People talk about resort sale

Laura Nowak Johnson sees the sale of the local resorts to Mammoth as an opportunity for growth.

 

It’s not a done deal quite yet according to official sources, but the acquisition of Big Bear Mountain Resorts’ Snow Summit and Bear Mountain by Mammoth Mountain has created a buzz among residents and visitors to Big Bear Lake alike.

Some of that buzz is enthusiastic. Some comes with concern.

“My main concern is how will it affect my business,” says Serena Saunders, who operates Captain John’s Fawn Harbor and Marina with her father, John. “It could be a good thing, but will they be buying up businesses?”

Losing the small-town vibe seems to be the No. 1 question asked by several people around town. Bear Mountain and Snow Summit were basically family-owned resorts, reflecting the small-town atmosphere that is Big Bear. Starwood Capital Group, a private equity fund specializing in real estate, has owned a majority interest in Mammoth Mountain since 2005.

Dede Hermon, owner of dd and Associates, a film locations and event support business in Big Bear Lake, says she has mixed feelings about the sale. “I think it’s really exciting for positive growth in the community,” Hermon says. “But I’m a little concerned that maybe it could be too much of a good thing.” Hermon, too, doesn’t want to lose Big Bear’s small-town atmosphere.

Lynn and Gail Call, who are part-time homeowners in the Moonridge area of Big Bear Lake, hope the new owners keep that in mind. “What will happen with all that was going on last week with the Rathbun Corridor meeting?” Gail Call asked. “Will it affect the city’s plans? I don’t want to see high-rises pop up by the golf course.”

Others are excited about the prospects of development. Trinity Dostrow, a senior at Big Bear High School who used to live in Mammoth Lakes, says it could be a good thing for local kids. “The thing is that Mammoth owners were very involved with the town,” Dostrow says. “At the high school and middle school they had a program in physical education where kids could ski and snowboard. A lot of kids up here in Big Bear have never skied or snowboarded before. It would be great to see them bring a program to the schools.” 

Debbie Leong, of Big Bear City, says she is excited by the possibilities with Mammoth as the owner of the local resorts. “I think it will be great,” Leong said. “They’ve done so much to improve Mammoth. I just hope it doesn’t hurt the local business owners.”

Laura Nowak Johnson, owner of Shoreline Web Marketing and Health Insurance Services, has lived in Big Bear full time for about three years, although she’s owned a home in the Valley 20 years. “I think this is great for the community,” Nowak Johnson says. “Hopefully it will bring an influx of skiers.”

Nowak Johnson embraces the idea of new development. “Big Bear badly needs some foo foo,” Nowak Johnson says. “This is a huge start. Finally, we may be getting out of the ’70s.”

For Scott Hyde, of Baldwin Lake, he’s hoping to bring back something that thrived a dozen or so years ago. Snow Summit has made a good start to revitalize the sport of mountain biking with its bike park, Hyde says. “I’m definitely more excited on the mountain bike side of things,” he says. “I’m hoping with Mammoth, it makes mountain biking better. I hope they will sink more money back into it and bring with it a fresh vision and fresh ideas.”

Speculation around town has the new owners doing everything from building hotels and shops to a new village at the base of Bear Mountain. But that’s all it is right now—speculation. The acquisition won’t be complete until Big Bear Mountain Resort shareholder approval and transfer of the U.S. Forest Service permit that allows operations on the San Bernardino National Forest.

Contact reporter Kathy Portie via email at kportie.grizzly@gmail.com.

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