christmas in the sierra's



The past 4 years my family of four travels to Australia to visit my in laws for our annual Christmas Vacation. With it being summer time in Australia during Christmas our family gets plenty of beach days and time on the water. For our Christmas trip this year my Wife’s family really wanted to get out of the heat of Australia and have a white Christmas. My Wife Sarah and I didn’t quite know what to think about this, but Sarah being OCD started putting together the family vacation about 4 months prior to Christmas.


We live in Southern California and the last 5 years the snow in the mountains has not been that good, so we decided to head north 8hrs to South Lake Tahoe. We planned on a 4 night stay with 2 or 3 days of sking/snowboarding. Sarah spoke with some family friends and they recommended with stay at Base Camp in South Lake Tahoe. We have only been to Tahoe in the summer and on the trip we stayed in our trailer. We are on a budget for this trip so the Base Camp Hotel looked like it was perfect for our family of four.



Our trip was suppose to start on the Monday arriving in Tahoe on Tuesday staying just outside Tahoe for one night to break the trip up for my 5 and 3 year old sons.  Everything was booked and we were four days from leaving when one of the largest storms the Sierras has seen hit Mammoth Mountain. Mammoth was getting dumped on and the weather looked perfect for the weekend we were suppose to leave.  Sarah and I made a uncharacteristic decision and we decided to start the trip early and head to Mammoth to get some fresh tracks. We left Friday and stayed in Bishop for the first night to keep the cost down. We arrived at he hotel late Friday night where we opened the room to find one queen size bed. Sarah and I looked at each other and knew it was going to be a long night sleeping with our two knuckle heads lol… We didn’t get to much sleep with boys just so excited they got to snuggle with Mom and Dad. We woke up in our very frugal hotel that served it’s purpose just fine and kept the cost low. We got the boys in their snow gear and started the 50 minute drive up to Mammoth. Exiting the 395 onto the 203 we were greeted with a winter wonderland. We drove straight to the Village to get some hot chocolate’s and Coffee before we headed to Wooley’s Tube Park. Wooley’s tube park is a must stop in Mammoth for all ages if you like tubing. It’s a full service tube park with a tow cable to the top and a hill that gives ages 3- plus an absolute rush. They also have a smaller area for kids under the size limit. The Staff at Wooley’s is top notch with the younger guys and girls so eager to make sure you are having a blast with your family. We played at Wooley’s for most of the day before heading to the Condo in town that we were splitting with our family friends the Hubbard’s. The next day Chad, Cayden and myself hit the mountain for some all time conditions and the Mountain didn’t disappoint. Just like the tube park The Mammoth Mountain staff is a breath of fresh air. They don’t act bitter that they aren’t out sking or boarding and you are. They are running the lifts making sure the money you spent is well worth it. The Wives spent the day in town playing in the snow with the little ones. Making snowmen, sledding and getting some fresh sandwiches and baked goods at Schat’s Bakery. Schat’s is an awesome bakery with fresh food, and baked goods that will have something for everyone in the family.


Sunday I decided to just do a half day, so I could take my 5 year old son Mason snowboarding for the 1st time. I’m not going to lie I’m a novice snowboarder at best so strapping in my 5 year old and taking him to the top of chair 11 to go down Sesame street the 1st time was a little nerve wracking, Mason thought for some reason he was going to shred like Travis Rice. Once we hopped off the lift it was exactly like I envisioned. He crashed off the lift almost getting the chair to his head then Mason would make it about 10ft at a time before he would fall down. It took us about 45 min his 1st run and he was very discouraged and I was even tired from trying to pick him up off the snow and hopping up and down the hill with one foot out of my board. We went back up the hill and I explained to him that he needed to really concentrate on that heel side edge and pretend he was sitting in a chair. The second run started much like the 1st run but about half way down the second run it just clicked for him. He figured it out and was scooting right along. I don’t know who was happier me or him? Going back up for the 3rd run I was grinning from ear to ear because this little dude willed himself to do something that Dad didn’t know that much about. He did this because he wanted to not because it was something Dad did daily or something I was passionate about. We did about 6 runs total down the Sesame street run up near Main Lodge. Mason was pretty worked so we called it a day and I was pretty stoked that he will be more prepared by the time we get to Tahoe for his lessons he will get by a professional.

