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Postcards from Travel Near and Far by Jia-Rui


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93546, Mammoth Lakes

Peacha, striking a heroic pose in the Sierras

Dear ——–,

Last Saturday, I decided to take both Peacha and Tami’s toy poodle Winston out for a walk in the snow. We headed out to Hot Creek, near the airport. As I started walking in my snowshoes, I noticed Peacha trying to consolidate second place, as if to say, “If my human is #1, then I’m #2. Winston, you’re #3.” Every time Winston tried to get close to me, she blocked him. I’ve never seen our submissive little dog act the enforcer! I continued on for a maybe a mile or two, admiring the more picturesque — if exposed — views, compared to the tree-lined Sherwin Meadows. Although I was hoping we’d make it to the aquamarine hot springs, we had to turn back short because we were running out of time (I’d scheduled a prenatal massage at the Healing Arts Centre. Tough life, I know!) It was a good thing we did. Winston dragged a good 200 feet behind me at some points. But he responded well to encouragement and his little face was still plastered with a tired smile. Both dogs fell asleep immediately in the car on the drive back.

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93546, Mammoth Lakes

Peacha, looking back on our snowshoe trail

Dear ——–,

This is my first trip to Mammoth where I haven’t been able to ski. I dropped Bryan and Tami off at Main Lodge in the morning so they could slide and came back to Edelweiss Lodge, our base of operations, to get a map for snowshoe trails. My parents gave me snowshoes for Christmas 10 years ago, but I haven’t had a real opportunity to use them until now. Keith, one of the managers, pointed out a couple of dog-friendly areas and I took Peacha in the car with me to Sherwin Meadows. It was a landscape of rolling hills, so, as I went up and down, there were a couple of times where I nearly tripped over the snowshoes because they flop around. Once I got the hang of it, I had a good time meandering between the lodgepole pines. Peacha sweetly fell into step behind me, probably because it was easier to walk where the snowshoes had tamped down the mushy snow. But I’d also like to think she knew I was the expedition leader.


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V0N 1B4, Whistler

Thank god it stopped raining at Blackcomb!

Dear ——–,

The rain finally stopped on Saturday morning. We tried to get to the lifts at opening time (8:30) and almost made it (9:00). (The buses weren’t exactly frequent.) Much of the surface was asphalt-like ice, but this was an amazing change from the slurpee of Thursday. We spent most of the day at Blackcomb, where Bryan and I shared T-bar rides up to the top. We had to hike a few hundred feet to get to the trail that took us to the glacier, but Bryan was sweet enough to carry my skis. (I’m spoiled!) It was my first time skiing on a glacier and I took a super scenic route that probably would’ve burned out snowboarders’ legs. I wanted to get to the untouched snow, which looked a little better than it felt since it had the consistency of marzipan. Still, it was nice to get away from the crowds and hear nothing but my own carving. We got in line for the Peak-to-Peak gondola back to Whistler and waited less than 10 minutes for a glass-bottomed one. It was pretty amazing zipping above the valley, looking down at a frozen river wind through tall Douglas firs hundreds of feet below.


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93546, Mammoth Lakes

Our burrito savior on the mountain

Dear ——–,

At the beginning of the season, Mammoth announced that “foodcats” would be roaming the mountain. We had seen neither hide nor hair of them until last Sunday. As we got off the Roller Coaster lift, we saw one parked near the entrance of the Wall Street Trail. We’d found the mythical beast! And not a moment too soon, since we were getting cranky with hunger. Shiao-Wen kept skiing but Bryan and I ordered a breakfast burrito (egg, beans, cheese) and a beef burrito and settled into plastic lounge chairs in the snow. The burritos were kind of small and nothing special, but they hit the spot. (Most burritos are too big for me anyway!) Plus, we didn’t have to deal with the crazy cafeteria lines at the lodges. The tricky thing is it’s not clear if the cat is always parked there, or if they move around. Mammoth’s facebook and twitter don’t tell you in a reliable way where the food cats are going to be. We could tell others were just as surprised as we were to see the foodcats since there were at least five other people snapping pictures with their cameraphones.


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93529, June Lake

Bright and sunny June Mountain

Dear ——–,

This last trip showed a totally different side of Mammoth. The sun was blazing in a cloudless sky; the snow was groomed and hard-packed; the top was open. Shiao-Wen was a good sport and agreed to go with us to the lift lines at opening time, 8:30 a.m. Given the 40-degree temperature predictions, we were worried the snow would turn to slush in the afternoon. We were also worried about the crowds. Starting around 10 a.m., the mountain turned into a leftover sandwich swarming with ants. Bryan had to stop on two successive runs to pick up skis that had snapped off fallen skiers. By 11 a.m., we went back to the car and drove to June Mountain, about 30 minutes north. That turned out to be a brilliant idea because at June, we hardly had to wait in lift lines and we shared each trail only with maybe 3 or 4 others. The trails are shorter, but there’s a good variety of blues and blacks. It did give us pause when we passed a snowboarder who said, “Oh man, it’s so hard to snowboard drunk,” but at least we had enough space to avoid him and his friend.


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93546, Mammoth Lakes

Snow fell nearly the entire time we were in Mammoth

Dear ——–,

We made it to Mammoth without chains, in maybe the only window of clear weather the entire weekend around New Year’s. All the restaurants were running $70+ New Year’s Eve specials, so we decided to hit Vons and make a pasta dinner in our Edelweiss Lodge room with Tad and Tammy. The slopes were surprisingly empty the next morning. It could’ve been hangovers … or the snow, which fell in a thick blanket all of Saturday. We avoided snow vertigo by sticking close to the trees and reveled in the soft powdered sugar. It was about 10 degrees cooler than the last time we came, when the wet snow made for what the locals call Sierra Cement. We tried to make it to “early ups” on Sunday, when the mountain opens at 7:30 a.m. for season pass holders. We weren’t able to get onto the lift until 8:31 a.m., but that was still the earliest we’d ever gotten on a lift. The skiing was so good on Sunday — when a slightly lighter snow fell — that we couldn’t give up until around 2. Was it worth it? It took over 11 hours to get home. Well, we’ve already started planning our next trip. This time, hopefully, we’ll be at Mammoth when the top is actually open.


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93546, Mammoth Lakes

Snow coating the firs at Mammoth

Dear ——–,

We’re on our first trip to Mammoth of the season and Mother Nature has been showering us with snow. We had to put the chains on about a mile or two after crossing the Mono County line. When we got to the mountain, the snow was coming down steadily, though it was still a little wet since it was barely under 30 degrees. There were a few times where the heaviness of the snow buried my skis and I almost lost one of them going a different way from the other. But I never got going very fast. The thickness of the snow reminded me how much you have to shift your center of gravity when you’re skiing in powder rather than when your’e skiing hardened, groomed runs.┬áThe snow kept coming down and we made fresh tracks every time we got off the lift. We decided to quit before we got bone tired, mostly because we’ve got another few days of skiing. The snow is expected to keep falling. Some of the locals raised the specter of road closures on Sunday. I hope we can still drive home!