Mark Brownlie, Mammoth Mountain’s Chief Executive Officer, gave a presentation to the Mammoth Lakes Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday. It was a marketing presentation, one a business might give to its investors. Brownlie offered the vision for Mammoth Mountain’s future and a potential path for getting there.
The goal, Brownlie said, is 1.8 million annual skier visits by 2024. Brownlie also gave Alterra’s goal, which is to become “a global mountain community” with a portfolio of unique mountain brands.
Brownlie said that the Ikon Pass, now in its second year of existence, is gaining more traction. Mammoth budgeted for a certain number of pass sales in May and has now had to re-budget because sales have been “through the roof.” Ikon Pass sales in Southern California alone nearly equal the number of Ikon pass sales in the entire state of Colorado.
“I think next year will be the biggest in Mammoth’s history,” Brownlie said.
This year’s heavy snowfall and long season was good for the mountain up until July 10th, Brownlie said, and then the visits fell off precipitously for the rest of the month.
Some good metrics from this year: an increase in visitation from skiers aged 25-44, and more Asian and Hispanic visitors.
The younger trend is a good sign because Baby Boomers have been the backbone of the ski industry for years and there was a fear that younger generations would not show as big an interest in the sport. That’s starting to change. The future of skiing revenue, according to Brownlie, is the Asian market. He said Mammoth’s position on the west coast of the U.S. sets the mountain up well for attracting Asian ski tourists as the sport grows in popularity in Pacific nations.
Brownlie then gave a SWOT analysis. SWOT is an acronym standing for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.
Mammoth’s greatest strength, Brownlie said, is its strong brand in southern California. Brownlie noted how many Mammoth Mountain logos you can find on cars in Orange County.
A weakness he listed is too much focus on margins. Brownlie was proud of the fact the Mammoth is the most profitable mountain on the Ikon Pass and one of the most profitable in the world, but focusing on margins can impede growth.
He talked about two opportunities. The first is adding to the Ikon Pass package. The younger generations care about experiences. Brownlie said the mountain is thinking about what experiences it can add to the Ikon Pass to make it more attractive to a younger audience. He noted childcare as something the Mountain was considering.
A second opportunity is June Mountain. Brownlie said Mammoth wants June to be more of a reason for people to travel to the Eastern Sierra rather than an overflow mountain for busy weekends.
He talked about three threats: divisive town politics, housing and a rising minimum wage. The town politics threat is namely the potential for increased development impact fees, which Brownlie said could become so expensive as to impede the Mountain’s ability to build. Brownlie said a rising minimum wage could throw Mammoth’s cost structure “out of kilter.”
He listed 5 strategies that Mammoth will be pursuing to reach its goal.
Be employer of choice. Brownlie said that he wants to attract and retain the best employees in the ski industry.
Improve guest experience. He said that lift operators should engage people as they approach, and the mountain is trying to think about what Gen Z and Y want.
Rebuild and Refresh Facilities. If you sit in the right part of Tusk’s bar at Main Lodge, water dripping off the roof will refill your beer. That’s how bad some parts of the guest experience are, Brownlie said.
Be community leaders in developing the region. Brownlie lumped updating Eagle and Main Lodges into this strategy.
Become a guest-centric organization. He wants to move away from being an operation-centric organization. He wants to curate an experience that helps family members engage with each other.
A couple of the key performance indicators that Brownlie listed, other than 1.8 million skier visits. are a higher employee engagement score, a high EBITDA, and ticket prices within the norm.
Mammoth’s most expensive ticket this year was $199. Vail had the highest at over $200, and Brownlie said that he is okay with this price because people who are on the Ikon pass or buy ahead of time don’t pay that much.
EBITDA stands for Earnings before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization, and essentially shows how well a company is performing operationally.
June Mountain had the highest employee Net Promoter Score (NPS) on the Ikon Pass, which is a measure of whether your employees would recommend working for your company, at 89 out of 100. Mammoth is at 85. Both want to bump those numbers up.
During a Q&A portion, Pam Bold asked whether the mountain is too expensive to build young people into lifelong skiers. Brownlie answered that the pass helps with that and that Mammoth and June have some of the cheapest skiing for kids in the country.
Another member of the chamber asked whether the mountain had any plan to become green certified, and Brownlie said, “Not at present.”