MAMMOTH LAKES — Mammoth's second ski area could open in the fall of 1987. At least that is the intention of the Dempsey Construction Corp. and architect Allan O'Connor, partners in a $536-million joint venture involving a golf course, condominiums, hotels and other facilities.
First studied in 1965 as a potential ski area, Sherwin Bowl has since been the subject of 40 additional investigations. But while the U.S. Forest Service, which conducted the initial study, favors the development, it has a timetable that puts the opening almost five years from now.
Based on what they have learned about faster-moving developments in other parts of the country, the partners believe the Forest Service can be persuaded to permit an earlier opening.
Located just south of Mammoth Mountain, the 355-acre development would be known as the Snowcreek Ski Area, tying in with Dempsey's plans for a golf course, golf clubhouse, condominiums, hotels, lodges, guest houses, restaurants and a convention facility.
Regardless of what happens in Sherwin Bowl, Snowcreek Village, with its housing and other facilities, will be built, according to Gail Frampton, Dempsey Corp. vice president. Several phases of low-density condominiums have already been completed at Snowcreek, as well as the $5-million Snowcreek Athletic Club, which was honored by the Pacific Coast Builders Conference as "The Best Athletic Club in the West."
Famed as a winner of two gold medals in the 1952 Winter Olympics, Andrea Mead Lawrence has been signed as a planning consultant and adviser for development of the new ski area, according to Frampton. Lawrence, a resident of Mammoth Lakes, is a member of the Mono County Board of Supervisors.
O'Connor said that 12 to 15 lifts are planned, including a gondola which will extend 3 1/2 miles from the main base lodge to Solitude Canyon, where the major portion of the ski area would be located. From the upper station, near the top of Pyramid Peak, skiers would be provided a vertical drop of 3,400 feet.
Initially, the area would have three lifts and a base lodge. Ultimately, three separate base areas would serve 600,000 skiers annually, with 6,000 to 8,000 skiers on peak days.
From a base elevation of 7,900 feet, the ski area will rise to 11,265 feet. O'Connor said that although Snowcreek will accommodate a third as many skiers as Mammoth Mountain, it covers about the same amount of territory.
The main base lodge would be located in the core of the ski village, only a few hundred yards from the lifts. Skiers would descend into the middle of the village, with its restaurants and lodging facilities.
An extended Minaret Road will link Snowcreek with Mammoth Mountain's main lodge. But Snowcreek Village will be designed for pedestrians, and automobiles will be limited to the village outskirts.
European ambiance will characterize the village, with medium-rise buildings and stepped-up elevations, O'Connor said. Skiers will be able to ride lifts directly from commercial and residential areas to the slopes.
According to O'Connor, the ski market in Mammoth Lakes has increased in the past 17 years at an average rate of 11% a year. At this rate, Mammoth Mountain Ski Area will reach full capacity by 1987, he said, explaining the need for a new ski area.
Snowcreek Ski Area development will increase the overall assessed value of Mammoth Lakes by about 70%, predicts Dempsey Corp.'s Frampton. So it's not surprising that the development has received the endorsement of the Mammoth Lakes Town Council and the Chamber of Commerce.
While not a participant in the Snowcreek venture, Mammoth Mountain Ski Area owner Dave McCoy gave his blessing to the project. His future development of the San Joaquin Ridge area adjoining Mammoth Mountain's facilities is not in conflict, he said.
Environmental concerns have prompted some opposition in the community, but O'Connor said a new study has shown that while the Sherwin Bowl is a migratory area for a deer herd, the development would not have a detrimental effect on the animals. A group of cross-country skiers also opposed the ski area. However, O'Connor said the master plan calls for the maintenance of cross-country trails in the meadow area of the development, linked to the lakes basin.
O'Connor is currently working with independent consultants in development of environmental studies on the proposed project's visual impact. A recent survey of local residents conducted by the developers showed 75% favoring the ski area, 25% opposing it.
Dempsey Construction Corp., founded in 1961 at Mammoth Lakes and still headquartered there, claims to be the largest snow-country condominium builder in the United States. Developments outside Mammoth Lakes include resort condominiums in Sun Valley, Ida.; Snowmass, Colo.; Beavercreek, Colo., and Huntington Lake, Calif.
Projects under way are located in Squaw Valley, Calif. and Deer Valley, Utah.
Architect O'Connor produced the Mammoth Mountain Ski Area master plan and has been involved with planning and design in Aspen, Colo.; Brian Head, Utah; June Mountain, Calif., and Mt. Shasta, Calif. Currently, he is working with the city of Santa Cruz, Calif., on the design of a hotel/convention center/performing arts complex, incorporating the Dream Inn Beach Hotel.
Despite 39 previous studies of the area, no one has pushed for development until now, O'Connor said. "Maybe the timing wasn't right."