Resort Close-Ups: Big Bear, Mammoth Lakes

The Club at Big Bear Village

The Village at Mammoth, Mammoth Lakes, California

The Club at Big Bear Village

Developer: Prestige Resort Development
Sales Director: John Wells, The Club at Big Bear Village
Price: $164,000 for 1/10th of a 3BR, 3BA, 2,045-square-foot townhouse; $182,000 for 1/10 of a 4 BR, 4BA, 2,705-square-foot townhouse

“Big Bear has been a really popular getaway for Southern California for a long time,” says Chris Tivey of marketing company Star Resorts. “It’s the only real mountain experience in Southern California that has a resort associated with it that’s an easy drive from Los Angeles, San Diego and Palm Springs.”

While the mountain is bustling year-round, summer and winter are the busiest seasons, with lake activities and hiking in the summer and skiing — thanks to manmade snow — in the winter. The village sits at 7,500 feet, “so it feels like a rugged mountain getaway,” Tivey says.

The Club at Big Bear Village, a private, gated residence club basedo n fractional ownerships, “may be the future of Big Bear,” he says.

“Buyers are getting more of the high-end second-home lifestyle for less money,” Tivey explains. Instead of spending $400,000 to $600,000 to buy and maintain a second home, which may be used only two to four times a year, a buyer can afford a more upscale product at a fraction of the cost.

“The residences are quite spectacular, far and above what you would expect to find in Big Bear,” Tivey notes, adding, “It’s more like Aspen or Lake Tahoe.”

For each one-tenth share, buyers are guaranteed two weeks reserved in both summer and winter. “As a fractional owner, you can spend as much as you want on a space-available basis,” says Tivey. “It’s like an equity golf country club: Instead of booking tee times, you book lodging.”

Some buyers choose to buy two or three tenth shares, and it is possible to purchase an entire townhouse, although that means paying 10 sets of homeowners’ association fees.

Individual townhouses come equipped with a private two-car garage, private balconies, computer equipment, double Jacuzzi in every bathroom, 55-inch HDTV with DVD and VCR, gourmet kitchen with Viking and Sub-Zero appliances and landscaping.

“Each bedroom is a complete entity,” Tivey says of the layout. “Everyone’s got their own bathroom and their own entertainment center in each bedroom.”

The castle-like Clubhouse, which is available to all owners, has a pool, private restaurant and bar, fitness center, men’s and women’s spa treatment rooms and teen and youth centers. Optional services include a private chef, housekeeping and pre-arrival grocery shopping service.

“Already 12 residences are complete and being used by members,” Tivey says. “Another four of the planned 58 units are nearly complete. Big Bear’s typically been a bit more rustic,” Tivey says, “but the Club is leading the way. Everything — homes and shops — is going more upscale.”

The Village at Mammoth, Mammoth Lakes, California

Developer: Intrawest
Broker: Nancy Davidson, Century 21 Mammoth Realty
Condominium price range in Mammoth: $205,000 to $1.795 million

Mammoth Lakes, California, was a sleepy resort town for decades, but that’s all changing. “We have seen a real renaissance since (developer) Intrawest came here six years ago,” says real estate agent Nancy Davidson. The full-service ski resort concept — of parking your car and not needing it until it’s time to go home — is in full swing at the Village at Mammoth.

Davidson elaborates, “What has been accomplished here in terms of improving our overall image and desirability could never have been achieved without Intrawest’s involvement. The best example of this is the Village at Mammoth. It has high-quality condominiums built above shops and restaurants, with parking underground. A new high-speed gondola, located at the south end of the Village walkway, whisks skiers up the mountain.”

Other successful Intrawest ski resorts include Copper Mountain in Colorado and Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia.

“Several new developers are coming in now that Intrawest has got the ball rolling. The town has become more upscale. Private and commercial owners have upgraded as well,” adds Davidson, who moved to the area in 1976. “Economically, it has been great for the town.”

Condos in Mammoth typically are purchased as investments, with owners using them part of the year and renting them out for the remainder. There are numerous local property-management companies that handle rental details such as booking and maintenance.

For the Intrawest projects under construction, buyers put down a $5,000 reservation deposit; when launch day arrives, they choose their unit in an order determined by a lottery or priority number. “The escrow process can be anywhere from 12 to 18 months, while construction is under way,” Davidson explains. “Inventory has been really low, so properties are going pretty quickly.” “Properties have significantly appreciated by the time they close escrow,” she adds.

Most buyers and visitors come from Southern California. However, the region increasingly is attracting buyers from the San Francisco Bay Area, out of state and even Europe, drawn by Mammoth Mountain’s nearly 4,000 acres of groomed ski trails, beauty and relative ski bargains.

Summertime is equally busy, notes Davidson, “We’re only 40 minutes from the east gate of Yosemite National Park, and the local fishing hot spots draw people from everywhere, not just Southern California.”

During the warmer months, the town’s 8,000-foot-high elevation offers not only fishing but golfing, camping, boating and even hot air ballooning, plus ample trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding.

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