Hotel Intel: The Village Lodge Mammoth Lakes, California

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Hotel Intel: The Village Lodge Mammoth Lakes, California

If you’ve ever seen any movie or TV show episode about skiing, you’ve likely had the fantasy of staying in one of those ski lodge villages (mine was Getting There, the Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen movie, no shame). They’re small, scenic, and filled with restaurants, resorts and tourists.

While I usually avoid the crowds and tourism element (mini golf, fake fireplaces, chains, that kind of stuff), a lodge surrounded by mountains within walking distance from anything you could possibly need, from walk-in medical clinics to beef jerky bakeries, was tempting. So, I planned wisely. To avoid the hordes of screaming families in neon ski-gear, I went to Mammoth Mountain in the summer to see the town stripped down. Don’t get me wrong, the Mammoth Lakes area is definitely a four-season destination, but the crowds are much thinner and the lines less noticeable when there’s no snow on the ground.

Of course, I didn’t get the authentic ski village experience, so I just might have to go back, and I’m OK with that.

First Impressions

Photo courtesy of Village Lodge

While the hotel overlooks the heart of town, the entrance to The Village Lodge is on the opposite side, facing a more residential area. So, you’re not overwhelmed by activity as soon as you get there, which I really appreciated.

It’s not easy for a 276-room resort to elicit a cozy rustic feeling, but the Village Lodge achieved the unachievable with a structure that is short and wide, a maroon and brown exterior, peaked roofs and wooden balconies stretching across the face of the building.

OK that’s great and all, but if you’re like me, you just want to find reception and stash your luggage somewhere before the sun sets or people start to notice how long you’ve been wearing that T-shirt. Luckily, the reception desk is directly to the left with the word “Village” written in massive cursive serving as a backdrop. You can’t miss it. But by not looking around, what you will miss is the gorgeous lower lobby that leads to the pool area. Walk down the grand staircase and toward the windows that take up an entire wall and you’ll find an area that matches what you saw outside; a quiet lodge-like space with stone fireplaces, antique-looking armchairs, and stone floors. If you can’t wait any longer to get to your room, we encourage you to come back here with a drink later and enjoy one of the few places in this town you’ll find peace and quiet.

The Rooms

2014-07-11_Lodging The Village Lodge_61.jpg
Photo courtesy of Village Lodge

One thing you should be aware of before you arrive: these are condos. So, while travelers can reserve them like they would any hotel room, each suite is owned by someone. Which is totally fine, but not fun if you don’t know ahead of time and when you get acquainted with the room, you notice a framed family photo the owner forgot to stash. Creepy. The condo-like patterned couches and oldish refrigerators are also dead giveaways. But these same details are also what give the place its cozy character (aside from the family photo).

Since they are privately owned, each condo is decorated differently. However, what they all offer is a lot of space; balconies (some with mountain views); fireplacesl Aveda toiletries and all the amenities of a modern hotel, including daily housekeeping, bathrobes, wifi and luxury bedding. While the décor differs per room, the overall feel of the accommodations is rustic yet modern—as if you redid an old cabin but simply replaced the old furniture and bedding with new versions of the same exact pieces. Dark wood dressers, farm-style dining tables, stone fireplaces and ornate metal bedframes make these condos perfect for travelers who appreciate a warm place to come home to, instead of a cold hotel room.

What Pops

If I was going to a ski town, I was going headfirst. So I fully immersed myself in what some would consider a corny vacation, and loved it. Judge resorts like this all you want, there’s no denying how amazing it is to have a town at your feet and the ability ski-in, ski-out.

Taking one step out of the hotel’s pool area and landing in the heart of a small town—no matter how man-made—is this Village Lodge’s best quality. I spent nights post-pool playing corn hole in the town square, had dinner at a different restaurant below my hotel every night, sat by the fire pits watching crowds participate in nightly activities like rock-climbing, and totally bought into a packaged fabricated vacation. When in Rome …

But the best part is you can escape that by waking into the lodge and out the other side.

The Locale

Photo courtesy of Village Lodge

This ski town is less commercial than others (cough South Lake Tahoe cough), so you won’t get sick of it that quickly. There aren’t too many chains, and the shops and restaurants have a local, family-run feel thanks to dim lighting and quirky décor or offerings.

When you need a break, walk about a block and you’re outside the city limits (not literally, but it feels that way), where a big dark dive bar called Clocktower Cellar will provide you the dose of local culture you need by way of a pint glass filled with a craft beer you’ve never heard of. Bearded locals and off duty ski instructors come here to escape the day, so don’t reveal its existence to too many tourists.

Or, head even farther; in 45 minutes you’ll arrive at Yosemite and in 30, Mono Lake.

Address: 1111 Forest Trail
Website: The Village Lodge
Room Rates: $195 – $420

Maggie Parker is Paste Magazine’s assistant travel editor.