An Interview With The Obsidian Residences Developer Mark Rafeh

Introducing Mark Rafeh, the developer of Obsidian Residences in Мammoth Lakes

Mark Rafeh is the current developer of the Obsidian community of luxury residences in Mammoth Lakes, California. Obsidian has proved popular with families looking for an extraordinary mountain getaway experience. It provides year-round access to the outdoors in an ideal mountain setting.

Basic background information on Mammoth Lakes

Town center is approximately 7,800 feet above sea level. The base of Mammoth Mountain near the Main Lodge is at 9,000 feet and the top of Mammoth Mountain is 11,000 feet. Mark likes Mammoth because of the elevation. 9,000 is high enough that as the spring and summer get warmer, the skiing does not deteriorate rapidly. A real benefit to skiers who want to be out on the slopes as late as July.

“Mammoth is one of those places where you can golf, mountain bike, and ski all in the same day.” – Mark Rafeh

Mammoth Lakes as seen by Mark Rafeh

Equity Residences (ER): Mark, thanks for taking time from your busy schedule. We are looking forward to your insights into your Obsidian development in Mammoth Lakes. How long have you been in real estate development?

Mark Rafeh (MR): I have been in real estate for the last 14 years. I transitioned from single-family homes and moved into doing small subdivisions. That’s what led me to Mammoth development.

ER: Why did you decide to buy land in Mammoth Lakes?

MR: I had been visiting Mammoth for eight years. It is a great outdoor location for those of us who love the outdoors. Biking, stand-up paddleboarding, amazing hikes, fishing, downhill skiing, and cross-country skiing. Take your pick.

I was fortunate enough to have stayed in one of the phase 1 homes at Obsidian; it was an extraordinary experience. An absolutely memorable trip.

I was informed about Obsidian through a colleague who was friends with the previous owner. The owner mentioned they were looking for the right buyer who shared their vision for the project and could complete the development of the second and third phases. I wasn’t actively pursuing a resort town development opportunity, but the uniqueness and exclusivity of Obsidian left a lasting impression. After my initial stay at Obsidian, I spent almost a year analyzing the opportunity and performing due diligence. It became very clear that the opportunity to develop a project in an irreplaceable location was something I couldn’t pass up.

ER: What sparked your interest in developing the area? 

MR: Alterra Mountain Company purchased Mammoth with a plan to invest in the infrastructure and amenities. Their commitment to building out the facilities and improve the infrastructure was a key motivator. It was one of the main drivers that compelled me to pursue the project.

Another factor is Mammoth has a very limited number of parcels that are available to develop. The barrier of entry is quite high here. From a supply and demand perspective, there is a limit on places to build here. If somebody wants new construction, there are very few options in Mammoth. There is a limit to what can be developed in the future due to the physical footprint of the town, and the surrounding area is public or protected land which limits the expansion of development.

About The Obsidian Development 

ER: Tell us more about the construction. What makes these homes luxurious?

Obsidian Residences in Mammoth Lakes, CA


MR: One of the elements that make Obsidian residences unique is the design. It is influenced by the mountainous location yet incorporates contemporary elements. They differ from the traditional log cabin or mountain chalet. The designer was very thoughtful in incorporating the mountain environment with the use of high-quality material choices and finishes that blend mountain and modern elegantly.

The townhomes are three stories, and a lot of thought was put into constructing them in a manner that would insulate noise as well as efficiently regulate temperature. The thickness of the walls and the floors make a big difference. No matter where you are in the house, you can feel how solid the walls and floor are. This is an important part of quality construction. These homes maximize heat retainment in the winter and stay cool in the summer.

The properties are complete with high-end appliances and two-car garages. Our homes feature an indoor-outdoor dining area. Radiant heat warms the covered balconies, patios, and floors both inside and out.

The homes feature a lot of cedar, the scent will remind you that you’re there to relax and enjoy the mountains.

ЕR: You are developing a condo-hotel next door. Will you share amenities with the Obsidian development?

MR: That’s right; we are building a condo-hotel next door. We are in the planning phase now and will be releasing details soon.

“I got out on the mountain and skied from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. – in July!”. 

ER: This sounds like a real opportunity, Mark

MR: Yes, very much so.

Mammoth has one of the longest seasons in North America. This morning I got out on the mountain and skied from seven a.m. to nine a.m. (in July!). This year they closed the mountain on July 29th. Last year they closed at the end of June and the year before they stayed open till August 9th. For homeowners at the resort, the extended ski season is a big deal. Needless to say, July was a busy month for rentals.

ER: What are some of the other things that make Mammoth unique?

