The key to the economic success of this resort community 300 miles north of Los Angeles is the Mammoth Mountain Ski Area. It is a magnet, drawing tens of thousands from Southern California each ski season.
A success story in itself, the ski area has evolved from a portable rope tow in the 1930s to the present 29 lifts servicing 150 trails. Expansion continues, as it has every year in recent times.
Improvements on the mountain last summer cost more than $5 million, according to Pam Murphy, ski area public relations manager.
--Lift 7 was lengthened and replaced with a triple chair, increasing its capacity to 1,800 skiers an hour and improving access to upper areas of the mountain.
--Trails in the Day Lodge 2 area have been widened and graded to eliminate congestion and opened up for more beginning skiing terrain.
--Nine new runs have been added to the Lincoln Mountain, Chair 22 area. Two runs have been widened.
--Stump Alley, the most popular run on Chair 2, has been widened to include Lower Patrolmen's.
--New runs have been cut in the Chair 14 area.
--The interior of Lodge 2 has been repainted.
--At the Mammoth Mountain Inn, the Bistro Room has been completely rebuilt to accommodate conferences of up to 150 people with theater-style seating. A computer system has been installed to handle reservations, check-in, charges and check-out.
Forest Service approval has been received for two new chair lifts in the area of Lift 15, and clearance work is already under way. Both would be quads (each chair will accommodate four persons), possibly the first of their kind to be installed in California.
Chair 2 will also be replaced by a quad lift. The new lifts will each have a capacity of 2,400 skiers an hour.
The new lifts will each cost $1 million or more, compared with the $600,000 each spent for Chairs 22 and 23, which were the most recent installations, according to Murphy.
High on the list of proposed facilities are restrooms and a snack bar in the back side area near Lifts 13 and 14. A ticket sales office planned for Chair 4 would be much like the one at Chair 15.
A proposal has been made for private investors to build a day lodge at Lift 15, Murphy said. It would involve land trading and negotiations between the private sector, ski area and the Forest Service.
"It's closer now than ever," she said, "but I don't think it's something we'll see within the next year."
A marketing program will endeavor, for the first time, to bring summer business to the Mammoth Mountain Inn. "We will have guided tours through the mountains, we will work with pack stations and we expect to bring in groups, such as a computer camp," Murphy said.
"We feel the Inn is now a complete resort hotel. It has restaurants, cocktail lounges, day care facilities, game rooms, therapy spas, covered parking and a laundry service."
Looking further into the future, owner Dave McCoy said he would possibly be interested in developing San Joaquin Ridge (behind the Inn) into a ski area. "It would be a natural expansion for us because of our base facilities and equipment, which are geographically located very close to the proposed development."