Sarah met me at the top of the Mountain with Noah and I loaded up Mason stripped down to some fresh clothes and it was time to continue on to Tahoe. The boys were tired and you know as a parent if you have to drive any length of time it’s always the best to have the kids sleeping. We made the short 2 hour drive to Tahoe arriving at our Hotel for the week. We were pleasantly surprised with how awesome The Base Camp Hotel was. The room was very spacious with a queen and two bunk beds and plenty of floor space and we utilized the balcony to store our boards. The hotel looks to be an old travel lodge or hotel from the late 70’s that they remodeled. The Vibe of the Base Camp is so rad. A killer courtyard with a corn hole game and ping pong for everyone to play, multiple fire pits using gas, and a Air Stream trailer for meetings if you were there on business. Each morning you have a free continental breakfast with toast, waffles, oatmeal and your standard orange juice and coffee for beverages. If you would like something more they offer a small breakfast menu. The lounge as I would call it was really killer! Great DIY décor, with a modern TV to catch up some National news each morning. At night the Lounge has live music each night a small menu of snacks entrees all fresh and great tasting. To add to this The base Camp has a great selection of local craft beers on tap. If you would like to drink your own beer they just ask you drink your own alcohol in the Courtyard. The staff was extremely helpful with the best place to take the kids sledding, where to eat at night, and what each Mountain resort had to offer. I highly recommend staying at Base camp if you are on a budget and you don’t like the feel of a Marriot or Hilton hotel feel.

This was my first time in Tahoe in the winter so I wasn’t familiar with how Heavenly worked. Mason was going to do his first ski lesson at Heavenly and right away I was not impressed with the process. I stood in line outside in 30 degree weather with Mason for a hour and a half before they took him inside to get him all signed up. I watched him and his class load the Gondola to go to the top of the Mountain and it was shocking to see how loose of a program they run. While I stood in line with Mason for an hour and a half Sarah took our youngest son to Ski lessons at a Ski and Play. Sarah wasn’t aware that it was an off sight program so we were scratching our heads a little. Sarah and I got to do a 3-4 runs together and I decided stop by the ski/snowboard school to see how Mason was going. I saw him sitting in the snow trying to put his bindings on and asked another little boy how many runs they have taken. I was absolutely shocked to find out that Mason and his group of snowboarders 8 and under had yet to even go on a run or snowboard yet and it was 11:45 in the morning. I had checked him at 8:30am so the poor kids had yet to do anything for 3 hrs and were getting ready to break for a hour lunch. I immediately spoke to a manager where he was very apologetic and gave me a full refund and offered Mason to stay in the class for free. I quickly declined for the sole reason I wanted him to learn to snowboard I knew I was better off taking him myself at this point. I pulled Mason out of the class and we enjoyed the day snowboarding together for the rest of the day. I also have to say that I was not impressed with a majority of the staff working the mountain at Heavenly. They were so rude compared to Mammoth Mountian and acted like they had the worst job known to Man. As far as the resort itself it had a lot of flat sections and was pretty narrow for my liking. Sarah had to take the gondola down the mountain to pick up Noah at 2pm from the Ski and play where she was greeted by a happy 3 year old who got to learn to Ski and was happily playing indoors at the end of the day. The only bummer is they offer pictures of your child skiing but they missed Noah on that day so we don’t have any pictures of Noah skiing.


The next day Chad his son Cayden and myself went to Kirkwood which is about 90 min south east away from Heavenly. Kirkwood is off the beaten path but from the moment we pulled up and saw how big the mountain was we knew it was going to be a big day. The mountain has so much to offer. A pretty small park but the amount of different type of riding you could do is crazy. The staff was super rad! They event directed our crew to Chair 4 where the storm the night before dumped 2 feet of fresh powder. We ended up shredding for hours on end at chair 4 and even enjoyed an amazing lunch at a back country cabin. If I am able to get back up North I will be staying a few days at the Kirkwood resort.


I got enough shredding in the last couple days so our group decided to go to the North Star Resort which is about 90 minutes North West from South Lake Tahoe. North Star is a beautiful resort, but a little out of my price range. We hung out around the ice skating rink where the kids got to ice skate, jump on a bungy and the parents drank some great “expensive” cocktails! All in all we had a blast just taking in the beautiful setting. If I found a good price on a room I’d be inclined to check out Northstar, but I think my kids are a little young for that type accommodation at the moment.


This pretty much wraps up the trip as a whole. We did some more sledding, one more day hanging out at Northstar and just took in the beautiful settings the Lake Tahoe has to offer. Going to the Mountains to ski as a family is an expensive trip but be patient look for group deals on lift tickets and rentals and try to find accommodation that will work for your family’s needs. 


Vacation FIxed Costs

Mammoth Condo two nights Sleeping 8 - $530

Mammoth lift tickets- Adult $140 Child half day- $60

Wooly's Tube Park Mammoth- $39 Adult 39 child

Base Camp- 5 nights sleeping 4- $562

Heavenly 2 Day lift pass- $240 (allows Kirkwood also"

Heavenly 1 Day youth snowboard school- $170

Heavenly Ski and Play- $140

Heavenly 1 day lift Pass- $142

Ice Skate North Star- $15 each