The Press Enterprise
BY LAYLAN CONNELLY, JAN SEARS and DEBRA GRUSZECKI / STAFF WRITERS
Link to original artcle
A merger inked Wednesday could breathe new life into one of Southern California’s most popular ski towns, bridging two destinations for skiers and snowboarders and coming at the most unlikely of times: in the middle of a drought when snowfall is a scarcity.
Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, owner of Mammoth Mountain and June Mountain, said it is acquiring Big Bear Mountain Resorts in a $38 million deal that includes a golf course, driving range and parking lots on nearly 140 acres of private land and another 438 acres of ski-able land controlled by the U.S. Forest Service.
Dick Kun, who has close to 50 years managing the Big Bear ski resorts under his belt, said the deal was made with the same developers who bought Mammoth in 2005 because “they were our favorite choice.”
When Mammoth Mountain Ski Area bought Mammoth and June ski resorts from founder Dave McCoy for $365 million, a major overhaul created a world-class destination. High-speed lifts were put in, and a downtown village area was created, as were shops, bars and high-end rental condos. Posh lodging such as the Westin popped up, as did fine-dining restaurants.
But Mammoth hasn’t come without a cost. In 1989, adult lift tickets were $30, and in 1998 they were $49. By 2007 they were $74, and in the past four years they’ve jumped from $87 to $99.
Rusty Gregory, chairman and CEO of Mammoth Mountain, said each of the four resorts has its own personality and following. While Mammoth is a large resort with even more hotels planned and has an airport, the Big Bear resorts will continue to cater to the the skiers and riders who want to stay closer to home. Bear Mountain is known for action sports and the snowboard scene, while Snow Summit caters to families and beginners.
“That will all continue, but in a larger, more updated and improved way,” he said.
There is, however, room to build. In the purchased land, about 130 acres can be developed, some near the golf course and other parcels in parking lots at the base of the resorts.
“We know there’s a possibility, but we have a lot to learn about the area,” he said. “We will be talking to the locals and the municipalities to understand what the need in the community is.”When asked why they’d buy during the worst drought in decades, he chuckled.
“My father always said, ‘In business, you want to do the opposite of what everyone else thinks you should do,’” he said.
In the resort business, people are usually surprised to learn Mammoth’s ticket sales are only about 45 percent of the revenue, he said. The other 55 percent comes from lodging, retail, rentals, food, activities and events.
“The resort business, for the managements that know how to run them, it can be a very profitable business,” he said.
Big Bear resorts are a bit more reliant on ticket sales, but said prices won’t increase this year. Instead they’ll be looking at other ways to bring in business, like creating new events and concerts and building up the summer bike park.
But one thing is for sure: It won’t be the new Mammoth.