Why Locals Love Mammoth Lakes: Sergio Gonzalez
Sergio Gonzalez is one of those rare Mammoth Lakes locals who didn’t move to town to ski.
“I grew up in Mexico, we were poor! We didn’t do those white people sports,” jokes Gonzalez, 33, stroking his impressive black beard in the tasting room of Black Doubt Brewing Company.
Though, strangely, skiing seems to have kept Gonzalez in Mammoth Lakes. It’s kind of a long story.
Gonzalez was born in Leon Guanajuato, Mexico, and moved to San Diego at age 13. It was the classic American dream. Gonzalez, the second of four siblings, got a running scholarship to Cal State San Marcos (“my parents were like, ‘What is a scholarship?’ I said, it’s free money. They said, ‘You better make sure you get that in writing!’”).
He moved to Mammoth Lakes with his now-ex wife (now that is a Mammoth Lakes origin story shared by many) in 2013. They weren’t about the skiing, they were about the running. They’d both trained in Mammoth during college. They made another pilgrimage to the east side on their honeymoon.
“During our honeymoon, we said if we ever lost our jobs, we’d move to Mammoth Lakes,” says Gonzalez. As if ordained, Gonzalez soon lost his sales rep job at Saucony. So they moved.
It wasn’t long before they met Tim Tollefson, and Deena and Andrew Kastor—the glitterati of the eastside running scene and Mammoth Track Club.
“We weren’t fast enough to join the pro team, but we were good enough to train with them,” says Gonzalez. They both eventually made the team, and got sponsored by Puma. In fact, Gonzalez was a “professional beard model” for the brand (seriously, his beard is pretty amazing).
But back to the skiing thing.
Gonzalez suffered a knee injury after the 2016 Olympic trials and was unable to run. “My friend Jimmy Whiteley convinced me to learn to ski,” says Gonzalez. Whiteley, who now lives in Vermont, was then the head coach of the Mammoth U16 Alpine Team. So Gonzalez bought a pass at June, went skiing with Whiteley…and promptly wrecked himself under Chair 7.
“My knees were blown up bigger than my quads” after the crash, he said.
It turned into a real country song. His wife left town, taking their dogs, he says. He lost his Puma sponsorship.
Distant Brewing (formerly Black Doubt Brewing Company) owner Drew Wallace called him up. “He said, ‘Hey, you want to work for me?’ I said ‘Yes, yes I do.’”
He hobbled around pouring beer.
“Everything hurt,” Gonzalez said. “But thankfully, I picked up skiing.” Unbelievably, skiing was a lower impact sport than running, so he just stuck to the blue runs. It was the big winter of 2016-2017. He says he drove to June Mountain 70 or 80 times that season.
In the years since, he’s discovered a love of all the Eastern Sierra has to offer. He digs backcountry skiing and snow camping (“just drag a sled for a couple miles with a ton of beer and food!”). He’s embraced the mountain man lifestyle and hand-splits all his wood for heat. He’s a connoisseur of Eastside floating, hiking inflatable critters to 10,000 feet, and splashing around in snowmelt. He digs ice skating on frozen lakes.
“I’ve always been a beach person, but up here you meet so many individuals that are
experts at anything and everything. I’ve learned how to work on vehicles, chainsaws, and snowblowers. I’ve gotten into chopping wood, starting fires, hunting, all the things that, as a regular civilian down south, you don’t get to learn.
“That’s the reason I’m still here,” says Gonzalez, “I love that aspect of mountain life.”