So I’m home watching Nickelodeon with my daughter, and, cognizant of the recent report which stated that SpongeBob Squarepants has a negative impact on kids (clearly an overblown lie perpetrated by a bunch of desperate Univ. of Virgina academics, er, freeloaders on a research grant), we were watching Family Brainsurge instead. Lo and behold, during the part where they announce all the great prizes that a family can win, there’s an ad for a ski vacation. It looks like a joint promotion between Mammoth Mountain and the Westin Monache. Bizarro! When, I wondered, did Mammoth start slumming in my (Nickelodeon) demographic?
A few days later, I had my answer.
MMSA CEO Rusty Gregory said this week that the company recently funded a major market research project to “really understand our market better.” He added rhetorically, “Are the things we’re doing what our customers want?”
Unlike research commissioned by the Town of Mammoth Lakes, which is typically stuffed inside a bottle and floated down Rock Creek in the hopes that a magic genie fish will discover it and grant Mark Wardlaw three wishes, the Mountain apparently gathers research and creates a strategy.
In this case, Gregory says the direction is to broaden the MMSA brand beyond athletic experiences, parks and pipes. “We’re hyper-focused right now on young families, singles and young couples,” he said.
What else is the Mountain doing? Well, given two solid years back-to-back and the recent company refinancing, MMSA is reinvesting in itself and spending some money. To wit:
1.) The new “High Five” high-speed detachable quad which will replace the former glacial Chair 5 triple. The bottom of the chair has also been relocated slightly to the west at the bottom of Coyote. The goal: much improved trans-mountain access.
2.) Radio Frequency Information Devices (RFID) installed at 19 lifts. Paper, scannable lift tickets are now a historical relic. New lift tickets will resemble hotel key cards, which will be read by the RFID, prompting the gates to open.
Once a guest has a card, he/she can log onto www.mymammoth.com and buy future tickets online and go straight to the hill.
The goal, said Gregory, is not only to reduce lift lines and congestion, but also to gain information which can then be used to flexibly target promotions to guests.
3.) The new food and beverage partnership with Levy Restaurants, which some may be familiar with as Levy has food concession contracts with the Los Angeles Dodgers as well as, closer to home, the Reno Aces.
Think of Levy as the new Patina.
This partnership, however, will take vows Gregory. It’s less about being different than Patina and more about timing, he says.
4.) MMSA is also in the final stages of reaching a deal with CNL to revive Sushi Rei, not only in the same location, but with the former proprietor Jaison Leroy.
Sheet: So what’s all this about? Were you just getting a little bored?
Gregory: No, I just have a little money. I’m never bored when I’ve got money.
And the spending’s not over. On tap for next year: a $10 million renovation of Canyon Lodge.
Unfortunately, that interview came before I had a chance to ask Gregory about the fiasco otherwise known as the Village parking situation. Turns out the lot on the let’s call it north side of Minaret Road was closed to the public as of Thursday afternoon. The following note was sent to Village merchants on Thursday:
I just want to let everyone know that I’ve been informed by the owner [Credit Suisse] of the parking lot that they need to block access until we have a signed lease. Per my understanding, the parking lot will be closed by the end of the day (November 3rd). We are making arrangements for parking availability during this brief period with the Neighborhood Company.
Please let me know if you have any questions.
-Jason Roland, Commercial Asset Manager, Intrawest Placemaking
Village merchants are understandably upset. What other mall in America doesn’t have parking? As one merchant griped, “The lot is being consumed vastly by day skier parking, hospitality guests staying at the Village, Village owner overflow and not equally commercial guests. Personally we are and have been against the continuation of being charged via CAM (Common Area fee) for commercial parking that should be provided by the landlord, at the landlord’s (CNL, Intrawest) expense like in every other commercial development or by the town via agreements made with the developer/landlord to provide for Village parking.”