win - every time.
LESSON 4a: Snow in the eye can hurt.

My new sister-in-law's family members were a real hoot! They are all gourmet cooks - and we took turns making meals and just hanging out. We stayed up late playing cards, drinking wine, playing Guitar hero ("little Joe" - you absolutely ROCK), drinking wine, playing Pictionary (my wife Brenda is still the best person EVER at this game), drinking wine, eating, drinking wine, etc.

On Saturday (the big ski day - and the day the kids were going to ski school) - Mother Nature really kicked some serious ass. It was about 28 degrees but with a 60 mile per hour wind. We were so determined to get the kids in ski school - that we braved the elements and went to the lift a block away.

When we got there - everyone (even the hard-core ski folks) were leaving. It was just too cold, and too windy to enjoy the day outside. So, we did what any self-respecting, cabin-bound group of frontier explorers who are caught a wintery storm would do: we played cards, drank beer, played games, drank beer, played Guitar Hero (MUCH more fun after beer!), had dinner, drank wine, talked, drank wine, played games, drank wine and hit the sack.

LESSON 5: Liquor before beer, never fear. Beer before liquor, never sicker.

Before we knew it - the weekend was over. So we re-packed the 450 boxes, bags and suitcases and headed back "down the mountain" home again. Our annual pilgrimage to the snow was a complete success.

And, I learned a few things along the way...

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