Vail Buys Whistler Blackcomb, What’s Next For Mammoth??

Market Summary: July 31 – August 14

The Mammoth MLS is reporting 20 real estate closings in Mammoth Lakes for the period ranging from a low of $129,000 to a high of $925,000. Of the 20 closings, 15 were financeable properties and nine (9) were conventionally financed.

Condominium Inventory

At the period’s end the condominium inventory is down 11 to 160. The Mammoth condo inventory already appears to be decreasing as we are about head into the normal “pre-winter” selling season. There were 11 new condos brought to the market during the period. The Snowcreek Phase 5 units are already getting cleared out. That is telling.

Single Family Inventory

The inventory of single-family homes is even at 76. The inventory is stable so now we’ll see if the buyers are going to start making offers and how flexible the sellers will be.

Pending Transactions

The total number of properties in “pending” (under contract) in Mammoth Lakes is up two (2) to 68 at period’s end. Of the 68 properties in “pending,” there are two (2) “contingent short sale” properties and 43 are in “back-up” status. The total number of pendings in the aggregate Mammoth MLS (which includes outlying areas) is up three (3) for the period to 107.

Market Updates and News

The Bluesapalooza event was bigger than ever and that week has certainly become the most crowded of summer. The town reaches near capacity and any more people could test the level of everyone’s sanity. Traveling across town becomes a daring adventure with packs of runners, backpackers, motorbikers and bicyclists, families and assorted other visitors. And plenty of crazy drivers and motorhomes. Half appear to be lost and half are in some kind of hurry. And half must have a good buzz on. VONS has become so busy it now has it’s own Facebook page to monitor how busy it is.

The Bluesa event enjoyed cooler weather in Mammoth and almost smoke free air and skies. By event time the promoters had built a small city at the venue and Minaret Road was closed during all four days. It was an impressive undertaking and it once again emphasized the need for a permanent events venue here in Mammoth. Simply too much energy, time and dollars is spent creating it only to see most of it hauled away in the days following the event. Certainly a venue with the necessary amenities; stage, restrooms, lighting, bars, food vendor stations, etc., would attract other promoters.

Another large and temporary mini city was built at the Canyon Lodge parking lot. This was for a variety of fire fighting crews and equipment. Three different wildland fires burned in the eastern Sierra during the period and there was a major camp established at Canyon Lodge as a base. There were dozens of fire related trucks, temporary buildings, crew camps, food service providers and more. It is impressive (and perhaps comforting) to know that such a massive amount of fire fighting equipment and personnel are able to amass in this immediate area in case of a potential fire threatening Mammoth Lakes.

At this writing the fires were under majority containment and the temporary city is already disbanding and moving on. The Ski Area will need that lot for the upcoming Kamikazee mountain bike event coming Sept. 15-18.

Needless to say that between Bluesa and the peak of normal summer tourism the town has been solidly booked. The Friday and Saturday of Bluesa weekend the condos and reservation companies were 94% and 95% occupied. I was trying to show a couple of units at Juniper Springs Lodge on potential back-to-back vacancy and it was near impossible. The girl at the front desk told me they had 115 arrivals scheduled for the Monday following Bluesa. The summer TOT numbers should be healthy.

The BIG ski industry news of this past week was the announcement that Vail Resorts was purchasing Whistler Blackcomb. The purchase price is slightly over $1 billion. This is the proverbial blockbuster deal. Folding Whistler into the Epic Pass adds unbelievable value. I wrote about ski pass dynamics last March.

The acquisition is scheduled to be completed sometime in fall. This makes a great deal for the Whistler pass holders who are accustomed to paying nearly twice the price for a Whistler ski pass compared to an Epic Pass. For American Epic Pass holders the weakness of the Canadian dollar will make a Whistler trip very attractive. Either make it a long trip or plan to go more than once.

The immediate comments following the associated news stories had plenty of good and bad. The bad typically came from ex-employees of Vail Resorts and environmentalists. The good typically came from current Epic Pass holders. Not everyone will be happy about the transaction.