MR: Mammoth is a gateway to Yosemite. It is about 45 minutes from the national park, if you don’t want to go camping, you can do day trips to Yosemite. Yosemite attracts international travelers. Many travel without all their gear and stay in Mammoth. Yosemite is less than an hour away.

ER: Tell us more about the location Obsidian and community development plans 

MR: One of the things I found by staying here is that it’s a mile to the Village and a half a mile to the Main Street. If you are going out for an evening, right now you are a 15-20-minute walk to dinner. To get to the Eagle lodge, you can take a shuttle or take a public bus that picks up every 15 minutes.

Almost every owner at Obsidian has children. They can play in the backyard and on the golf course. The community is gated, and children can play in front without worrying about the traffic. The original developer set up a snow-hill behind the houses to let the kids know they have some serious sledding when they visit in the winter.

Spring And Summer in Mammoth Lakes

ER: Who do you see staying in the homes you are developing? Who is your buyer?

Obsidian residences in Mammoth Lakes in summer
Obsidian residences in Mammoth Lakes in summer


MR: Obsidian is one of the very few gated communities in Mammoth and by far one of, if not the most, exclusive. It isn’t uncommon to spot celebrities enjoying the property with their families. People who choose Obsidian don’t compromise on quality, value their privacy, and want to be close to the slopes and the village.

If you want a little more privacy, Obsidian is ideal. It’s a little more exclusive. It’s not in the middle of the village. It’s on a golf course so if you play golf it’s an unbeatable location. It also has both the town and private shuttle service if you want to leave your car at home.

Obsidian appeals to people in Los Angeles, San Diego, and Orange County who love coming to Mammoth. Also, we have customers who want to upgrade the homes they already have in Mammoth.

“People come for the Winter but stay for the Summers.”

People who come here want a turn-key solution to owning a second home. They want to lease their homes out when they are not using them. Obsidian provides that opportunity.

Most of the homes in Mammoth are not approved for rental due to zoning. There are only very few single-family homes available for rent…even fewer that offer the luxury of Obsidian.

The thing about Mammoth is that you can experience the feeling of remote wilderness and be back at your luxurious home when you’re ready to have a glass of wine. The hiking is first class. The scenery is stunning. Boating, kayaking, stand up paddleboard, golf, and bike riding are all popular. The golf course opens in June.

The fishing is amazing. I am a novice fisherman at best, don’t know what I am doing. Yet I catch fish every time! Your kids will never forget a day of fishing with you. There are hundreds of lakes and streams all within walking distance or a short drive.

ER: What are your favorite dining establishments in Mammoth? 

MR: If you are a fan of fine dining, there is a lot to choose from in the village. My favorite restaurant is SKADI. I also like Brasserie and Lakefront. Bleu Café is my choice for a healthy lunch.

ER: How do you see the resort developing in the future? 

MR: Alterra Mountain Company is improving access to the mountain by improving and adding lifts and gondolas. In addition to the lift infrastructure, they have plans to significantly develop the three different lodge areas. Last year they started the $20M improvement plan to the Canyon Lodge.

In the winter you’ve got air traffic from Burbank, Orange County, and San Francisco, and this year they added Denver.

Skiers can buy the IKON ski pass and use it at 41 ski destinations. This year IKON skiers have come to Mammoth from all over the country. It created a more consistent flow of visitors which is essential for sustained growth. There was no slowdown and even the shoulder season remained busy. This summer experienced record-breaking tourism numbers. Remember I said people were still out on the mountain in July. The long season is a huge attractor.

Obsidian owners will continue to see promotion and increased visitor numbers. We are building two +-3,000-square-foot homes per building, so they are freestanding duplexes. There is a very limited number of 3-bedroom rentals in Mammoth.

Mark shared with us a Press Release for this year’s improvements:

Mammoth Mountain, California

Mammoth Mountain will undergo a $10 million second phase renovation of its busy Canyon Lodge, focusing on expanded restaurants and skier service improvements. The popular Mill restaurant will also undergo renovations, adding 50+ seats to the dining area. Significant upgrades to snowmaking will bolster Mammoth’s reputation for early-November openings, and supplement its natural snow and high-elevation advantages with greater early-season coverage.

About The Equity Residences’ Mammoth Residence Fund

We created the Mammoth Residence Fund as an alternative to Mammoth fractional ownership and whole ownership.

We partnered with Mark to buy two residences in the Obsidian development and offer investors a defined liquidation timeline and ownership costs that are proportionate to personal use.

To find out more about the investment opportunity, request an investment overview.