He kept a very low profile for months while the Town of Mammoth Lakes agitated through its cash crisis, but Wednesday night Mammoth Mountain CEO Rusty Gregory went public. He called himself an impediment and called for living and doing business in a different way.
Sierra Wave Media talked to Gregory before Wednesday night’s Town Council meeting and then listened to what he had to say at that meeting. In our private conversation, Gregory said Mammoth Mountain has told the Forest Service that “We intend to open June Mountain the winter of 2013-2014.” Why does he think June will work this time? Gregory said he is confident that the market for June can be better defined and that it will be possible to “create a more sustainable mountain.”
I asked Gregory if he supports a lift ticket tax in Mammoth. He skirted the question by saying that there are “a lot of things to do first. The Town budget has to be balanced,” he said. “They need to find $2 million to pay MLLA. It’s a difficult task.” Gregory said new revenue was a question for another day.
At Wednesday night’s Town Council meeting, Councilman Michael Raimondo asked him the same question. Again, Gregory said, “There’s a better way. A business improvement district,” he said, “would be one way to go.” He said he is “not against” a lift ticket tax but feels all of the businesses in town could participate. Then Gregory said, “We should market like Apple. Start with the product. We sell an experience.” The CEO said the community needs more money for effective marketing.
At the Town Council meeting, Gregory stood up to say that Mammoth is a town of people who want what they want, when and how they want it. Said Gregory, “It’s a difficult town to lead.” In a somewhat rambling presentation, Gregory said the only way out of the current problem is to “grow out of the problem.” Gregory pointed to Tahoe’s North Star ski area. He said he has “facility envy” when he goes there. Why, Gregory asked do they have more when Mammoth’s mountain is superior. He said that he is part of the problem. Said Gregory, “I have to change my attitude and I will.” Although he did not say how, Gregory said that he thinks the community can raise $5 million or $6 million to market the area.
The CEO said Mammoth could use this “tipping point” of the financial crisis to change things. In a kind of stream of consciousness monologue, Gregory came down on the idea of the community working together. He told the Town Council that he has been “uncharacteristically absent from the issues.” He said his own personal problems allowed him to “stand outside of Mammoth for my own health and safety and look at what we have.” He called himself the “biggest obstacle because I have the most resources behind me.”
Gregory said he has very strong opinions on what the Council should do or not do but would not express it. Instead, he said, “I strongly support whatever it is you need to do. I’m not going to express the opinion of my rather significant company in our small town other than to say whatever decision you make, we will not criticize but will go to work to make sure it works out as well as it can.”
The CEO said the Mountain is going to be different, “very different.” He said Mammoth Mountain won’t compete “with the rest of you by giving our employees free passes. We’ll figure out a way,” said Gregory, “that employees of companies who are working collectively to help the community will have the same advantages.”
Gregory said the community “can’t do the same thing harder and faster and expect a different outcome. We’ve got to fundamentally change.” Gregory met with applause at the end of his comments.