Mammoth Stress Test Reaches Near Peak, And The Visitors Are Relentless!
Market Summary – February 26 to March 12
Single-Family Home Inventory
Market Updates and News
The Mammoth region’s “state of emergency” became more perilous with the latest wet storm cycle. The period went from heavy blizzards, very cold temperatures, wind drifts and white-outs to flooding, precarious roof loads and avalanche danger. The sky opened up briefly this morning and I could see that none of the Sherwins had slid, yet. The Sierra Nevada is heading towards record snowpacks and after these storms probably record water content.
Mammoth is close to being maxed-out on snow. Snow removal budgets are busted exponentially and some may just stop trying to keep up. It all melts away eventually. The major stress point is now an exhausted workforce being hounded by clueless second homeowners and visitors. It is amazing how oblivious some people are, or have become. Many have forgotten (or never knew) the old ski axiom “wind and weather permitting.” Mother Nature has been roaring the past two weeks and people show up expecting Club Med-style nurturing. Hopefully they have a terrible time and don’t come back. Mammoth continues on the search for quality tourism as opposed to quantity tourism.
Factions of the hospitality industry are simply telling people not to come, and that is probably a good thing. At least until the community can get things sorted out. Quality ski days have been few and far between. The last two Sunday exoduses have been traffic nightmares. Does anybody look at weather forecasts anymore? Or the road reports? Abandoned vehicles continue to be an absurd, modern mystery. The current level of dereliction is quite high. And it just makes snow removal and clearing that much more tedious, ineffective and expensive. In the future the Town may need to consider serious penalties, or even forfeiture of the vehicles. I’m sure the police department would like a few Teslas.
Many things are on hold just dealing with the snow volume. Access alone has been a big issue for many. Hwy 395 is closed to the north due to the massive avalanche at Mono Lake. The Hwy. has had closures to the south due to flooding in the Owens Valley. The new Ice Rink certainly isn’t going to make their planned March opening. The way it looks right now it might be next March. So far there isn’t too much visible property damage. But there is more snow in the forecast and the damage will show as the snowpack eventually recedes. But the winters of 2017 and 2019 were good test runs for the winter of 2023.
Mammoth’s “snow pit” problem actually has a simple solution. The Forest Service (this winter) shut down the historic snow pit off of Hwy. 203 for “environmental review.” The Snowcreek Phase 8 property in the Meadow has been leased this year but this property is eventually slated for development. What to do? Well there is a perfect spot right in the middle of town—the “Bell” parcel is located at the southwest corner of Meridian and Minaret, surrounded on three sides by the Sierra Star golf course. The Town owns the property and it could create additional revenue for the Town. The same “ownership” argument that the town used for justifying the Ice Rink at Mammoth Creek Park will certainly support this purpose. And think of the environmental benefit; it is so centrally located that the dump trucks will have minimal travel time. And in the coming years when all the dump trucks have to be electric, the short travel times make even more sense. And since the Town loves having charging stations on their property, a heavy equipment charging station makes even more sense. And I’m thinking a spot for a food truck or two also—those truckers can get some nourishment while they wait for their trucks to charge. It all makes such environmental sense I can’t imagine any NIMBYs opposing the plan.
Please don’t miss the Other section below. The theme could have made a good Real Estate Q&A, but I decided to keep it for my newsletter and blog readers.
The low sale ($53,000) of the period is a small private garage located in town near the hospital. This sold almost immediately when listed. Garages are in high demand by business owners, local residents and even second homeowners.
Condo closings at Juniper Springs Lodge, Forest Meadows, Mammoth View Villas and Mammoth Green are all upholding values of 2022.
The high sale of the period at $3M is a large modern home in the Mammoth Knolls subdivision. This is a popular neighborhood located north of the Village. This is the highest sale ever in the subdivision by $900,000.
Favorite New Listing for the Period
There are limited new listings but the market continues to see some decent properties trickle to the market. Here is a 2 bedroom + loft / 3 bath townhome at Snowflower. This is a Mammoth Meadow location with expansive views and sunny exposure. Great access to the Creek, bike/walking paths, and golf. And right at the Red Line shuttle stop. This floorplan is typically more popular than the similar floorplans across the street in Snowcreek from the same era (circa 1980). The reason; the third bath on the main living level and the extra windows both in the living room and the loft. This specific unit has some upgrades but the kitchen and baths are mostly original. Currently a popular STR.
Other Real Estate News
A good friend of mine sent me a recent article “Kissing The ‘Quieter Side’ Of The Tetons Goodbye” that highlights how “Greater Yellowstone is being rapidly inundated by development and many see the proposed expansion of Grand Targhee Resort as a flashpoint for dramatic changes that could transform the west side of the Tetons.”
