California’s Mammoth Mountain and Lake Tahoe’s Northstar Bike Parks Make The “Top 10 Bike Parks in the World”

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This week, I’d like to feature some excerpts from the title article written by Dave Scorer, business creator of the best and most comprehensive Mountain Bike Park Web site around – World Bike Parks.com . Although Dave’s informative and interesting piece covers great top ten bike parks from around the world, we’re going to take a look at two of these winners, right here in our own backyard mountain resort towns of Mammoth Lakes and Lake Tahoe. So here’s what he has to say about how to pick a winner!

“So how do you identify the top 10 bike parks…? I mean number one is obvious. Few people would argue that Whistler Bike Park leads the pack in probably every single metric you’d care to choose, from the number of trails to offering the best development programs for kids. But who is in the chasing pack?

First, we have to start by defining the basis for how we selected the top 10. We have to assume that when we talk about a “Top 10” we actually mean the “best” bike parks. But how exactly do you decide which bike park is better than another – what are your measures of performance? It can’t be personal opinion, although that will always affect your own top 10 no matter how much you don’t want to accept it! We fully admit that it has played a part in our decision making, but we have put together something of an ‘engineering’ approach in order to normalize the results and reduce the possibility for bias or opinion placing a bike park higher up the list than it should be.”

#10: Mammoth Mountain, USA

“Mammoth Mountain in California squeezes in to the top 10. For riders of a certain generation, Mammoth is legendary. Home of the Kamikaze, many will remember the days of Myles Rockwell and Missy Giove bombing down the fireroad on a classic Cannondale Super-V Downhill rig with clouds of dust billowing up behind them! And guess what – it’s back for 2013, with the Kamikaze Bike Games going off in September. Get there if you can.”

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Mammoth Mountain Bike Park – Dave Scorer

#7: Northstar California Resort, USA

“Sponsored by Giant, Northstar Tahoe might surprise a few by making the top 10 but the stats put it there! Joint 3rd in the total number of trails, there is also the vertical to back it up. The Northstar Bike Academy offers excellent programs for all bikers, brand new or seasoned, looking to improve their techniques and step up in riding ability. Set in stunning scenery on the shores of Lake Tahoe there can’t be many better places to hone your skills!”

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Northstar Bike Park – Dave Scorer

If you want to learn more from Dave about how they picked the winners, as well as how they measured and ranked the performance of each of the parks, including factors such as the trails, vertical drop, values, and reputation, read the rest of his article at http://www.worldbikeparks.com/blog/the-top-10-series/the-top-10-bike-parks-in-the-world .

And then, when you’ve decided which of these awesome local California bike parks – or both – that you want to try out, World Bike Park’s lodging partner, City Concierge, has some special mountain bike lodging packages with discounts for riders to help you seal the deal and save some money for some cold refreshments after a long, exhilarating day of rides on the mountains!

Here are City Concierge’s deals for you:

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Mammoth – MOUNTAIN BIKE PACKAGE

Show us your mountain bike park pass and we will give you 15% off your lodging on selected Mountainback, Ski and Racquet, or Discover 4 units. Search for unit, and then call us to get the discount!

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Northstar – MOUNTAIN BIKE PACKAGE

Stay in one of our Northstar rentals when you ride at Northstar Mountain Bike Park and we’ll give you 15% off your stay. 3 or more nights minimum Northstar Rentals PROMO: NLT SV15off

Although it didn’t make the top ten list, Kirkwood Bike Park, a quick drive from south Lake Tahoe, is an outstanding, popular park in its own right. you’ll feel like you’re at the top of the world here! Learn more about from World Bike Park’s Kirkwood page.

KirkwoodMOUNTAIN BIKE PARK SPECIAL

Stay in one of our Tahoe Keys rentals when you ride the park at Kirkwood, and we will give you 15% off your stay. There is a 3 or more nights minimum. Tahoe Keys Rentals  PROMO: NLT SV50off

Mammoth Food and Wine Experience 2013

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Each year the Mammoth Lakes Foundation throws a party to celebrate food and wine from the foodies point of view. Labeled a “seminar” but really a very big tasting of foods paired with wine, this annual event raises funds for the Foundation which supports the local schools among other charitable causes. This year it is very exciting as the event has grown in size and through dedication has become one of the most respected events in Mammoth. This year it also coincides with the week long Mammoth 4th of July activities making a 7 day spectacular vacation.