Vail Resorts CEO was quoted as saying that they are a ski company and not an investment firm, “we have never sold a ski resort in our 50-year history.” In the public corporation world this is a classic “merger and acquisition.” Interestingly too is Vail Resorts has now purchased two resorts that have held recent Winter Olympics (Whistler and Park City) events.

Clealy Vail Resorts is now heading towards a monopoly-type status. The multitude and variety of resorts they now have gives them increased insulation from drought winters in specific locations. The Epic Pass is increasingly competitive and very attractive. How this will ultimately affect Mammoth is anybody’s guess at this point.

But here’s my initial take for now: Mammoth is going to have to compete or acquiesce (sell). Maybe the “compete” side is why there is renewed energy to begin serious capital improvements on the Ski Area and develop new luxury accommodations. Certainly the Ski Area had an inkling this sale was coming. And forget the “destination resort” thinking. Serious upgrades are going to be necessary to simply stay competitive. I don’t care how great the ski runs are and how accessible we are from So Cal, this sale of Whistler is going to create a “defining moment” for those on the 4th floor of the Ivory Tower (MMSA management).

Or maybe borrowing money a near zero interest will finally allow Vail Resorts to offer a price for Mammoth Resorts that will encourage the investors to hit the “sell” button. Regardless, I see a Whistler acquisition sidebar that is another squeeze play on the Mammoth Resorts assets. Slowly (maybe not that slowly) and methodically it will come down to compete or sell. And once it all happens I’m not sure if I’ll be commenting on the good side or the bad side, but something needs to change.

Meanwhile there is nothing new to report on the “changes” coming to the Mountain or the Mammoth Tech Initiative. The Town Council did approve another $25,000 to the Ice Rink/MUF EIR for an additional archeology study. Basically they will go out there and dig up some arrowheads and obsidian flakes and categorize them. I can guarantee they are out there. The Native Americans of the past centuries loved the Mammoth Creek drainage. The land is full of arrowhead and knife making debris. And certain areas were sacred burial grounds.

But with this additional EIR funding the Council doesn’t appear to be jumping to the proposed Shady Rest location for the Ice Rink/MUF. If we can learn from history, it will end up where Rusty Gregory wants it.

……And it look like VONS won’t be going on strike anytime soon.

Noteworthy Sales

Closed sales during the period included two cabins on Forest Service leased land. These “summer cabins” often attract the attention of Internet lookers. The low prices and “mountain” appearance get them dreaming and thinking they “found it.” But I call these cabins “play toys” because they are simply summer hang-out spots. In the Mammoth region some are at the end of Old Mammoth and some are in the Lakes Basin. They don’t have winter access unless by snowshoe or snowmobile. And even then it isn’t very practical. The lease rates aren’t too steep but the owners are still at the whims of the Forest Service. Many are “legacy” properties. They may not be great real estate options but they can provide years of enjoyment.

The sale of 217 Alexander for $740,000. Wow! What some people will pay for an emotional property. This was originally listed at $649,000. This is a heavily modified and added-on-to historic Mammoth log cabin. This is a really beautiful property located by Mammoth Creek in “the depths” of Old Mammoth. Gorgeous in the summer but in heavy winters this can get very difficult. When I moved to Mammoth in the early 1980’s this area was known as “Moleville” because the County didn’t plow (snow removal) the dirt roads and anybody who lived in this area had to park up on Hill St. and snowshoe in. The street was historically known as Glasscock but was renamed Alexander lane after Sid Alexander who lived on the street for decades and was one of the old-time Mammoth “characters.”

The sale of 83 Dorrance for $400,000. Two tiny A-frame homes on one lot that sits right on the street. Income producing properties continue to perform–no matter how funky.

Three sales in the period were condo hotel properties. Odd time of year for them to be selling.

Properties in Mono City are selling like hotcakes. This little neighborhood above Mono Lake is known for affordability. Must be the attractive low-down financing available.

Other Real Estate News

I think I’ve said enough for this issue. The Mammoth real estate market is about to plunge into the late summer and fall selling season. Nobody is ready for snow but the sooner it comes the better. I’m heading out for a week on the ocean!

Thanks for reading!

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.