The Town of Mammoth Lakes and Mammoth Mountain Ski Area (MMSA) held their regular Liaison Committee meeting on Thursday April 17.
But the meeting was anything about regular, as MMSA CEO Rusty Gregory made pointed remarks regarding a private land acquisition in and around Sierra Star Golf Course.
“I’m adamant about this— there’s a danger in the emerging market of single family homes in a space restricted town,” said Gregory. “Rob Mitchell is a good guy and he’s done a good job with Tallus,” Gregory continued [referencing the buyer], before telling the room not to approve Mitchell’s latest development plan.
Mitchell is in the process of acquiring acreage around Sierra Star golf course in order to develop stand-alone, single-family lots. He is currently in escrow on 30 acres.
“We have to make it as unprofitable [for him] as possible to not follow the town’s plan,” Gregory said. There is space for 700 units of transient occupancy on the acreage, according to Gregory, but only 12 lots designated in Mitchell’s plan. “We cannot lose that density,” Gregory said. “We can’t lose the elements of our destination strategy.”
Gregory said there are only two places in town that are suitable for profitable year-round hotels— the acreage around Sierra Star Golf Course and Chuck Lande’s property out at Snowcreek. “We will shut the golf course down and stop air service support if those hotel locations go,” Gregory warned Town Manager Dan Holler. “We run a golf course to attract a hotel site. We have to diversify our markets with the air service.”
Gregory suggested the town work closely with Mitchell to create a building plan that benefits the town. Gregory urged Holler to encourage “the right density sites, not just density somewhere.”
“Rusty is going to do what Rusty is going to do,” Mitchell said in a phone conversation late Thursday afternoon. “I own the property, I have plans for the property and I feel what I am doing is in the best interests of the town.”
Gregory also gave a season-end report to the town. He predicts that skier visits to Mammoth Mountain will round out at approximately 850,000 as opposed to 1.1 million last year. MMSA claimed air service held at about the same as last year, “a big win,” according to Gregory. However, enplanement data released by the Town this week suggest air service is off 20% year-over-year.
Ron Cohen, MMSA CAO, said flights to and from Orange County are “on the bubble,” but that the San Diego flights have recovered and he predicted they will stay next year. And Denver and Las Vegas are possible destinations that could be added next year.
June Mountain closed Sunday April 13, Gregory reported, with 24,000 total skier visits this year. “We didn’t even pay the toilet paper bill for 24,000,” Gregory said before praising Carl Williams for doing a “heroic job keeping it open as long as it did.”
Eagle and Canyon Lodges will close after Easter weekend, while Main Lodge will remain open through Memorial Day, if not longer. “As long as we can ski to the bottom of [chair] one, we’ll stay open,” Gregory said.
MMSA acquired $21 million in pre-paid revenue from the pre-sale of MVP season passes for next season, despite the server glitches the first day they were available, the same as last years sales. But more important than the money, Gregory said, is the commitment visitors made by purchasing the passes and what that means for the local economy next season.