mammoth’s fort co-working space at main lodge

Back in October there was a pretty screaming deal on access to The Fort if you already had a season pass, so I snagged the no-longer-available option. The price structure has changed a bit but here I am with access until June. Typically I work from my home office: three phones, three monitors, two headsets, charging stations galore, a comfy chair, and a stand-up/-sit-down desk. I don’t really need a co-working space in Mammoth personally but the concept of being able to work from Main Lodge (one of the two Fort locations) just seemed too good to pass up.


There’s a small 6’x8′ room behind me, but otherwise this is The Fort at Main Lodge.

The Main Lodge location is, frankly, perfect. As you can see in the photo you are quite literally spitting distance from Chair 6. Walking, it takes less than a minute from your desk to the chair. There’s wifi, lockers, places to stash skis/boards, a decently sized coat rack, and a sweet app that lets you unlock the door from your phone.

It’s relatively quiet inside and it’s at the end of a hallway that isn’t trafficked by most skiers/boarders so you can even kinda-sorta make phone calls from there, more on that below.

It’s also warm and dry which might not seem like much but folks coming in with snow gear on tend to create a lot of humidity as the moisture evaporates so it was nice to not be a dank sauna.

Four knocks against it I would make:

  1. Size. It’s small, and although empty in the photo above imagine three more folks in there (a total of five, counting me and the person at the far end) and you can see how it can get cramped quick. There are 8 lockers present, only a couple of which weren’t locked already, and I’m not sure how you could truthfully manage to have 8 people in there. Photos often show someone sitting in a chair with an iPad but modern work generally involves a laptop, a drink, a notepad, and your phone. My advice: get there early and don’t expect to show up mid-afternoon and have much to work with.
  2. The chairs are terrible. Although they look neat, I’ll bet you cold hard cash that no one reading this right now would want to sit in them for more than 30 minutes. They look good and trendy, but comfy office chairs exist for a reason.
  3. Zero kitchen. Mammoth exists to make money, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But most every workplace has a kitchen because it is just way too cost prohibitive to eat out for all your meals. That’s especially true at a ski resort where two hard boiled eggs and a cup of coffee ran me $9 yesterday. Additionally, some folks have dietary issues. Pretty much any workplace including, I’m sure, for the folks who work at Main Lodge for Mammoth, has an employee fridge and a kitchen of some extent. Perhaps just a microwave, toaster oven, and drip coffee machine. The Fort at Main Lodge has zero in that regard.
  4. Only one “sound proof” area for calls. Co-working spaces suffer from this problem in general: where do you make phone calls? You can be that obnoxious jerk who rattles off in a public area, forcing everyone else to put headphones on. Or you can be considerate and walk somewhere quiet. Some people aren’t on the phone a lot but it’s rare I think for most people to not need to be on a call at least once a day. There is the outside hallway but it’s only luck if you get privacy there.

Lockers! You can put your laptop and doo-dads in there while you buzz around on the slopes.

The Fort started up last year with two locations: main lodge and “downtown”. The downtown location is by far larger and better equipped. Main Lodge’s location is not just its advantage but it’s really its only advantage with a pile of disadvantages heaped on.

Real estate being what it is, it shouldn’t be a surprise that space at a ski resort’s lodge is a top commodity with contention all around for multiple purposes. And considering that The Fort only opened a year ago, I think they’ve done a terrific job with where they’re at.


The Fort’s integration with the ski resort is the blessing and the curse. Without that integration, there’s no way you’re going to be in such a great location, have the financial capital, the built-in maintenance and janitorial services, or the ability to do things like offer packages that combine a Cali4nia Pass.

Conversely, that integration favors the inclusive design of ski resort economics. You should be eating at ski resort restaurants, buying or renting your gear from the resort, staying at ski resort lodging, and otherwise staying inside the ski resort ecosystem.

For me personally I’ll look at the pricing next year to see if it makes sense. I’m not their target market of course, having a home office already in Mammoth. But I would hope that they continue to improve and that similar to most other work spaces (including co-working spaces across the country) thought is given to things like food and multi-hour comfort.

In short, employees at Mammoth Mountain don’t sit in one of those chairs or spend $5 for a cup of drip coffee, because that’s not the standard of a professional American workplace. Whether that’s what the Fort is trying to do, be a modern professional workplace more so than part of the resort’s economic ecosystem, is a balancing act I think they’ll be working with for some time. I’m looking forward to seeing how things progress.

mammoth lakes housing shortage

Skimming through the Mammoth For Rent group the telltale signs of housing shortages is readily apparent with posts like this guy, looking to sleep on a floor:


Or this couple with jobs who is willing to be split up to live in town:


These are not wealthy vacationers. Rather these are the folks working the chair lifts, the kitchens, the ski schools, and all other essential functions that people living in and coming to Mammoth rely upon. And it’s not that there isn’t space available to rent. Rather, a quick hop over on AirBnB shows that there are over 300 listings for Mammoth. For Mono County in total there are over 1,000 so the number in Mammoth is very likely closer to that 1k mark.

For the town coffers, more than half of which is supplied by a Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) the revenue derived from short term rentals is staggering: June of 2016 raised more than $1,000,000 alone (a 30% increase form the previous year).

As is often the case in life, decisions that hurt normal people aren’t a vast conspiracy crafted by money grubbing officials in smoke filled rooms. More boringly it’s a steady march down a path of self interest.

For home owners in Mammoth, short term rentals are great. They allow you have a more affordable second home, being able to subsidize a mortgage. And instead of a long term rental you have a place you or your friends can drop in pretty much whenever. Even if you don’t do short term rentals you you benefit from others that do. Having homes in Mammoth be more affordable reduces home inventory and keeps property values up.

