From OC register.It's no secret Big Bear Mountain Resorts, just two hours from Orange County, has been up for grabs since last year. On Wednesday, Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, owner of Mammoth Mountain and June Mountain, said it is acquiring the ski and snowboarding resorts Bear Mountain and Snow Summit for $38 million. "Mammoth has always been the natural long-term fit for the Big Bear family and we are thrilled to enter this agreement," said Dick Kun, president of Big Bear Mountain Resorts and whose family has been part of the mountain since the early days. "Mammoth's experience and leadership will ensure that southern Californians will continue to enjoy recreating in the local mountains and will undoubtedly bring in a new era of experiences and opportunities for all of our constituents." The news comes just as local mountain resorts have started prepping for ski season, which could start as early as late October if Mother Nature cooperates. Years of drought conditions have hampered the ski business. Bringing the four mountain resorts together will create one of the nation's largest ski companies. Mammoth Mountain expects to draw two million visitors per year, according to the announcement. "These two uniquely southern California resorts have been providing great skiing, riding and biking experiences to visitors from California and beyond. Millions have enjoyed their first mountain resort experience on the slopes of Bear Mountain and Snow Summit, and we look forward to expanding upon the legacy that Dick Kun and his people have created over the past six decades," said Rusty Gregory, Chairman and CEO of Mammoth Mountain. Gregory added that there will be news in coming months about developments and expansion plans. A new Cali4nia pass, on sale starting Saturday, will give unrestricted access to all four mountains for $689. Snowboarder Artie Castro, a boardmember for the American Association of Snowboard Instructors, said he's excited about the change. Castro, who lives in Orange and heads up to Big Bear each winter season to teach all the snowboard instructors at Bear Mountain, got a call a few days ago from the head instructor with the news of the sale. He said they'll keep the same staff for this first year, as well as adding new hires at two job fairs in October. "Over the summer, any time the rumors came out it could be Mammoth, I was excited about it. Mammoth is one of my favorite mountains, I've been a season pass holder for close to 20 years." Mammoth Mountain Ski Area acquired Mammoth and June Mountain in 2005 from founder Dave McCoy for $365 million. When McCoy discovered the area in the 1940s, there were no trails, no signs telling people what runs are black diamond, no luxury of a fast-moving lift that can hold four people at a time. The area had a population of six. After Mammoth Mountain Ski Area came in, major changes were put in place. A downtown village area was created, as were shops and high-end rental condos catering to families. Posh lodging such as the Westin popped up, as did fine-dining restaurants. If the developers come into Big Bear with the same vision, improvements could go beyond slopes and into town with condo complexes and vacation properties like those that Mammoth Mountain Ski Area built to drive vacationers to the area. Big Bear got its first chair lift about 60 years ago. In 2002, Big Bear Mountain Resorts bought the two resorts to combine the ski areas, investing $6.6 million into the venture in 2006. The area surrounding the Big Bear resorts has also gone through transformations in recent years. The downtown area was spruced up last year, and developer Dave Stone in recent years has been pumped in more than $20 million into lodging, a craft beer restaurant, a winery, as well as a concert venue downtown. When Stone heard rumors of a sale, he shot up to Mammoth to research some of the business improvements they've made to the resort and in town. "I love Mammoth, I love what they've done and I look forward to their endeavors," he said. "It's like big brother will be wrapping their arms around little brother, it will be a new California family." He met up with a brew master in Mammoth, and they've already kicked around ideas on how to partner up. "We formed a friendship there, and I look forward to forming a new friendship with the new owners," he said. "They want a new vision just like I want, and I believe Mammoth will help bring fuel to the fire. Obviously they are investing a lot of money. Somethings will stay the same, but things will have to change, and that's part of evolution." Castro also thinks the sale could mean changes to the vibe of the Big Bear area. "I think that's the whole idea of it. I think Mammoth really wants to make it a resort, without displacing the local feel that Big Bear has," he said. "I think it's a win-win." Local business owner Duke Edukas, who co-owns Costa Mesa shop Surfside Sports, said he's always had a lot of respect for the people who run Mammoth Mountain. "It's always run well," he said. "Unless they jack up the prices, which I don't think they'll do, I think it will be a good thing." His shop is already setting things out in the store for snow season. But whether or not the snow will show - that's a question that's still unclear. "My answer to that last year was 'the odds are in our favor'," he said. "This year, they are in our favor more. But who the heck knows."