The article asks “Among the looming questions: is the US Forest Service obligated to help a private ski company expand its operations on public land so that it can notch more profits?” It also reveals that nearby “Jackson Hole Mountain Resort has been in secret meetings with officials from the Bridger-Teton National Forest seeking to expand its skiing terrain into places that provide vital habitat for bighorn sheep.”
These expansions are in some of the most pristine and sacred mountain areas in the country. All of this with the goal of making the region a “world class destination resort.” Where have we heard that before? One of the most contentious issues is this west side Grand Targhee expansion is located in Wyoming but must be geographically supported by communities in Idaho. It surely is a fascinating next chapter in the modern ski resort development and the industry.
But the article certainly got me thinking about Mammoth, the past and the future. Most property owners and visitors who are new to Mammoth are unaware that 30 years ago there were proposals to make large expansions to the ski terrain around Mammoth. In October of 1990 the Snowcreek/Sherwin Ski Area was approved by the Forest Service for nine chairlifts and 8,000 skiers per day. At the time the Mammoth Times reported that skiing could begin as early as the winter of 1993.
The Sherwin Range and Solitude Canyon are significant terrain and they loom right above town. The Snowcreek Phase 8 property and proposed golf course expansion property is at the base. Today the Phase 8 property is our new snow storage pit. But tomorrow…?
At the time the approval was exciting for the community during rather dismal economic times (and prolonged drought). But it was short-lived. The Forest Service shortly thereafter did an about-face on appeal. There was strong opposition including the Sierra Club and prominent local environmental leaders. One of the main arguments was the close proximity of the proposed ski terrain to the John Muir Trail corridor. The project has been considered “dead” ever since. But today, if the Forest Service is amenable to intrusion like the Teton article above is reporting, what makes the Sherwin Ski Area any different?
The second proposed expansion to Mammoth Mountain is the linking of Mammoth and June Mountain via the San Joaquin Ridge and White Wing. These are the incredible snow covered ridge lines seen from Hwy. 395 at Crestview. Again, the proposals died under environmental pressure and most of the same “proximity” argument to the Trail and Wilderness Areas. The Ski Area already has the snowmobile concession permit for this area.
Now, believe it or not, I’m not really a development whore but I have been involved in this stuff from both the public and private side for over 30 years. I know how these developers think. One or both of these expansions could be under discussion right now (especially as we now know that Jackson Hole is in “secret” negotiations for expansion). As time marches on, many of the major opposing forces to these expansions have aged (and no longer have the energy) or have passed on. The Sierra Club appears to be off slaying dragons all over the planet and less focused on the Sierra. And today, it appears more likely that bureaucrats, government and elected officials can be bribed and/or bought off. Developers are always looking for the key public officials who are “coin operated.”
And what do the younger generations want? Expansion of on-mountain recreational opportunities, or environmental protection? I’m not sure. The younger IKON pass holders appear to have a strong appetite to get on the slopes. Mammoth Mountain is now clearly overcrowded on most days. Our region really needs expansion to meet the demand. Isn’t it the charge of the Forest Service to fulfill the demand for recreational opportunities? They certainly don’t seem focused on any intelligent management, protection or preservation.
What makes it all work is the adjacent real estate. It was the original intent at Snowcreek/Sherwin—the added value that adjacent ski runs provide. If the Sherwin Ski Area existed the value of the properties at the base could go in multiples. Especially in a ski town that is very short of true ski-in ski-out properties. And re-planning the whole project would ensure a modern, efficient and environmentally sensitive resort operation. A (once proposed) village might not be appropriate, but maybe a nice condo hotel facility or two. And of course a big “beach.”
Linking Mammoth to June could be even more compelling from a real estate development perspective. At least now that the Main Lodge land exchange is completed. Maybe this is why the new plan is to “scrape” all of the existing structures on the property. There has been talk that some of this linkage area could be accessed with less intrusive methods including snow cats and helicopters. The ski industry is all about fewer but more modern lifts that move a greater number of skiers and snow boarders uphill. Like the new Chairs 1 and 16 we hope to see completed this summer. There is tremendous opportunity to make this new development area exciting and exclusive. And profitable.
And again, many of the dynamics have changed. This includes the new ownership interests in Alterra and Mammoth. They have critical connections and experience in the industry and more importantly the place known as Washington D.C. There are far more influential private side entities working in Mammoth than ever before. They are already here and dumping money into the community.
The opposition has changed too. Today the most powerful opponent to any of this dreamy development is likely to be the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. The good old LADWP. Years ago Sunset magazine wrote an article titled “The Accidental National Park”. It highlighted this region and how the ~95% ownership by all of the various government entities resulted in minimal private land and development, and ultimately the preservation. At this point it appears we have more protection than the venerable Yellowstone. This could change. Only time will tell.
Thanks for reading! Please stay healthy.