Since some of my recent readers come here to be entertained by my “ambiguity” and “incessant bullshit” and the new year is a time for reflection, I decided to look back to columns I had written in the past to see how I was doing on my ambiguity and BS over the years. This column was published 17 years ago after 5 winters drought and during a deep recession in California. The one thing I recall is how many residents of Mammoth had to leave because they could not make it here financially, including several associates in my company. Much of the column sounds familiar and and has an almost eery perspective to today.
Reprinted from the Mammoth Times December 26, 1991
“Destination Resort” or Resort of Destiny?
“We’re looking for something that has already found us.”
––from the poem “An American Prayer”
by James Douglas Morrison
Everyone above ground knows that the 90’s are upon us. The media abounds with information about how the 90’s will shape up to be different from the 80’s. Economically, socially, politically. All of it hits home. Much of it makes me think about the future of Mammoth. And much of it makes me think we should be aware of the fact that the future demand and desirability of Mammoth is going to be supplied more by what already exists rather than by something we think should exist.
Yes, while Mammoth has reluctantly strived to become something new, what Mammoth has always been is becoming fashionable and in demand. Gone is the so-called “decade of greed and glitz,” although most of it passed over Mammoth while we struggled through drought and township infancy. Dispose of the Beemer and drive the Explorer for the remainder of the decade. The signs of this new life are evident everywhere, even in the Golden State. Family and friends won’t just be considered economic assets anymore. And he who dies with the most toys is probably better off dead than going through the hell of bankruptcy.
What’s important for the 90’s? “Value” is one of the words being thrown around quite a bit. Value is probably going to be a double-edged word for the decade. Money will be tighter than previously, so not only will getting your money’s worth be important, but getting something of quality, too. More importantly, after a decade known for unruly materialism, values themselves are going to be under close scrutiny–and mostly from within. We’ll all need a place to escape, to relax, and to most likely get some exercise in the great outdoors. Mammoth scores very well in these categories. That’s why Mammoth is so poised for the rebound. We can be happier with what we have, rather than being overly-concerned about things we think we need.
While I would love to see a few nice resort hotels in this town, the reality of overbuilding and a changed economy has the hotel industry reeling. When recent newspaper articles report that major successful chains are not supplying the complimentary sewing kit or a third hand towel because they need to cut expenses, the writing is on the wall. While Mammoth is a logical location for hotel development, are a multitude of hotel rooms what the market will demand? Not if this is the 90’s that everyone is talking about. Quite frankly, that should be good news for a town that is so condo-dependent like Mammoth. Rather than seeing brochures with pictures of glamorous people socializing around the lobbies of lavish hotels, we instead can envision the glory of families gathered around the home fires, enjoying good company and a wonderful meal, in the confines of a Mammoth townhome. How trendy.
From a business standpoint, this is good for many people with something already invested in Mammoth. It upholds the economic viability to the owners and management of these properties, and it produces plenty of bed tax for the municipality. But there are some things that need to be accomplished before Mammoth can fully capitalize on its assets 90’s. Golf courses are certainly one. Golf is so big that if Mammoth wasn’t presently moving forward with two championship course, and eyeing potential municipal courses, you would have to question the maturity of the community. And how can any environmentalist deny something that can be beneficial to wildlife, such a good use of reclaimed water, so pleasing to the eye, and such a good way to spend an afternoon? (I know, I know: dogs chase the deer.) We need the back nine (ten) at Snowcreek approved and completed. We need Loadstar completed. And a municipal pitch-and-putt would be a great place for us hackers to learn to hit the ball.
We also need to continue our pursuit of better and more efficient ways of getting to this remote area. Our guests are always going to drive here–it’s too ingrained in their behavior. But we must insure that the drive will only become easier and safer. And we must improve the intrastate and intestate airline service. These things are beginning to get done. The momentum needs to continue. Mammoth’s marketing has taken giant leaps. Packaging is becoming a stronger and more acceptable concept. Local education has improved, and college credits can be earned. Mammoth needs to establish an advanced service education program like those that have been successful in other progressive resort areas. The momentum needs to continue.
The 90’s will return Mammoth to what Mammoth is all about–the mountain experience. A family mountain experience. And it’s okay if a little golf and shopping can be enjoyed along the way. The solid efforts of planning and land use analysis will improve the mountain aesthetics; the infill and redevelopment that is so inevitable will only make Mammoth better. In 1992, the original General Plan of the Town of Mammoth Lakes (circa 1987) will be revised for the first time to refine those goals.
The trends foreseen for the 90’s should affect local real estate in a positive way. Those condominiums that are sometimes degraded, by local citizenry and visitors alike, should have a resurgence in popularity because of the social demand, downscaled economics, and increased return on investment. Many good properties remain under the $100,000 price tag. The demand by the nightly renter (transient occupant,” in Town lingo) equates to increased revenue, which gives stability to all of those involved in the trickledown of owning, managing, and renting. That includes the Town coffers, which in turn provides the services and amenities the public desires.
Interest rates are low and are expected to remain there for some time. And as more proficient management of the condominiums brings more income, these properties will re-evolve as good investments from a financial standpoint. And they have always provided good return in the “quality of life” column. All of this means a more vibrant market and community for the Town of Mammoth Lakes as we head into the heart of the 90’s.
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Vacations and the holidays are over, expect a new Broker’s Report soon.