Last week a pretty startling revelation popped up in the middle of the Mammoth Lakes Town Council meeting. In the middle of talking about some other business, long-time Mammoth Mountain Ski Area CEO Rusty Gregory announced that, within a few weeks, "Mammoth Mountain will not by run by me." The abrupt announcement threw the local rumor mill into a tantrum, with many natives soured by the area's supreme difficulties over the past several years hoping it meant Rusty would be leaving town for good. But Curbed Ski's Editor, Ryan Dunfee, took a deeper look into the news for Powder Magazine and was able to ascertain what exactly is going on in the leadership shuffle with the help of the reporting of The Sheet:
-Rusty Gregory will stay on as CEO, but will be relieving himself of some of his operations responsibilities. "It is time for new vision and bold action," he said in an employee memo last Thursday.
-A new six-person management team will be named, with 2 or 3 members coming in from outside.
-We know that one of the six will be Erik Forsell, who is the new Chief Marketing Officer for the mountain and comes with experience at sports brands like Asics, Rusty, Lost Surfboards, and O'Neill.
-Former CMO Howard Pickett will stay on as a special adviser to Forsell, but his primary responsibilities will shift towards working more with the town (more on that later)
-The new Chief Operating Officer will be a candidate from Mammoth's existing staff
What does this all mean? It's complicated. The area is in more or less dire straights. The town of Mammoth Lakes declared municipal bankruptcy after losing a $43 million lawsuit surrounding their bungling of a hopeful airport development .Their annual municipal budget is $16 million. The county is facing $26 million in equipment costs in the next 15 years. And everyone is pissed at Mammoth for firing 75 long-term, full-time employees at the height of the terrible 2011/2012 season and then closing June Mountain (which will thankfully re-open this winter).
Gregory has argued that locals need to support their bid for a land swap with the Forest Service that would give Mammoth (and thus, owners Starwood Capital Group) 20 acres of developable land at the base of the resort worth some $500 million because the property taxes that would need to be paid out are desperately needed in the coffers of both the town of Mammoth Lakes and Mono County. June Lake residents have argued that their support for such a move is contingent on Mammoth following through on their promises to "improve" June Mountain by putting in a new lift up the face, new snowmaking, and marketing the quiet ski area to young families. But it appears their resistance is waning of late after a protracted and exhausted battle.
As far as staff are concerned, the efforts of Gregory, former CMO Hackett, and likely new CMO Erik Forsell, will be focused on getting the TBID (Tourism Business Investment District) passed, which would levy a fee on almost all businesses within it which, when combined with financial firepower from the mountain, would be put to use marketing the area as a whole in a more aggressive way. As the county supervisor proclaimed at a recent meeting, "We're looking down the barrel at some real problems. The only way is to grow our way out of it."
Locals have been wary in their trust of Gregory & co. since the airport calamity (which was encouraged by the mountain in order to make the area more accesible as a destination resort), the firings, and the closing of June. Their fear now is that if the land swap goes through, Starwood will simply capitalize on the chance to get out of a tough investment and offload the whole mountain onto a developer that would want to put in a new base village without offering much of anything to the town. So, to answer your question: it's complicated.
· Mammoth Shake-Up [Powder Magazine]