Small town sees negative effects from lack of snow

As I sit on the balcony of the Main Lodge, I notice the typical winter views of the popular Northern California ski resort. The sun is shining on a mid-40 degree March day, the lift attendants are scanning visitors before they ascend the lifts up the mountain, and Wooly, the resort’s mascot, is entertaining kids on the bunny slopes.

However, something is missing from this mountain fantasy: the snow.

According to statistics posted on its website, Mammoth Mountain has only received 153 inches of snow to date, their lowest level since 1989-1990. In comparison, last winter they received 668.5 inches of snow. For a town like Mammoth Lakes, whose economy is based solely on tourism, lack of snow hurts the town’s economy.

“I’ve been living in Mammoth for 31 years and I’ve never seen a winter as bad as this one,” said Carolyn Schwind, who works for Central Reservations of Mammoth.

Central Reservations of Mammoth is a real estate company in town that is in charge of rental sales, property management and nightly rentals. According to Schwind, business is down 40 percent since its peak in 2006. Total revenue for the company is also at one of their lowest amounts ever.

“In years like these, there is nothing you can do except for save your money,” Schwind said.

The main attraction in Mammoth is a ski resort, located to the west of the city. It is easily the largest employer in a city of 8,234 full-time residents. However, the resort is struggling as well.

Last week, Mammoth Mountain Ski Area fired 75 of its 359 full-time employees, roughly 21 percent of their workers. Employees fired included those in advertising, sales and information technology. In addition, the ski area’s chief executive officer, Rusty Gregory, took a 15 percent pay cut, while all employees took a 10 percent pay cut.

“It’s sad to see how this town is really suffering,” Schwind said.

Toni Jacalone, who is a manager at Mammoth Outdoor Sports, has been seeing similar drops in business. The small store is one of the main ski and snowboard rentals in town and has been around for more than 30 years.

“We notice as locals that a lot of people are laid off because the business can’t pay for them,” Jacalone said. “It’s one of the worst situations I’ve ever seen.”

Originally from Ventura County, Calif., Jacalone moved to Mammoth Lakes three years ago. As manager, Jacalone is in charge of shipping and receiving for the small store on Old Mammoth Road. As a result in the drop in business, she has had to reevaluate the store’s business plan, making tough decisions about what inventory to keep and to cut.

Next year, Mammoth Outdoor Sports plans to buy fewer products and is attempting to survive the next ski season using inventory purchased this season.

“In years like these, the only thing you can really do is hope it gets better next season,” Jacalone said.

Note: This assignment was completed in my Journalism 306: Advanced Reporting class.