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Mammoth home, airport issues

MAMMOTH, Calif. — If high real estate prices are the evidence of a ski area becoming a world-class destination resort, then Mammoth is inching its way there. The local newspaper, the Mammoth Times, recently published a press release announcing that a new record price, $3.6 million, had been set for a home.

That’s not exactly Aspen and Vail prices, of course, but then Mammoth is relatively new at this business of top-end economics. Located a five- to six-hour drive from Los Angeles, the resort is busy on weekends but quiet during the mid-week.

To become more like the destination resorts, Mammoth is doing two things that all big resorts do. First, it is building real estate – lots of it. Intrawest, which is now the majority owner of the ski area, is putting up three base villages and projects to deliver 2,300 units of housing when all is done.

Most destination resorts also have major airports close by, or at least within an hour or two. Mammoth wants one of those, too, but things have not gone well. First, environmental groups sued to block the project, and were joined by the California state government. Lately, even the sugar-daddy for most of this work, the Federal Aviation Administration, has grumbled and threatened to divert funds to other projects.

"We are really hamstrung by this litigation," said Mayor Rick Wood at a recent town meeting. "And what’s more, we have been warned – not told – that more is coming after this."

More threatening to these grand plans than no-growth environmentalists could be the design of the airport itself, reports the Mammoth Times. A resident, Owen Malory, a former systems engineer, says there is not enough land at the airport to safely accommodate the 757s that the resort officials want to see in a program of direct flights from distant cities, similar to what most other destination resorts have. Malory’s concerns, says the Times, are essentially the same as those indicated by the FAA.

What is unclear is how this idea got so far along – this has been years in the making – if the safety is so impaired.

10,000 feet not enough

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. — A district court judge has come down on the side of Teton County in the case of a couple who expanded their already massive log home beyond what county regulations permitted. The judge fined the couple, Thomas and Carol-Ann Crow, $363,000.