June Lake struggles despite new events, opportunities
Even with the efforts of the community, no one says June Lake is better off without June Mountain Ski Area
Although the U.S. Forest Service and Mammoth Mountain Ski Area finally completed a winter operating plan for the June Mountain Ski Area, the closed ski area continues to present a big challenge to the community of June Lake.
Despite all the efforts to bring in new visitors, despite several well-attended special events and many new winter recreation opportunities, June Lake businesses, and the residents that depend on them, are struggling.
“It’s been very bad, even compared to last winter,” said an employee of the June Lake General Store, who did not wish to give his or her name. “We only see locals here, only locals, (except during events and holidays).”
Last winter was a tough one for June Lake; the drought winter brought poor business. The effects of MMSA also closing June Mountain have been sharp and cumulative—and not just on local businesses.
According to Lee Vining schools principal Roger Yost, more than a dozen children have had to leave since the beginning of the school year due to the fact that their parents could not find work.
“We’ve had several families that have had to leave town,” he said.
Michael Bogash, a member of the June Lake Revitalization Committee, which is working toward creating alternatives to skiing for June Lake and toward a sustainable June Mountain Ski Area, said he knows of several longtime business owners who are considering leaving for good and who would sell their businesses now, if it were possible.
“It’s not good,” he said. “The events have been great, the work people have done is amazing, but in between events, it is not good.”
Bogash said the main thing now is to work toward a better future for June Mountain.
To that end, he had intended on going on a “peer resorts” tour at the end of February, sponsored in part by Rusty Gregory, Mammoth Mountain Ski Area’s CEO. That tour will include several county business and ski industry members and will focus on several small, family-oriented resorts in Vermont.
According to Mono County District 3 Supervisor Tim Alpers, who is going on the trip, the idea is to learn more about marketing and transient occupancy tax opportunities (among other things) in ski areas that resemble what Alpers and many other June Lake residents believe would be most successful in June Lake—a family-oriented, mid-level ski resort.
The trip will include Alpers, Mono County District 1 Supervisor Larry Johnston, Mono County Tourism Director Alicia Vennos, Double Eagle Resort co-owner Ralph Lockhart, Rick McCoy, former June Mountain manager Carl Williams, Keith Potter, Julie Brown, and MMSA officials Jim Smith, Ron Cohen, according to Alpers.
Rusty Gregory plans to attend some of the week-long event and will pay for the group’s room, board, and on-the-ground transportation, except for Alpers and Johnston who are paying their own way to avoid potential conflict of interest issues, Alpers said Thursday.
Bogash decided to not join the group and is turning his attention to another issue he believes is more important.
“We are beginning to organize to fight the land swap Rusty wants (at the base of Main Lodge) until MMSA can show us that it can be a good steward of our public lands and prove that they want a sustainable June Mountain—or sell it someone else,” he said.
The proposed land trade between the Inyo National Forest and MMSA for some acreage near Main Lodge has long been an MMSA objective. The ski area is on public land, and MMSA has had its eye on a federal parcel that it would like to own and develop, which can only occur if MMSA pays the U.S. Forest Service to purchase other private land parcels the forest might want, in trade.
In fact, legislation (required for such a trade) to allow such a trade began to make its way through Congress in the past few years, but stalled last year.
The bill would need to be reintroduced and Bogash is hoping to put pressure on local and national lawmakers to only back such a bill if June Mountain’s future is secure.