You must be a newbie. How’d I know? Could be the green behind your ears, or that 686 jacket, flawless as a newborn’s skin. Come on, pull up a stool and join me and my buddies at the bar. We’ll give you some sage wisdom. Not everyone will let you know what’s what. We see newbies like you all the time; they come and they go. Even old friends who swear they’ll settle down and have their kids here tend to move on. Worst case scenario: they head off someplace east of the Rockies, somewhere we’ll never visit, even if they write home with tales of equal male-to-female ratios.
This town’s a hard place to make friends. Funny, huh? You’d think with a population this small it’d be a piece of cake. Just ask around, though: friends are hard-won. If you want to make them, it won’t usually happen at the bar. I got in with the co-ed softball league, but since it’s winter I’d recommend hockey, if you’ve got the skills. Then again, since you probably came here to ski, the Village Championships are even better. Nothing like drinking and racing. Just get in with the right crowd, show your stuff, and you’ll be on a team in no time.
The bar’s where you cement those friendships, so pick one. We’ve got a lot of options. It takes a while to learn where to go and when, so let me break it down. Lakanuki? Don’t even think about going before 11:30. When you do, get ready for some questionable DJing, and a staggering surfeit of men. Whiskey Creek? Even worse. Used to be they had Go-go dancers. Now you’ll watch the ladies go-go running from creepers all night long on Wild Wednesday.
Clocktower’s a safer bet for a good night out, but for God’s sake, don’t tell any gapers where it is. Outlaw will hook you up with late night pizza and game days that shake the rafters, and if you’re looking to knock back some shots and get shady after, you can always stumble upstairs to the Tap.
One thing Mammoth definitely has is bars.
You’re a lightweight at altitude? That’ll change. Pretty soon you’ll be just like the rest of us, partying ‘til 2 on a Thursday night, and nursing your hangover Friday morning with huevos rancheros at The Breakfast Club, or an Eye Opener at the Good Life. Base Camp isn’t half bad, either, especially if you like it cheap. The Stove’s a safe bet if you want to get nostalgic with heaping portions of home cooking, but don’t even think about going there on a holiday weekend.
You didn’t come just to drink, though, and neither did we. It’s dumping outside, and you’re already thinking about shredding the gnar on the Mountain tomorrow. Word of advice? When it gets busy, park at Chair 4. Nobody seems to know what the hell that parking area is for, so you can usually find a space. Busier it gets, forget the Mountain altogether and hike the Sherwins. It’s a sweaty trek, but it’s worth every sweet powder turn you make all the way down to Snowcreek.
When you’re done with a day of riding and the bar isn’t calling yet, I’d suggest you poach a tub. We’ve got plenty. Pick any condo complex and it probably has a tub, but get the skinny first. Need a combo? Need a key? Walk right in like you own the place? Find out which it is. And never, ever get caught and ruin it for the rest of us.
If you like it natural, try the hot spring tubs off Green Church Road. Don’t google that, just look for the green church and you’ll know you’re in the right place. You’re probably not a local til you’ve tried the back route to Siphon in sketch weather, or partied with naked hippies at Shepherds, or cursed your luck to find Crab Cooker broken again. Don’t even bother with Hilltop if there’s more than two cars in the lot; hit up Wild Willy’s instead, as long as you don’t mind the moss.
I’m gonna be honest with you: if you moved to town still dating someone from back home, chances are that relationship will end in about two weeks. Give it a couple more weeks and you’ll probably be looking around, hoping to take some local cutie to the Mountain or the tubs. If you find one that’s willing, trust me when I tell you it’s always okay if their dog comes, too. And if that doesn’t work, take advantage of Shark Week. That’s our term for the change in seasons, when all the fresh meat comes to town. We’re at the tail end, but the next rush will be this spring. If you’re lucky, you’ll lock somebody down through the fall.
Pretty soon it’s all going to blur together; freshies and happy hours and soak sessions, and then it’ll be summer, and you’ll be evening out your goggle tan, paddle boarding on June Lake, cliff jumping at Lake George, or sending the water slides in Yosemite. Then, before you know it, it’ll be winter again.
If there’s one thing I can tell you, it’s enjoy every minute you can. Most of those friends I mentioned, the ones who moved away, get misty-eyed when they talk about their time here. Their golden days are our every day, and that’s not something to take lightly. It’s what almost makes the crap jobs we work, or getting caught in frat-style fights outside of the bars on Saturday night, or barely making rent, or shoveling the endless berms the snow plows stack right behind our driveways, even when there’s a snow storage lot next door, worth it.
By the end of this next year you’ll know to rent an apartment facing south, and that it’s less painful to cut your own cord than suffer the electricity bill. You’ll think Bishop is the big city and Kmart is a fun shopping trip. You’ll draw the line at three housemates, and never, ever again live with six Norwegians. You may have a beard, or a tattoo. You’ll probably believe in positive energy, and that you can manifest your daily reality, whatever that means.
Like most locals, you’ll venture a monthly guess about how to bring a Trader Joe’s to Mammoth. You’ll shop at Vons like the rest of us, though, and pretty soon you’ll be bumping into people you know everywhere from the produce stand to the dairy fridge. You’ll see your boss, your manager, maybe an ex or two. You’ll start to think this really is a small town.
You’ll still be wearing that same 686 jacket, but it might have a busted zipper, or at the very least, some significant stains from booze, or maybe your housemates’ dog, which isn’t 100% potty trained. Then again, after 10 shots of Jager on a snowy night, those stains could be from your housemate.
You’ll have a favorite café and a favorite happy hour. Our favorite, Stellar Brew and Taco Tuesday at Z Ranch. But it’s up to you. You’ll be showing off the awesome retro ski photos you found at Cast Off, or the crockpot you got at Disabled Sports. You may be hosting potlucks and dance parties at your place, if your housemates don’t mind, and if it doesn’t freak the dogs out too much.
You might even be looking forward to giving your own advice to the newbies of next season.
It’s possible you’ll have endured loss and misery and loneliness. Could be you’ll watch the families from LA and SD eat course after course at the fancy restaurant where you serve, and you’ll struggle not to hate them for what they seem to have. But the truth is, most of the time you’ll feel like you have more. You have the mountains, after all. You have the whole Eastside. You have your youth, and your buddies, who’ll be with you for life even if you move away, or they do. You have something awesome to do every day, and a good party every night.
So take that jacket off, but keep an eye on it. Order another drink, and leave a fat tip for the bartender. Enjoy your new year, newbie. It may be one of the best in your life.
(Sheet file photo)