The 2012 turnaround of Rusty Gregory

The ski area’s CEO pledges new cooperation

Long held as lord of its own separate fiefdom, Mammoth Mountain Ski Area CEO Rusty Gregory began a new era of involvement with the town when he said he’s had a change of heart.

In a move that left many Mammothites utterly baffled, Gregory startled the Town Council on Nov. 7 with a jaw-dropping speech.

“I am an impediment to the growth and prosperity of our resort community,” he began.

Twelve minutes later, at the end of the speech, Gregory said, “We have to fundamentally change, and the Mountain will fundamentally change, I promise you that.”

With those two statements acting as bookends, Gregory castigated the Town Council as well as Mammoth’s townspeople, arguing that it is the town’s character—its “gene pool,” as he put it—that has put the town in a cycle of economic stagnation.

“I came here 34 years ago to learn how to ski. Like many, I stayed around, maybe too long, and I stay because Mammoth was a place that I could do what I wanted, when I wanted, how I wanted, for the purposes that I wanted.

“We have a gene pool that’s made up of a lot of those kinds of people, which is what makes Mammoth a very interesting place to live. It also makes it a very difficult community to lead because you’re full of a gene pool that wants to do things when they want to do it and how they want to do it, and they have very strong opinions.

“There are a lot of people who stay where they grew up, not that they’re followers—they do radically idiosyncratic things as well—but to come to a difficult, harsh environment like Mammoth, do your business, raise your kids, try to build institutions that are strong and stable, that’s one hell of a challenge.

“The kind of people it takes to do that are people like us, who have very strong opinions. But I can tell you that as I’ve gotten older and have more responsibility—I came here to have fun and to pay for it by being a lift operator—and I am where I am today, rightly or wrongly, but I still hold to those basic ideas. Holding to that is part of what has contributed … to the circumstances of Mammoth Lakes today.”