For the town, they rake in the TOT tax of 13% on short term (AirBnB, VRBO, etc) stuff but not a dime on typical long term rentals. My hopefully reasonable question:

Exactly how motivated is the Town of Mammoth Lakes to reduce short term rentals, thereby lowering home prices, lowering property taxes, and lowering the revenue of the Transient Occupancy Tax?

Everyone cares about affordable housing. Whether or not you do anything to materially impact the situation in a positive way is a whole different bag of potatoes. And really, when was the last time you saw an organization do something that wasn’t in its fiscal interests?

social media in mammoth lakes

Before I moved up here, I did what any Internet savvy citizen would do: tried to creep on Mammoth Lakes and learn everything I could. Confusingly, Mammoth denied Internet norms: there is no Craiglist, just Reno, “Gold Country“, and even some junk on Bakersfield. The messageboard is broken and doesn’t allow new members. The subreddit is a digital ghost town.


What’s the point of doing anything if you can’t post a photo of it on social media to get recognition from others?

Paul Oster has a blog that’s somewhat current, and there’s a lot of info on there especially for anyone who’s looking at buying real estate.

But in general I had to learn all this the hard way, so with no further ado let me key you into Mammoth’s social media:

  • Mammoth Buy Sell Trade. This is the facebook group that nearly everyone with a phone or computer uses to buy and sell in Mammoth or Bishop. I’ve bought bikes, furniture, and tires from here. Likewise we’ve sold a car seat, storage racks, and housewares. Also, this is where up-to-the-minute town drama happens. Did you hear an explosion? Did a bear get into someone’s house? Did the police cite a guy for picking up trash? It’s all on Mammoth Buy Sell Trade.
  • Mammoth For Rent. Unable to figure out where the hell the rentals are? Well, here you go. Before the snow season starts, this is 10% listings and 90% people with $500 a month looking for a place slopeside that will take them and their dog.
  • Butt Hurt Owens Valley. This is primarily for folks who love along the 395 as there is a distinct difference between Mono residents and those down in Inyo/Kern/wherever. In general this is full of people from Bishop complaining about homeless people the Vons parking lot sleeping in their cars.

As an interesting note, I believe social media allows us to connect with each other (big shocker!). When you live in a small town, however, you end up being really connected. Very quickly you end up knowing everyone and everyone knows you. This also forces a large degree of civility because you either will get along with neighbors who are on different ends of the political and religious spectrum from you or you will shut off half the town and retreat to a very small group of like-minded individuals.

In Manhattan, you can easily fill a high school auditorium with raw-food vegans whose favorite color is green and share the first name of Ben. In Mammoth, just finding some folks who like the same movies as you might take a lifetime to discover. As such, there’s a lot of getting along going on. Not the echo chamber kind, but the kind where civility and neighborliness is prized. There’s just not enough people around here for you to only associate with the kind you agree with. Honestly I find it a refreshing change of pace from the larger city life.

welcome to mammoth, how do you pay your bills?

Perhaps before anyone cares to know your name one of the first questions you will face as a resident of Mammoth Lakes goes something like this:

What do you do for a job?

It’s not the friendly version that you get in a normal place. Generally I’ll wait to lug out the “what’s your job” question until after I know someone. I’m genuinely more interested in your attitude, poise, and demeanor than I am how you pay for your groceries.


My “office”, Mammoth Lakes. I’ve carefully redacted all identifying marks.

In case of point the expression in Mexico, loosely translated, looks more like this:

What do you dedicate your life to?

In Mexico (which only has a 17% edge over the United States for college graduates per capita despite having only 1/3 the per capita income), it’s pretty normal to have a degree in a particular field but end up working a different job to make ends meet. Take me, as an example: I work in financial services. But is that what I dedicate my life to? Certainly not. It’s my profession and I take it very seriously, but I dedicate my life to my family and experiencing as much of this world as I can while my heart is still beating.

I knew a quite capable fellow who managed a bar in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Mexico. He paid his bills working as a bar manager but had advanced degrees in marine biology and kept quite current in the field. So is he a bar manager or a marine biologist? Well that of course depends on the question you ask and whether or not you are genuinely interested in him as a person or simply in how money shows up in his direct deposit.


Outside my window. One of these sons of bitches chewed through a powerline and took out my Internet connection for 5 hours. Hope you enjoyed the electrons, bro.

The reason for the “how do you make your money” question is two fold.

  1. General skepticism that anyone can move up here. Because it was a hurculean task for them to arrive, it was obviously a fluke that you did, and you’ll probably be leaving soon. Good riddance.
  2. You’re a trust-a-farian (a.k.a. you have money that you didn’t earn). This also sits well because it shows that you don’t really deserve to be here. Again, it’s just a fluke.

It’s actually quite refreshing to be up here but yet have zero professional connections. Sure, I don’t really have any professional friends within a couple of hundred miles, but on the flip side I can walk around fairly confident in knowing that the small-town-everyone-is-everyone’s-business aspect doesn’t leak into my job.

Of the two of the friends I’ve met in town, one is in law enforcement and the other is a teacher: not only are you in a town the size of a postage stamp, but you are up in everyone’s shit on a daily basis. I feel bad for these folks. I enjoy being civil and trying to be pleasant in nearly every encounter, but it certainly helps being able to pick the majority of those encounters and not have them thrust upon me.

So if you move up here be prepared to just say “Hello, my name is Sam. I work at the [xyz], nice to meet you.” You’ll save all the inquisitive people who want to know about your personal finances a ton of time.