The event is Friday, July 5 -Sunday, July 7, 2013. The famous chefs giving their seminars all know each other as many have all done time with Wolfgang Pucks “Eureka” restaurant. In this year’s lineup are Jennifer Black Dea, Jody Denton, Neal Fraser, Richard Haake, Jennifer Jasinski, and now local Dan Molnar.

More importantly, 30 wineries and 120 wines make up the grand tasting. This is one event where you need an iPhone app to keep track of all this deliciousness. You’ll want to compare notes as you sip through the pinot, chardonnays, cabernets and merlots. The growing number of vintners coming to Mammoth for the event shows their commitment to making Mammoth a real center for the art, education and enjoyment of fine cuisine and wine. You can read all about the Grand Tasting Event.

Lodging & Tickets Special for Food and Wine Experience
With the help of the Foundation, City Concierge is happy to announce that we have special tickets and lodging packages for Mammoth Food and Wine when attending the festival. You will get a 5% ticket discount and a 20% discount on our lodging for those of who attend the event and get their package from us. We’ve also got specially priced tickets for the Sunday festivities in The Village on July 7. You can find out more about the discounts and even get set up to Win Tickets to Mammoth Food and Wine Experience by entering our Facebook Contest.

It is going to be a great weekend filled with fireworks, wine, parades, really good food.. with really good wine all set in the Sierra Mountains. We’ll help you with your lodging and set you up with tickets to the events for a vacation that sparkles. Give us a call 866-864-6444 today for best choices.

GO LOCAL AND GET MORE FOR YOUR RESERVATION BUCKS

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The convenience of trip planning with vacation reservation Web sites is on the rise, with up to 80% use according to travel industry statistics. The Internet makes finding and booking lodging easy, but quick reservations are not the only aspect of a successful vacation. Travelers also want value from their vacation dollars through great customer service and ample amenities. Local resort reservation services or concierge companies offer an improved vacation experience with superior property choices, better knowledge of the area, personalized customer service, and often lower prices. In comparison to the larger national sites and discounters, there are no benefits except price, and you may not even get the quality of room you booked.

The main differences between local and national reservation sources are: property prices, quality assurance, personal attention and value add services. You may pay a little less, but in the end it is likely to cost you more or have ruined your vacation.

Jefferson Lanz of City Concierge puts it this way: “When you use a locally-based all-encompassing full-service vacation rental Web site, you get local knowledgeable people to help you with your travel plans. They know the area you’re visiting and the actual lodging properties you’re looking at, and they do the legwork for you to keep you in your budget. The personal service starts with the first phone call and continues until your vacation is over. Also the personal recommendations and services make your vacation a real “vacation”. We want you to come back. Distant national companies just can’t do that.”

What you get – a National Lodging Reservation Web site:

1. Property Prices – Because of the deep commissions these companies charge, vacation rental and hotel property managers have to mark up the real cost as much as 30% over the average nightly rate. Limiting the quantity of rooms available is the only other way to manage the higher commissions.

2. Quality Assurance – The photo of a property in a complex is a generic photo, not an individual photo of the specific vacation rental or even hotel room. The actual lodging may not even look similar nor have the same features. This is especially true with vacation rentals, as each home is personally owned with personal objects rather than a hotel where each room should be identical.

3. Personal Services – Other than a help line so you can navigate their site, any questions or answers about the property come from a manual.

What you get – a Local Resort Reservation and Concierge Web site:

1. Property Prices – All the local vacation properties are aggregated into one web site for easy comparison of properties, prices and features. The company’s staff has real relationships with property managers and owners – they know the inventory. They also know the best possible prices or current specials or even who will wheel and deal.

2. Quality Assurance – The photos of the specific properties are the actual and true photos of the properties – no generic photos. “What you see is what you get”.

3. Personal Services – The local company has real people who specifically know the area and have personal relationships with the resort’s unique services, information, activities and businesses. Their information, guidance and assistance are free, just like with a hotel concierge. Certain companies even have local people to provide special guest services such as custom chef-prepared meals, grocery shopping, baby and pet sitting, in-home massages, holiday decorations, dinner and equipment reservations, special ski packages, and 24/7 problem fixers. A truly full-service company will offer special group services, too. This one item makes your getaway a success every time.

When it comes to getting the most value for those hard-earned vacation dollars, combining the ease of the Internet with the personal customer relationship of your own concierge will make your vacation. National reservation sites just can’t compete with the attention you receive when you GO LOCAL.

