At a press conference for local media held Wednesday afternoon, Mammoth Mountain CEO Rusty Gregory along with his new management team presented a PowerPoint they had shown to company staff just hours before.
Gregory broke Mammoth’s history into three segments: Mammoth 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0, which is just beginning.
He explained that during 1.0 and 2.0, Mammoth had seen huge success followed by extreme lows, which he compared to riding the highs and lows of waves.
Mammoth 1.0 began with the creation of Mammoth Mountain Ski Area. The ski area was built by Dave McCoy and things grew and grew until Mammoth reached its peak in 1985/86. It was then that Mammoth began to slide down the backside of the wave and by 1990/91, MMSA was broke and Black Monday, where a record number of employees were laid off, occurred.
“We had a big ride up with tremendous success,” Gregory said. “Followed by a long ride down where we had to ride the trough.”
A new management team was put into place back then and in the mid ‘90s, Mammoth 2.0 began followed by unprecedented growth in the following years.
“Successes included the Village, mountain biking and above all lots of good snow,” Gregory said. “In 2005/06 we had the best year in company history.”
This was followed by major drought and the financial meltdown, and Mammoth 2.0 came crashing back down into the trough. Gregory, however, pointed out that MMSA employees had driven major successes even in this ride back down the wave.
“We have been profitable every year, we paid down $30 million in debt, air service started and grew to seven flights per day, $70 million in capital was invested, and the guest service standards have been maintained and improved,” Gregory said. One of the biggest things that came about during Mammoth 2.0 was the expansion of snowmaking — MMSA’s lifeline in low snow years.
Even with the successes, Gregory pointed out that the company still felt low, like it had hit rock bottom.
“This was because we had too much debt and too little cash flow,” Gregory explained. “Our resources were constrained under the company and everywhere else. June Mountain closed, the Town of Mammoth declared bankruptcy, employees moved away and other locals left.
“So we’ve been pessimistic and playing defense,” he continued. “It was a time to keep your head down and try to survive.”
However, that time has passed, according to Gregory.
“We can see the light at the end of the tunnel. A new wave of opportunity is mounting. It’s time to turn to optimism.”
And not just at MMSA but across the board. As Gregory had stated the day before at the Mono County Board of Supervisors meeting, “We [County, Town, Mountain] need to pull together our resources and get on the same page.”
In his attempt to catch the third wave, Gregory rolled out Mammoth 3.0, which will turn MMSA’s focus back to Southern California, instead of the destination visitor the Mountain had been trying to attract in Mammoth 2.0.
“We’re getting back to the basics of where our skiers and riders are,” he said. “We’re going to focus on Southern California and be ready for the world. After all, what happens in California is what the rest of the world wants.”
He then laid out six strategies for doing this.
1 – Be the loudest and most active voice of any mountain resort in Southern California by “marketing the way we should.” Gregory said MMSA would not be backing off marketing in lieu of the Tourism Business Improvement District (if approved), but would be doing more in lots of different forms.
2 – Curate a social experience: Rather then guests watching something going on, getting them to engage in it.
3 – Continued service excellence
4 – Developing a rewarding and fun workplace
5 – Financial strength and stability: Not carrying too much debt and just enough operating income. “We [Mountain, Town and County] need to get past the political acrimony. We need to seek investment and not try to scare it away.”
6 – Physical experience: Refresh and repair facilities.
“Bottom line is, we know who we are, where we’re going and how to get there,” Gregory concluded.