Crushing Snow Crushes Tourism But Sets The Stage For Months Of Business!
Market Summary – January 1 to January 15
Single-Family Home Inventory
Market Updates and News
At this point you’d have to be living under a rock to not know that California was pummeled with more waves of precipitation during the period. This equated to large amounts of snow from New Year’s weekend to Martin Luther King weekend. The volume of snow and wind seriously compromised Ski Area operations. Last Tuesday the Mountain simply didn’t operate any lifts. Much to the chagrin of the guests, lift operations were minimal through the period. Some would-be visitors this weekend clearly stayed away, especially as two more waves were forecasted to (and did) roll through.
The good news; the storm cycle appears to be closing down early this week. The whole community needs a time-out and a major clean-up. Seriously. There are potential health and safety issues all over town that need to be assessed. Roof loads don’t appear to be as bad as 2017 or 2019 but after the last two waves, some may be there. But the snow season is set and the recent drought now has a major dent in it. I was down at the Mammoth Airport on Friday. The crews had the runways cleared but none of the private hangars had access yet. I can’t recall so much snow on the ground around the airport. The Sierra is very full of snow, and not just the higher elevations. A fantastic year for the snowmobilers.
When I shot the photo above of the buried Ice Rink construction site the construction manager was rather testy; his site is buried and plenty of materials are being stored outside and not well staked-out. The Limelight site is buried but they will be back in spring. Maybe late spring.
Caltrans has struggled with Highway 395, especially from Mammoth to Bridgeport. It too has been closed for a great deal of the period. Portions of June Lake and Long Valley were evacuated due to avalanche danger. So this coming week is time for lots of snow and ice management that will eventually open the door for two more great months of winter recreation, and a fabulous spring and summer with abundant water and reduced fire danger.
All-in-all the interaction between frustrated guests and over-taxed local residents worked fairly well. The County did declare a state of emergency at one point and told everyone to stay at home. Doing stupid things in these types of weather conditions can get people into major predicaments and even cost lives. We have seen it before. The Town marketing team pushed out new educational materials about the current town conditions in anticipation of a massive and potentially unruly crowd this weekend. But thankfully, many simply made the smart decision to stay away. Others may have simply been intimidated. The time for fun will come.
Other than all of the snow it was a quiet news period except that the Town’s police chief for the past eight years was arrested for DUI in town. Laughingly, the incidents all happened before noon. Others can cover the story, but for me it is just another tale in a continuing saga of personalities that have made up Mammoth’s fascinating past and present. I have often said that there is no need to watch TV, or go to the movies when you live in a community like Mammoth. The characters and stories are all in front of you.
With all of the great snow here and up in Tahoe and in Utah and Colorado, I was thinking later in the year may come as an opportune time for the Alterra Mountain Company to try to go public (IPO?). This is only conjecture on my part. But it only makes sense. The Vail Resorts stock value is down in the last year but appears very healthy. The financial numbers following this winter should be outstanding. IKON has been incredibly popular and successful. The “drought” stigma will be gone, if only temporarily. Alterra is making substantial improvements at the resorts they own. They have to be hungry for even more capital. They have a pretty ambitious 5-year plan here in Mammoth to lay the foundation for the Main Lodge area redevelopment program of the next decades. We’ll see how 2023 shakes out. I can’t imagine Rusty doesn’t want to see it happen. He was always determined to impress the boys on Wall St..
A recent article in Science explored how “points” found at Cooper’s Ferry in Idaho date back some 16,000 years, and are approximately 2,000 years older than those previously found in North America. Points are common terminology for arrowheads and spear points made from rock. Why did this catch my attention? Well, Mammoth Lakes and the Mammoth region is full of these points as well as other tools made out of stone. The actual volume of what is in the ground under us is rather incredible. The Meadow (Snowcreek) area is dense with these artifacts. Many old-time local contractors who have excavated in this area have substantial collections of points, many of them qualifying as “perfect points.” Many of these points can be spectacularly beautiful, especially in the historical context.