Flexible Travel Days + Technology = Cheaper Family Mountain Resort Vacations

 

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Family trips use to mean you only vacationed during the Flexible Travel Days. Yet the key to saving on California Flexible Travel Days is your family having a flexible travel schedule to avoid the holiday rush when everything is more expensive and crowded. Fortunately, this is now possible for you since most schools have Web sites, Facebook pages and teachers’ emails. This lets your kids stay on top of their school work with assignments from teachers, and notes and projects from fellow classmates, even when away on vacation. Technology also allows you to work remotely, if needed. So, your family can now travel during “off days” when it is cheaper to vacation with better deals and rates, with more lodging available.

Today, the tourism trend is for everyone to take their resort vacations during the same holidays. A smart vacation dollar saving choice for your family is to avoid these periods of higher demands and prices. Some of the more expensive times are the Christmas, New Years, Martin Luther King and Presidents Holidays. Also, there are usually three-to-four-day required lodging stays during these periods. So, be sure to plan your lodging reservation dates well in advance to beat these larger crowds and higher prices.

Some of the best times for you to think about booking mountain resort vacation rentals are just after the peak season has ended, or just before peak season begins. With your flexible family vacation schedule, certain holiday breaks and off-season times are in less demand and less expensive. Getaways during these periods will result in more affordable vacations, with more money left in your bank or available for your other family fun during the vacation. The winter holiday periods are Ski Week beginning the week after President’s Day Monday through Friday, and the Spring Break week. Spring Break and Easter often coincide. And many businesses let employees have extended time off for religious holidays because of cuts in the schedule or mandatory vacation times – maybe you can take advantage of this, too. For winter resorts, regular season ends just after Easter when prices on lodging plummet. And after the summer rush, anytime in September, after Labor Day, up till Thanksgiving is also not high season and rates will be remarkably less.

If your family can take advantage of flexible vacation schedules and days, you can benefit from some real savings on vacation rental homes and cabins. Many resorts are 50% empty during these off-season times so they will offer bargains to entice you to plan your trip for when everyone else isn’t. Coming before Christmas vacation is one way to get the best rates. Likewise, for New Years, many companies offer their employees extended time off, so coming after the holidays is another good option. This may be perfect for your family if you want to save, as rates at many resorts will drop after New Years, meaning a 20-40% savings.

Another great way for you to save on flexible vacations is by having your kids use technology so your family doesn’t become trapped by the school holiday schedule. Most vacation rentals have access to the Internet, and there is always the local Starbucks. If your children are not involved in sports, then you can comfortably take them out of school and let them use technology to stay up with the class while traveling as a family during non-prime-time season. Many classrooms create their own specific Facebook page where students can help each other by uploading and sharing homework notes and problem solving. They can also use Skype and Facebook Instant Messaging features to communicate their “status” individually and as a group so that they build a community around the page. This is clearly beneficial for your kids “grabbing the notes” and working on joint projects when they go on vacation.

Additionally, parents can work remotely on their job projects through the Internet and conference calling if needed. You can use “Go To My PC”, a program that allows you to connect to your own home PC, or “Go To My Office” (same company business edition) and connect to your business computer. These kinds of telecommuting tools used on your own traveling laptop let you do everything you would if you were in the office. This flexibility allows for a vacation schedule that will save you a bundle.

For example, at many of the bigger ski resorts, a lift ticket can go as low as $65 for an adult during these times, which is a huge savings off the regular $94 or $100 lift tickets during holiday times. And even better savings come from taking advantage of mid-week deals and rates, any days Sunday through Friday. The key here to saving on lodging is to avoid staying Saturday night.

With the many technology choices available for both your students, as well as you, the parents, the freedom of a flexible family vacation schedule is a real possibility. Planning your trip to maximize the value of vacation dollars and minimize the limitations of travel periods is simply smart math. These kinds of calculations equal more family vacation savings, better choices and fewer crowds. The numbers are in your favor.

Don’t Get Scammed On Your Next Resort Vacation

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The simple and convenient use of online vacation rental Web sites is on the rise and has become the new norm for many people planning a trip. Vacation lodging is being reserved through computers and smart phones, on commuter rails and lunch breaks, and while watching the kid’s soccer game. Unfortunately, vacation-rental-scams are also on the rise. Sadly, the scams are proliferating and horror stories are surfacing from consumers who were unaware. The last thing anyone wants to worry about is being scammed on vacation.

