The Visitors


Now that the first round of High Holidays are on the ebb, we’re left on the edge of speechlessness.

In a word, “Wow” might do it. Given two words, we’d say “Holy Smokes!”

No one around here can remember Mammoth being so packed in a two-week period. Matthew Lehman, a lifelong Mammothite who just happens to be the mayor of our little burg, said the other day he can’t remember one like it.

The police chief, Dan Watson, also got reports from his officers that Mammoth was as jammed as they’d ever witnessed.

Some hoteliers, trying to serve those would-be customers who tried to squeeze into lodging without reservations, turned them back to Bishop.

The ski hill set records for attendance. December snowfall totals also served up near-record depths. The lodging people were past giddy. The retailers howled with glee.

On the streets, however, there was a very different kind of howl.

“I can’t wait until the tourists leave,” grumped one of our good pals the other day.

Sadly, she had a point. The fact of the matter is that the Mammoth Holiday Experience isn’t really quite up to snuff.

Our Internet bandwidth seemed to be locked in a pipe filled with molasses. There were dropped calls and practically no streaming capability; as for the social networks like Twitter, FourSquare and so on, forget it.

Vons was bedlam, and were it not for the high-speed checkout artists—you know who you are—there might have been a true meltdown in the frozen-food aisles.

Parking at the Village was its usual practical joke. In effect, we were saying one thing (“Hey! We have a Village!”), then in the same breath saying quite another (“But you can’t park here!”)

So pardon our disgruntled local. She’s all stressed from the visitors who were stressed, and they were stressed because we fall short in so many areas.

We say give ’em a break already.

The things that really drew people to Mammoth this holiday season were happenstance. There was great snow, and you can’t budget for that. The Ski Area, in spite of the numbers of people, seemed to us to handle the pressure just fine, proving why it always has preferred to act as a fiefdom rather than be pulled into the tangle of the town.

Here in the lowlands of the hamlet itself, our own experience was, shall we say, less than world class. Service levels were a bit spotty. Egad, is it too much to say “Good morning” to a stranger with Laguna Beach plates on his Lexus SUV?

It would be nice to have another grocery store. It would be nice to have more parking where people want to park. And so on.

Having said all that, we ourselves had a great time, really. In the end, we couldn’t help but notice the sheer number of smiles around town.

People had a great time not because of us, but in spite of us.