Skiers and snowboarders headed up Minaret Road for the past 70-odd years have grown used to coming around a final curve in the road to see Main Lodge on their left and the Mammoth Mountain Inn to the right.
At some point in the coming years, Mammoth Resorts and parent company Alterra hope to alter that familiar view completely.
At a joint workshop between Mammoth Lakes Town Council and its Planning and Economic Developlment Commission (PEDC) on Wednesday, representatives from Alterra, Mammoth Resorts, and various consultants laid out a grand vision for the Main Lodge area that entirely reimagines the space.
The Main Lodge, a mainstay at Mammoth for so long, will be gone; so too will the Mammoth Mountain Inn.
Even State Route 203, extending to Devil’s Postpile and Red’s Meadow, will follow a new path.
The proposed changes are all part of a large-scale redevelopment project at the site that will provide an entirely new guest experience to mountain visitors.
A 1,500 ft long “beach” will take the place of Main Lodge, with only a small skier services structure remaining at the base of Chairs 1 and 6.
Two new hotels, retail/dining/commercial area, and residential units will be built in the area formerly occupied by the Mammoth Mountain Inn and the Yodler (Parcel A)
A second adjacent adjacent area (Parcel B) slightly to the north, currently home to sewage runoff ponds, will become a “ski ranch” with cabins and single family homes around a central lodge building and fitness pavilion.
Parcel B was described as “the appeal of Tamarack but organized around downhill skiing.”
Designers proposed a small section of ski terrain between the two development areas, accessible from either side, as well as new developed terrain, “Big Bend” on the left side of Chair 6, designated as beginner terrain.
In all, the entire project includes 415 units (900,000 sq. ft of sellable space), 450 lodging keys, 156,000 sq. ft of commercial space, and 175,000 sq. ft of skier services and support
In order to make ski beach access possible for guests of the new development, planners are proposing a realignment of SR 203 that would have the road looping to the right, between the two parcels In addition, a new transit plaza would be put in along 203, adjacent to the existing Mammoth Mountain Chalets to provide public transportation access to the new development as well as continued service to Devil’s Postpile and Red’s Meadow.
1,443 parking spaces will support the project, with a mix of spots added along 203 and additional parking underneath proposed structures.
Alterra Chief Operating Officer Mark Brownlie said of the project, “It’s been a long process to get to this point” that represents “twenty years of collaboration between the Forest Services, the Town [of Mammoth Lakes], agencies, and Mammoth Mountain.”
Brownlie said that Alterra the project is an opportunity to continue the partnership between ski area and community that has been built over the years.
“We’re really custodians of Dave McCoy’s legacy as we think about this,” Brownlie said, “We want to make sure we do soemthing that’s absolutely uniquely relevant to our environment.”
The vision, he added, is about integrating the wilderness with the new developments and making the area accessible to casual/first-time outdoor recreators as well as lifelong enthusiasts.
Dave Cochrane, Principal at DLDT Associates, said that the first draft of the Environmental Impact Review should be completed by December 2021, with public review and comment coming in spring 2022.
By spring 2023, Cochrane said, development at the site is expected to begin.
Cochrane gave 2028 as an optimistc completion deadline.
Eron Ashely, partner at planning firm Hart Howerton, then spoke.
Ashley said that the plans that his firm developed were done so in a “smart way that leverages that unbelievable address and does right by those adventure seekers and people who’ve always sought out Mammoth.”
In addition to the proposed hotels, retail/dining, and ski services, Ashley said that the group was also considering a year-round “adventure concierge” and training center for mountain/outdoor activites. The goal is a place “where the Village at Main Lodge becomes sort of a microcosm of the bigger adventure offered by Mammoth.”
The 1,500 foot-long ski beach would be one of the largest in North America, Ashley said.
Ashley also went into the proposed “Big Bend” development to the east of the ski beach.
Accessible via chairs 2 and 10 out of the Mill and coming down to the beach/village area, Big Bend is aimed at pure beginners.
The idea, Ashley explained, is to give space for new skiers to practice and build skills during their first hours at the mountain before moving onto bigger terrain.
For parking, Ashley said that the goal is to provide enough parking so “it functions efficiently … but we don’t want to be in the parking business for the sake of parking.”
PEDC Vice-Chair Jennifer Burrows kicked off the questions/comments portion by asking about how Parcel B development would impact the forest and where the mountain planned to house the new employees needed to staff the development.
Cochrane said that the area around the ponds is already very open and wouldn’t need much clearing.
On housing, Mammoth Mountain Ski Area (MMSA) Vice President Tom Hodges said, “We have every intention of complying with the Town’s affordable housing regulations as they exist today.”
Councilmember Sarah Rea was not impressed by Hodges’ answers.
“I’m frankly disappointed by ‘we’ll abide by everything that the town has on the books.’ We all know that what the town has on the books is not adequate.”
“As long as I’m sitting on council, I’m not going to approve a project that does the bare minimum on housing,” she continued, “I know you don’t want to be in the parking busines and housing business … unfortunately, every major employer in town is in the housing business and parking business.”
“I want to assure you we’re going to comply with housing mitigation ordinances as a starting point,” Hodges replied, and referenced MMSA’s plans to complete a 22-unit project on Arrowhead Drive by the end of 2022.
“We recognize as well as anybody that housing for employees is critical to our success,” he said, “it’s an incredibly complicated subject and I don’t have time to get into all the opportunities that this project brings.”
He did tantalize the associated Councilmembers and Commissioners with the promise of TOT riches – worry about the details later.
“It’s going to be a partnership of all of us together to figure this out,” Hodges said, “We first and foremost recognize the need to do this right and to have a solution that works for the community as a whole.”
Cochrane added his voice to Hodges’s assurances, saying “I can tell you that we are more than willing and anxious to talk to all the stakeholders about create ways to address problems that maybe aren’t as cut and dry.”
PEDC Commissioner Greg Eckert asked where the retention ponds would be relocated to once development began.
Cochrane said that they are evaluating two options.
1. Annex the wastewater outflow into the Mammoth Community Water District.
2. Develop an onsite wastewater treatment plant.
The choice, based off of work done by a waste water consultant, will be made by the end of July, said Cochrane.
Mammoth District Ranger Gordon Martin joined the meeting to say that he had finished reviewing the Memorandum of Understanding between the Forest Service, Town, and Mammoth Mountain to pay for environmental review consulstants. That process, he said, should be moving forward.
Martin also said that the Forest Service is still waiting on a master development plan associated with the project.
“Keep in mind that we ask everybody who wants to do stuff on National Forest land: can this happen on private land?”