Also, more and more vacationers are choosing the ease and comfort of staying in a vacation rental home rather than in a hotel when they travel to a resort. The hustles and bustles of a hotel aren’t always the most relaxing, the cost can be quite a bit higher and the creature comforts are missing. The advantages to vacation home and cabin rentals over individual hotel rooms are many, with the larger space, improved privacy and shared living areas making this choice preferred by numerous travelers. However, booking these homes online through a private party can be risky for the renter.

According to an August 2010 leading travel industry article by Tnooz, “Industry studies show that the overwhelming majority of travelers (up to 80%) select their accommodation through the Internet, and over 50% end up booking online.”

Most vacation rental Web sites are trustworthy. As one California resort reservation booking company pointed out, “working with a local and professional vacation rental Web-based business helps avoid the rip-off and the enticing to-good-to-be-true advertisements that are found on Craigslist, Backpages.com, larger national sites, or other Web sites where fraudulent perpetrators lie.”

So how can the public tell the good guys from the bad guys? Not all rental scams are that obvious. Here are several important characteristics to look for when deciding on which online vacation rental business to use and choosing the right property:

  • Is the vacation rental Web site locally or regionally-based? Real businesses have real local or regional addresses. Google their address. The vacation property itself should have an address for Google Maps verification. If it doesn’t ask a telephone agent for it. Then Google it.
  • Does the Web site business have a working phone number? Call them and talk to them, or notice how soon they return any messages left. Real businesses have real professional and knowledgeable employees who provide quality information. They also use a consistent email address in their correspondence. The email address should be the same as the domain name, not a “free” email box from Yahoo, MSN, AOL or Gmail.
  • Do they have a high quality and currently dated Web site? Real businesses have their name the same as their Web site address (the URL). When they have good, original content on their site, such as “local activities to do”, this helps to prove their credibility.
  • When was the business started? Do they have a trademark and a business license? If they don’t provide this, do not do business with them. This is public information; you can find it easily with a search.
  • Are the photos of the vacation rentals really theirs? If the photo has a watermark on it that is NOT the same as their URL, these guys might be bogus. Fake sites steal photos from legitimate Web sites.
  • What is their payment system? Credit cards are the absolutely safest way to go, offering protection through disputed charges if something goes astray. If they want, cash, wire transfers, money orders or a personal check written to their first name, run the other way.
  • 24-hour service is important. Does this company/person have a local representative that is within an hour of any service call? What happens if the heat goes out in a snow storm? Often when renting direct with an owner there is no 24/7 service which is how they compete to keep the price down. Why ruin your vacation?

We found a couple of good ones that are inter-related in Mammoth Lakes.  Mammoth Lakes Reservations and Guest Services seems to is creditable. There was a small site called Mammoth Chateau that has some vacation rentals. Any online business is potentially susceptible to being a fraud when money and “products” are exchanged through a virtual format. Dealing with a fraudulent vacation rental “business” is like going to a car dealer that sells you a lemon – it looks really good at the dealer but turns into a nightmare on the road. A “buyer” should use the same smart due diligence with an online vacation rental Web site. This way they will get what they paid for and be spared a vacation disaster. Remember, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

EASTERN SIERRA EARNS LONELY PLANET’S 2013 TOP TEN US VACATIONS – Explore and Experience “California’s Secret Dream”

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Described as “California’s Secret Dream” by Lonely Planet travel author, Robert Reid, the Eastern Sierra made the cut for the 2013 top ten US travel destinations. Vacationers who have already experienced this unique, breathtaking part of California fully know that there is no other place like it on the planet, and why it won this coveted distinction. Those yet to explore the Eastern Sierra can trust the well-known Lonely Planet’s recommendation to deliver a travel destination guaranteed to delight with lifetime memories.

Reid writes in his recent December Lonely Planet article that the Highway 395 National Scenic Byway, running along the Eastern Sierra escarpment, is “the overlooked flank of the Sierra Nevada range, with other-worldly natural attractions and surprises (Basque culture?), not to mention far fewer visitors.”

