When the snow doesn't fly rumors do. Okay, rumors can run rampant, especially in small mountain communities such as Mammoth Lakes, no matter the meteorological climate. Yet, understandably, pretty much the number one conversation piece around these parts is the dry winter and what this implies for the community's economic life-blood, the Mountain.

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Mammoth Stays the Course | CEO Gregory Dispels Rumors

Dry skiing snowboarding conditions

Oh dear Chair 23, your day will come.

When the snow doesn’t fly rumors do. Okay, rumors can run rampant,  especially in small mountain communities such as Mammoth Lakes, no matter the meteorological climate. Yet, understandably, pretty much the number one conversation piece around these parts is the dry winter and what this implies for the community’s economic life-blood, the Mountain. “They’re going to close June Mtn.” “Canyon and Little Eagle are going to close.” “They’re going to stop making snow.” “The Mountain’s gonna start laying people off.” Whether or not inspired to dispel rumors circulating about town (or throughout California for that matter) Mammoth Top Dog, CEO Rusty Gregory recently took action by addressing MMSA staff via email; said letter was made public yesterday, Jan. 3rd, on the Mammoth Forums website. Have a read yourself; I’ve bolded some of the highlights:

The company has completed its most successful Christmas and New Year holiday period in my 34 years on the mountain. Never in our history have we hosted so many guests with so little natural snow and produced such a high quality experience on and off the mountain. 

I had the opportunity to talk to scores of guests over the last 2 weeks. They were universally effusive about how much fun they were having and couldn’t believe that Mammoth had top to bottom skiing, the Unbound pipe and parks were going off, June was open, Woolly’s Adventure Summit had snow for the tubers, and that we even had cross country skiing up to Minaret Summit. They were wowed by the fireworks at Night of Lights and on New Year’s Eve, and had a blast at the concerts and DJ events. The Village rocked and they loved that we opened a day care and brought Sushi Rei back. 

Many of our guests came to Mammoth from Northern California for the first time because the Tahoe resorts’ lower elevation and limited snowmaking capabilities only allowed the operation of a small fraction of the terrain and services Mammoth provided. A significant number chose Mammoth over their usual winter vacation spots in Colorado and Utah. You all worked very hard and performed wonderfully. From the bottom of my heart and on behalf of our guests and a grateful community, thank you very, very much. 

But now, the crowds are returning home, the temperatures are warming and the weather is forecast to provide more sun than snow in the days to come. I know that all of you are wondering how the company intends to deal with the less than optimistic outlook going forward.

Here is what I know: 

So far, this winter is the driest on record since the 1800s. I’ve talked to the heads of major resorts in California, Utah and Colorado. Each of them are cutting back on lifts, terrain and staffing to save money. Many think that the winter of 2011-12 will never really get started and the weeks and months to come will just bring more of the same.

Here is what I believe: 

We operate the best mountain in the country and we run it better than our friends at other resorts run theirs. Skiers want to ski and boarders want to ride. This yearning and the demand it produces doesn’t go away just because Mother Nature isn’t cooperative. Mammoth is the skier and rider’s mountain. When it snows, they will come. In my 34 years on the mountain, I’ve seen several severe drought years with little or no snow in October, November or December. It snowed by mid January in each of those years.

Here is what we are going to do: 

We are going to do the opposite of what other resorts are doing. We are not going to cut services or service to save money. We are going to keep everything open – Eagle, Canyon, the Village, all the current lifts and all the terrain possible. If temperatures allow snowmaking, we will add more runs and lifts as soon as we can, even if it’s during the middle of the week when crowds are light. We are going to keep our seasonal employees and year-round employees. If hours of work get too thin for some, we will feed each of them every night to make it possible for them to stay in town. We will continue to operate all our shops and restaurants everyday on the regular winter schedule. Our rental shops will be renting all categories of skis and boards including demos, everyday. 

We are going to do just what we did over the holiday. We are going to give our guests way more than they expect, and way more than our competition. We will do it the Mammoth Way with big smiles, a positive vibe and the informal, authentically sincere service we are famous for. Our guests will love us for it and they will come back. 

If any of you are unclear on what I mean or what we are doing, call me at 760.934.0731or visit me in my office so that I can set you straight. I don’t want anyone to underestimate the company’s commitment to the quality of our guest’s experience or misunderstand their individual role in delivering it.

I wish each of you, your family and friends a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year. 

Rusty

skiing and snowboarding in California

It looks good because it is.

ski snowboard jump

It looks big because it is.

