Mammoth Mountain chairman and CEO Rusty Gregory signs the Big Bear Mountain Resorts documents, finalizing the acquisition including Snow Summit Bike Park. | Photo by Lee Stockwell, Big Bear Mountain Resorts
BIG BEAR LAKE, CA - Mammoth Mountain Resorts completed its $38-million acquisition of Big Bear Mountain Resorts Thursday, March 6. The deal, first announced in September 2014, includes plans to expand and improve the Snow Summit Bike Park in accordance with the original Gravity Logic, Inc. strategic plan.
“We are stoked to join forces with the BBMR team and provide the ultimate California mountain bike experience at Mammoth Mountain and Snow Summit,” Lauren Burke, PR manager for Mammoth Resorts told MTBparks.
The purchase adds Snow Summit and Bear Mountain to a roster including Mammoth Mountain and June Mountain. While much of the news surrounding the deal has focused on the impact to ski and winter operations, it means big things for Southern California mountain bikers as well.
A rider leans into a corner in the Snow Summit Bike Park. | Photo courtesy Big Bear Mountain Resorts
“We believe mountain biking is a core operation of the resort business,” said David Likins, new COO of Big Bear Mountain Resorts. “We’re investors in the sport, and we will continue to build upon what Snow Summit was able to do last summer reopening the park.”
Snow Summit Bike Park opened officially for the summer of 2013, but bikes were previously allowed on the lift with restrictions on weight, suspension travel and tire size, and they had to roll off resort property onto ungroomed trails existing on Forest Service land. When the bike park opened its 1,200 feet of vert for its inaugural season, the only official trail was Miracle Mile, one run with several route options.
By the end of the 2014 season, the park expanded to include two intermediate and two advanced trails totaling roughly five miles—still only a small fraction of what was proposed by the original strategic plan laid out by famed Whistler trail builder, Gravity Logic, Inc.
Snow Summit's 2014 trail map outlines the planned route for a new green flow trail. | Image courtesy Big Bear Mountain Resorts
“Mammoth has been a long-time leader in mountain biking. Summit has been that way in the past, and in the last two years we’ve gotten back into it with a pretty aggressive resurgence,” said Chris Riddle, VP of marketing and 41-year veteran of Big Bear Mountain Resorts. “We’ve known we wanted to do more, but I think we’ll see things move at an expedited pace with Mammoth. That’s just a win-win for the riders.”
"We are building for the mountain biker."
-David Likins, COO Big Bear Mountain Resorts
Likins said the resort plans to continue building and expanding upon Gravity Logic’s vision, which includes linking Snow Summit Bike Park to sister resort Bear Mountain, roughly one mile away. It’s a large, comprehensive and well thought out plan, he said, the largest obstacle being U.S. Forest Service approval, but he notes that the agency has been generous and easy to work with so far; the purchase was finalized after Mammoth received approval for a Forest Service permit transfer on nearly 1,500 acres of the San Bernardino Forest.
While it would take several years to build out anywhere near the full scope of the Gravity Logic plan, small changes are already in the works. A new four-mile green flow trail from the top of the mountain is in the final stages of approval and will be built for the 2015 season, offering a more accessible option for novice riders and a longer run designed to still be fun for intermediate and advanced riders.
The Snow Summit trail crew moves a new feature into place during the 2014 season. | Photo courtesy Big Bear Mountain Resorts
“We’re ready to put shovels in the ground,” said Riddle. “The Forest Service is a willing participant, we just have to go through the process. The Gravity Logic assessment helped give us a lot of credibility with them in that respect.”
Chair 4 will also run, helping to manage traffic at the lower lifts and to allow faster laps on the upper sections of trail. Other changes to improve upload capacity include new bike carriers for the lifts. But that’s just the beginning, according to Likins.
“We are aggressively pursuing new terrain,” he said. “We will continue to expand over time as long as market demand dictates. As long as we see the demand—which we believe we can create—we’ll continue expanding on a trail-by-trail basis. We believe if you build it, they will come.”
A rider boosts a tabletop in Snow Summit Bike Park. | Photo courtesy Big Bear Mountain Resorts
Likins, SVP of real estate and acquisitions at Mammoth prior to the deal, believes that Southern California is the largest mountain biking market in the country, noting that it is the origin of the majority of Mammoth’s bike park—and ski—traffic. Southern California Mountain bikers are just that—mountain bikers, he said. Compared to other resorts, Snow Summit sees a much lower crossover of bike and ski ticket holders. Some ski resorts, including Mammoth, may see greater than 50 percent crossover. He estimates Snow Summit’s to be no more than 15 to 20 percent.
“We are building for the mountain biker,” he told MTBparks.
And following Gravity Logic’s plan isn’t the only cue he plans to take from Whistler.
Riders walk bikes through the existing base area at Snow Summit. | Photo courtesy Big Bear Mountain Resorts
His vision includes expanding the base area of operations into something similar to Whistler Village, creating a more spectator friendly environment complete with a pump track removable for the winter months and jumps and features visible from the lift lines and village seating areas.
“Whistler is very spectator friendly. This is one of the few places just as well suited because of the natural amphitheater,” Likins said. “One of our biggest objectives is figuring out how people can hang out and watch.”
He’ll have 140 acres near the base of the mountain currently in the form of parking and other parcels to work with.
Snow Summit's bike park features a variety of tech and flow features. | Photo courtesy Big Bear Mountain Resorts
“We’re going to do other things to animate the village to create that environment. We’ll have a good time and sell a couple beers along the way. It will be a great location in the summer.”
Despite the improvements, day tickets aren’t expected to change much, if at all, for Snow Summit this year. Mammoth Resorts also plans to launch a Cali4nia bike park pass good at both resorts on March 23, similar to the Cali4nia ski pass it debuted this past winter.
“The future is bright,” said Riddle. “It’s pretty exciting having Mammoth on board. They’re 100 percent behind mountain biking. We’ve embraced it again and it’s going to be part a huge part of our culture moving forward.”
by Don Stefanovich