The Mammoth area is specifically full of points (and “litter”) made of black and brown obsidian. This glass-like intrusive igneous rock is abundant in the local area with major veins located in the dome behind the geothermal plants. It is almost optimal for “working” this material into points and other tools (like knives). The end results can be very sharp. The Native Americans who migrated into this area in summer seized the opportunity to “work” the rock while they hunted and enjoyed the beautiful weather. They left behind tons of material, misc. points and other artifacts. All buried beneath us. “Artifact hunting” used to be a popular local past time. But that was before cell phones.
A spacious but dated 1 bedroom at Mammoth Ski & Racquet Club closed for $485,999. This specific unit sits against the hillside below the ski-back trail. Nice summer location, but the deck and windows are probably completely buried at this time, especially because these have been very windy storms.
A lower floor 2 bedroom / 2 bath at Aspen Creek closed for $640,000. The seller paid off the upcoming $45,000 special assessments in the escrow.
The last of the new Hooper-built townhomes on Lakeview Blvd. above the Village closed for $1,600,000, that’s $1,025 per square foot!
Favorite New Listing for the Period
This is coming this week, probably. This new Studio listing will add to the inventory at The Westin Monache but the key here is the 7th floor location. Top floor units are highly desirable for ownership and rental. This has the down-valley view overlooking the Village. Great location for watching the sun rise. The refresh remodel is completed…..The Westin Monache has undergone some recent organizational changes. The long-time owner’s relations managers are gone with new managers in place. Also, Alterra is now listing the property as an “Other Asset” on its website and referring to it as the Mammoth Mountain hotel. Interesting for sure. The linked page is to the Marriott website and the room photos show the old, pre-refreshed rooms (circa 2007 with lots of wear). Yikes. The Westin owners who shelled-out the refresh dollars deserve better.
Other Real Estate News
Periods of heavy snowfall resulting in substantial snowpack both on the Ski Area and in town are certainly not uncommon in Mammoth. But each year/episode provides a new “stress test” on the entire community. No two winters or snowy periods are exactly the same. With all of the snow already on the ground this season, three of the last six winters can certainly be classified as “big” winters here in Mammoth. December of 2021(last year) looked like the start of a big winter, but completely shut off after New Year’s. Mammoth has to be (and is) geared to deal with heavy snowfall. And sometimes it gets a little overwhelming, like right now.
But when the town is buried it can actually be a great time to look around at real estate. Looking at specific units is one thing, but looking at the effect of all the snow on certain locations/areas, or certain designs, or project densities, etc., can have great value for potential buyers. Understanding wind and the wind deposition of snow alone can be valuable. Elevation is a big issue too. Every 100 feet of added elevation can bring increased snow accumulation.
This is all good knowledge to have as part of the buying process. Ultimately, once you own a property, odds are you are going have to live with the property in some sort of weather impacted or buried state. None of this can be seen on a summer day.
Looking at condos versus homes can also be enlightening in these conditions. Single-family homes can become significant management burdens in heavy winters, even with a good management company. Condo management companies have built-in crews and often have high priority with their heavy equipment contractors. Bigger crews can absorb the loss of individuals due to illness or injury. While some buyers balk at the high HOA fees in Mammoth, there are actually economies of scale, especially on the snow removal/snow management side.
Once the storms subside it is also great time to consider the value of solar exposure. The sun is your friend in this environment. Beyond the passive warmth it brings, it is the best de-icer. And icicles are a fascinating topic too. One of the most precautionary pieces of advice when Mammoth is in this type of condition is to “look up.” Unfortunately people have died or been seriously injured by snow load and icicles falling off of roofs. Sounds crazy, but it is true. There is a reason so many buildings have “Caution, Roof Sheds Snow” signs plastered all over them. The insurance industry demands them.
During these stormy periods people are often reluctant to get in their vehicles and drive. And for good reason. But gearing up and going for a walk can be exhilarating and educational. Just be very mindful of heavy equipment (yes, one long-time local was run over by a loader in the middle of a blizzard in his own driveway). And today Mammoth’s system of plowed and lighted sidewalks has evolved into a fantastic amenity making “blizzard walks” far safer and enjoyable.
Thanks for reading! Please stay healthy.