The holidays were kind to the community of June Lake and locals are hoping the trend continues.
Following a successful ceremonial lighting of the town on Saturday, Dec. 15, the June Lake community ramped up for the winter and continued to work on snow play, cross-country ski, and entertainment projects. Transportation from June Lake to Mammoth and back again began on Saturday, Dec. 22 (see www.visitjune.com for full schedule) and turned out to be a tremendous success.
“People love the shuttle and it seems to be full when I see it,” said local business owner Alice Suszynski.
“Transit has been FULL,” added Mono County Tourism Department’s Jeff Simpson. “Standing room only. People have had to stand on the 4 p.m. bus back. I did get the chance to speak with 10-15 June Lake transit riders at the village bus stop over the weekend. Everyone was a first time June visitor!”
Double Eagle co-owner Ralph Lockhart agreed and added that the holiday numbers were trending as well, if not better than last year, pointing out that last year was a low snow year.
“We’re pretty happy,” Lockhart said.
As far as lodging, the town was booked. Simpson sent an email to lodging owners asking them to email him if they had any available rooms for NYE weekend, since Mammoth was full.
“I only had 3 replies and each business only had 1-2 rooms left for the 4 day weekend,” Simpson said. “We don’t have a large booking system like Mammoth so there is no way (other than email each business) to find out what the exact occupancy numbers were. At the end of the year we will reference final TOT numbers from past years to see how the winter turned out.”
Lockhart confirmed that the Double Eagle had been full, and added that the cross-country ski track in the Silver Lake Meadow opened on Dec. 29 and had received use during the holiday.
“[I] Hope all this continues past the holiday,” Suszynski said, and Lockhart agreed.
“The real test is going to be in the next two weeks when there is no holiday,” he said.
Just before the holidays, members of the June Lake community held a meeting with Inyo Forest Service Supervisor Ed Armenta on Dec. 19. As Double Eagle owner Connie Black explained to the Mono County Board of Supervisors on Dec. 18, “We want to discuss where the Forest Service is in all of this. Mammoth Mountain’s non-operational plan [for 2012-13] has not been approved, and if things continue this way then opening next year is dismal.”
Following the Dec. 19 meeting with Armenta, Black told The Sheet that the Forest Service is still evaluating the non-operational plan. In addition, The Sheet obtained a copy of the letter of non-compliance sent to Mammoth Mountain by the Forest Service on Sept. 27, 2012. According to that letter, the Forest Service has given Mammoth Mountain until June 30 to deliver its operational plan for re-opening June Mountain for the 2013-14 ski season.
“The timeframe is not very encouraging, but the Forest Service doesn’t have much leeway to make it different,” Black explained. “The Forest Service has been very supportive and helpful, but they have to follow procedures, and it feels like they have legal constraints they have to work under.”
The concern with the June deadline stems from what the community was told last year when it was announced that June Mountain would be closing. It takes several months to do the inspections and ramp up equipment for each winter season. If anything falters with the June deadline (such as MMSA delivering the plan late, or the Forest Service being unhappy with pieces of the plan), it could jeopardize the re-opening of June Mountain just because of the time necessary to ramp up operations especially after a year of inactivity.
District Ranger Jon Regelbrugge told the Supervisors on Dec. 18 that the plan is still to open June Mountain next year.
“The complexity in the non-operational plan is not linked to operating next year,” he explained.
He cited safety and legal issues at the reasons why the Forest Service has yet to accepted the non-operational plan.
Thus far in its legal procedures, the Forest Service has delivered a letter of non-compliance to MMSA, MMSA in turn delivered its non-operational plan to MMSA, and now the Forest Service is reviewing that non-operational plan.
The Sheet also obtained a copy of the cover letter, which MMSA CEO Rusty Gregory sent to the Forest Service with the 2012-13 non-operational plan on Oct. 15, 2012. In it, Gregory stated, “Second, you have asked for a list of actions and a schedule by which MMSA intends to plan for the reopening of JMSA. In response, we want to clearly state that we intend to operate JMSA as a ski area open for public use during Winter 2013-14. There are no financing contingencies, and there is no precondition of securing any long-term entitlements. We intend to begin operations in mid-December, as has been the historical practice, and we intend to operate a typical season (generally through mid-April.”
Gregory’s letter promised a submission of a proposed Operating Plan for the summer of 2013 and winter 2013-14 no later than May 1.
The June Lake community is also seeking assistance regarding the June Mountain issue through senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer’s offices. Black told the Board that at this point there would be no movement on the MMSA land trade until the June Mountain issues are resolved.
“We need a plan to open next year,” Black stated firmly. She also told The Sheet that the community’ hands are tied regarding trying to sell June Mountain to someone else until the Forest Service permit is resolved.