The Lonely Planet, world-known travel experts, editors and publishers of hundreds of articles and guidebooks, annually review US travel destinations and then select that year’s top-ten winners for “travelers to add to their wish lists.” This year, the number six spot deservedly belongs to the quieter and wilder side of California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range. Just a few of the reasons why are:

−        Over 200 miles of scenic byway threading through one-of-a-kind geological wonders

−        Towering 14,000’ granite peaks

−        Unbroken wilderness vistas with azure cloud-accented skies

−        Unique flora, fauna and landscapes – a photographer’s dream

−        Natural hot springs, cascading waterfalls, pristine fishing lakes and crystal-clear streams

−        A world-renowned ski resort with year-round activities and adventures for all ages

−        Rich cultural heritage: Gold Rush ghost towns, Native American, Basque and Japanese

−        Infinite camping, hiking, and biking opportunities, as well as famous Pacific Crest Trails

−        Great restaurants, relaxed and friendly mountain towns and even friendlier locals

Fortunately, for everyone chomping at the bit to add the Eastern Sierra to their travel itinerary, there is a vast amount of quality lodging available all along the Eastern Sierra, especially in Mammoth Lakes, one of the more popular year-round destinations with ample day-trip options. Campgrounds, hotels, condos, cabins and even luxury vacation homes are in abundance. Although, the Eastern Sierra still has fewer visitors than some California destinations, lodging can fill up during holidays and school vacations.

Local Mammoth Lakes lodging reservation and concierge company, City Concierge, states that “spur-of-the-moment vacation reservations are often possible on the “Eastside”; however, planning and booking in advance are the best ways to ensure more and better lodging choices and available dates. That way you get to truly experience the marvels of the Eastern Sierra when and how you want to.”

The Lonely Planet is right – 2013 is the year to begin a first-hand exploration of “California’s Secret Dream.” It’s a vacation destination that draws many return visits, always offering something new to experience. No matter what the varied tastes of each traveler and with more generous choices of sights to see and activities to do than is possible in a single visit, boredom will never be an issue on the “wilder side of California.”

Soaking in a Hot Spring

Hot Creek in Mammoth

Overview before descending down to Hot Creek

How comforting is it to sit outside in the cold and soak in a hot tub!  We’re not talking about a traditional “jacuzzi” kind of hot tub, but a hot spring .  Close to Mammoth you will find pockets of waters bubbling to the surface. You can usually see the steam rising on a cold night.   One of the more famous locations is  Hot Creek near Mammoth over by the airport.

Hot Creek in Mammoth  is home to a large amount of geothermal activity and Hot Creek is actually a cold creek that is warmed as it mixes with water that is heated by the lava / earth that is under the Eastern Sierra. Boiling hot springs, fumaroles and geysers are found here.  Some of these pump hot water into the water flowing down from Mammoth Creek warming the water into what is called Hot Creek. Swimming is officially not advised but the many soakers will tell you, “come on in, the waters fine”,  and it is. What makes Hot Creek so spectacular is the view, and the way the water mixes. Melted snow and ice fall into cracks which is heated by the earth. It bubbles up boiling hot in the ponds and mixes with  melted snow somehow making the temperature just right for a soak.  Now don’t get too excited and grab your bathing suit and start driving.  Hot Creek isn’t always open.  It was shut down when the water starting mixing at the wrong amounts and the hot water was just too hot.  It also started “geyser” like flowing and shooting straight into the air like “old faithful”.  The forest service controls this so you should check with them before you go to soak. There are signs telling you not to swim, and especially not to suck down the water as it is full of sulphur.  Even the smell may be a bit overwhelming, but the locals will all tell you, it is one beautiful place.

Located, three miles south of Mammoth Junction on US 395 and three miles east of the airport (the last 1.5 miles is unpaved). You take the Airport Road and drive past the Hot Creek Fish Hatchery. Hot Creek is a phenomenon of live hot springs and fumaroles (gas vents) that heat a cold mountain stream. Parking lot and restrooms. Open sunrise to sunset; no charge.

My 2 cents. – If it is open, you have to go for a soak.  Bring your own everything especially towels, bathrobe, shoes. Please leave glass bottles  and cans at home.  When the glass breaks it ruins the party for everyone as everyone is walking barefoot. It is really disgusting to see people chuck their beer cans into this beautiful environment.

Rolling in the snow!  Somehow soaking in a jacuzzi or hot tub and hoping out and rolling in the snow seems to be a phenomenon that everyone has to try once.  It won’t kill you, but be advised it burns like hell!  It is almost laughable when people come to visit  and they hop out of their Mammoth rental condo jacuzzi and roll around or make a snow angel.  It stings.  On the other hand, some people like it.  Go figure.

Tell us what your experience has been like and where you like to go soak.