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‘Not just tweaking around the edges,’ he says in interview
Mammoth Mountain CEO Rusty Gregory said he would lead a company-wide meeting on Wednesday, June 19, to explain who will shape the future of the ski area.
“We’re making really big changes on the mountain,” he said in an interview on Wednesday, June 12.
“We’re going to completely reorganize things. I’m going to step away from operations and concentrate on a whole different area and a whole different perspective, and bring in a new team that can see the future in a certain way and know how to get there.
“That’s a gigantic change for us.”
Gregory declined to say who would be on the new management team, other than it would be made up of six members, one of whom will be named as Chief Operating Officer (COO).
“I owe it to my employees for them to hear the details first,” Gregory said, “but it’s a combination of new people, along with people who have been around but who haven’t had this level of authority and influence. This is a much bigger level.”
Gregory also deflected questions relating to any possible sale of the ski area, insisting that the new management team will attempt to put Mammoth on a fast track toward growth.
Noting that economic indicators throughout the state, the country and the world seem to be sprouting “green shoots” of economic growth, Gregory said the challenges for his team—as well as for the town—are daunting.
“If you look forward, I think in the ski business and mountain resort business, which the town is in with us, it is a market-share competition now.
“Baby boomers are moving out as they get older, and the X and Y generation—the young singles and couples—are not moving in at a fast enough rate to replenish those who are dropping out.
“Over the last seven years, the ski business, mostly associated with droughts, has gone from about 62 million visits a year nationally to a low of about 51 million visitors, and it’s at 55 or 56 million visits now, reflecting this challenge.
“The community is in the winter business with us, we need to recognize that, and for us to get the people and the visitation here, in the winter and summer but particularly in the winter, we’re going to have to grab it from somebody else that has it.
“To do that, we need to compete with the regional marketing apparatuses of Tahoe, Utah, Colorado, Park City, and Vail, which itself has so many different ski resorts it’s like a set of regions on its own.
“Those groups have pulled together and they’re going after target markets with a clear enough and persuasive enough message to drive people to their resorts.”
Under the new structure, Gregory will remain the chief executive officer (CEO), he said, but concentrate on areas such as big-picture finance, including debt management. The day-to-day decisions, he said, would go to the new COO and the management team.
“This is not tweaking things around the edges,” he said. “It’s turning the guts of the organization over to a new generation of leadership that will see the changes that are taking place in the world clearly, and will come to the right conclusions about how we take that forward.
“They’ll have a much bigger windshield on the future because of who they are and where they are in their lives, than they would have by looking in a rearview mirror of the past. Maybe our personalities are to do that individually, but that’s looking in the rearview mirror.”
He said in the interview that he was not trying to be coy, but was in fact trying to beat a curfew at the Santa Monica Airport, which is why he was in such a hurry.
At the council meeting, however, Gregory spoke strongly in favor of Mammoth Lakes tourism Chief John Urdi’s effort at creating a tourism-based Business Improvement District—the so-called TBID—which he iterated in the interview this past week.