New Eagle Lodge a ‘top priority’ for ski area

While executives at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area keep their collective pedal to the metal for a re-making of the Main Lodge area, the development of a new Eagle Lodge is running a close second on the priority list.

Actually, according to CEO Rusty Gregory, the new Eagle is even more top of mind than anything that might happen at the Main Lodge in the near future.

“It’s a higher priority from a timing standpoint,” he said this past week at a Town-MMSA Liaison Committee meeting.

“It will just take that much longer to do the land trade (at Main Lodge), and then phasing out the significant business we already have across the street and having new facilities, it will take longer.

“But we are well along in the planning of the Eagle Lodge area. We have entitlements down there. It is effectively un-entitled land [at Main Lodge].”

Currently the ski area is awaiting action in the U.S. Senate, where a House bill authorizing a land swap with the U.S. Forest Service currently is before the Energy Committee. It passed the House in December and has been read on the floor of the Senate.

Gregory said he expected a decision from the Senate on the bill “very soon,” but added there are a number of issues to be settled, and did not elaborate on what “very soon” might be.

In the meantime, there is the proposed development at Eagle, which already has passed a number of town-imposed permits. In addition, the ski area last year earned leasing rights to the property adjacent to the Eagle Express chairlift, also giving it leasing rights for summer camping at Camp High Sierra.

“We want to do both of them; they’re both very high priority, so all of the development in accordance with the plan around our base facility is a very high priority. From a timing standpoint, the Eagle Lodge project is quite a ways ahead of Main Lodge.”

Gregory’s remarks, in front of a committee that included Mayor Rick Wood, Interim Town Manager Dan Holler, Police Chief Dan Watson and ski area vice-president Ron Cohen, left Wood, for one, shaking his head in wonder.

“Anecdotally,” said Wood, whose home is in the nearby Majestic Pines neighborhood, “I hear more and more people who are using that portal as the starting point.

“For someone like me, who has been coming up here for a long time and who has had a locker at Main Lodge for 35 years, or more, I’m really surprised at that, although I probably shouldn’t be because it’s so easy to get to.”

Gregory said the Eagle facility would enter its final planning phase in the coming summer, and after that, there just might be some mortar and brick going into the project, which is situated at the top of Meridian Boulevard.

“This all ties into the [town’s] General Plan,” Gregory said, feeding into a “feet first” destination by utilizing the transit that already exists there.

“It will be a place that I think really lends itself to the visitors’ onsite walking, and then to mass transportation,” Gregory said.

“That will be one of the planning discussions we have as to how much we want to encourage vehicular traffic and parking there. It’s close enough to town that we already have a decent transit system, and then adding to that capacity so that most, if not all, people could either walk to it or come on pubic transit.”

As for parking, which is an ongoing issue at the Village, Main Lodge and Chair 2, Gregory said it would work itself out as the plans move forward.

“It will be an ongoing discussion as to whether we put day traffic there,” he said.