Does this set the record straight? To a degree, yes. The cynicist in me says there’s a loophole for everything. The optimist in me says it’s going to snow. Regardless, the conditions are excellent, and there’s no time like the present to do what we all love to do. I too would like to extend a hand to the Mountain’s staff, bottom to top, for providing top-notch service (with a smile) and more ski and snowboard recreation opportunities on a down-year than most ski areas throughout North America could deliver during a snowy winter. Keep up the great work!

What rumors have you heard, which may not have been addressed in Rusty’s letter? What downsizing/closure rumors have been circulating in your ski-town? Given the dry conditions throughout the country how do you plan to cope? My advice… DANCE IT UP, drink it blue, celebrate… the Snow Gods are watching!

 

21 comments
  • jdubbs29

    I worked for Squaw during a year like this, and they didn’t care if employees starved or left town.
    Simply providing food for us would have gone a long way towards keeping people happy, and would have cost them almost nothing. We were getting by on Ramen and ketchup. Many left by February. When the snow fell, they couldn’t find people to staff the lifts.
    This guy at Mammoth is somebody anyone would be proud to work for. Kudos.

  • Anonymous

    This post is testament that you CAN run a large business with morally and ethically sound principles. Take note Andy, it’s not always about bottom line profits!

  • Anonymous

    Yea, then they tell you you are not getting laid off, you are just going to ‘zero hours.’ This has already happened to many employees at Mammoth.

    • John Lemieux

      I know lift crew has been looking for more people to work. Call mtn ops at extension 3250 to see if they still need people.

  • Harry Potthead

    Gregory wins hearts and minds that way ….and customer loyalty. That’s leadership, and good 4 business.

    Andy should follow suit, put staff on as biking guides, put on some free kegs and music, ….yoga classes, rock climbing lessons, high camp bbqs at a heated pool, local business art and craft days, bungee jumping, US Airbag, Monster jam sessions, …..anything!!! Make it a winter to remember for the RIGHT reasons. Use this to promote SV as a summer destination. Please.

    • Colin Farrell

      It’s not marketing BS, nor is it just good ol’ optimism… it’s something called perspective. When you can get nearly 2300′ of uninterrupted vert of lift served skiing on man-made snow that doesn’t require tuned edges, that’s pretty excellent to me.

      Trust me, I much rather be skiing the real stuff, yet having experienced many conditions in well over 30 years of skiing, given the circumstances, Mammoth is excellent.

  • Tyler

    Andy had actually sent out an e-mail to SV employees. It’s not even comparable to this one, but it does promise that the mountain will stay open mid-week, and that we will see “minimal” cutbacks. He too is optimistic, but not going the extra mile like Mammoth is!!

  • Robo

    Although conditions may not be truly ‘excellent’, Mammoth has been a lot of fun to ski around on the early groomers. Better than the alternatives. It appears that MMSA has really tried to cope with the situation. Trying to make lemonade outta lemons.
    This reminds me of 90-91…..bleak, then the ‘Miracle March’. 76-77 was really, really, REALLY bad. Amounts below are from the MMSA Ski Patrols website. I was at Mammoth in 90-91 and got laid off; had to go down to OC and cope until the March Miracle, which allowed me to forestall any real career decisions until much much later.
    Pre season Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Season Total
    90-91 0.0 0.0 6.8 27.8 11.4 6.3 176.0 5.9 7.8 0.0 0.0 241.9
    76-77 4.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 26.0 27.0 37.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 94.0
    http://patrol.mammothmountain.com/MMSA-SnowSummary70-Current.htm

    And, as an aside, fishing has been going off!!

  • tom

    What Rusty did talk about was the fact he layed off 1/2 of the employees at June Mtn[Mammoths smaller sister to the north]

  • SkiPhan

    Their doing something right, and the word is getting out. Yesterday my buddy and I skinnged up the WROD at Magic in VT. A couple of patrollers stopped to chat for a little bit, as I’m sure they were bored with their 1 run. We were discussing how winter needs to show up, and in a hurry, nationwide. We told them without having a pass, there was no way we were going to pay for a lift ticket, and they mentioned how they are way off course for a successful season. One patroller actually mentioned how Mammoth may soon be feeding employees to keep them in town, and I had heard the same thing (thanks Colin)

    And 1 run at Magic was more than enough. Luckily PBRs tallboys were $2 at the lodge bar (Black Line Brew Pub), and a pretty good bluegrass band (Spike GodTooth) that did a lot Dead covers.

    • Colin Farrell

      You’re welcome.

      I’ve actually skied Magic, back in the ’90s. If I remember correctly, I was there for a High School race… ahhh, the nostalgia. I love the East – it exemplifies the essence of skiing so well.

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