This past Sunday, several Mammoth and June locals, and even one Bishop resident I ran into, gathered at the corner of Main Street and Old Mammoth Road in Mammoth to protest the recent closure of June Mountain Ski Area.
June Lake has been through some tough times, to be sure. One recalls a dry winter not too many years ago (2007-2008) when, like this past year, snow just didn’t come soon enough and deep enough, and the ski area opened for just 17 days.
Weather is one thing, a factor over which we humans have no control. That hits hard enough, but a business decision carries a more significant impact. It’s motivations are tangible, and the resultant feelings and reactions have a more severe impact on locals and visitors alike.
I went to the protest and was greeted by the cheery voice of Alice Suszynski, a June Lake resident, readying her sign. She was one of several folks of all age demographics, who were smiling, but nonetheless focused on getting out their message: they care about JMSA and what it means to the area.
The day before the protest, my wife and I had our own June Lake moment, one that shaped many of the thoughts contained in this commentary.
Just about 48 hours after official notice of the JMSA closing was released to the public, we decided to spend our Saturday in the June Loop, our own show of support, if you will.
Packing our dog in the car, we first stopped at the Alpine Deli, a little eatery open during the summer season. Truly a local business endeavor, the staff smokes tri-tip and other meats, and makes its sandwiches by hand. A turkey breast sandwich (with fresh turkey) on a French roll with bacon (cooked to order), lettuce, tomato and white cheddar cheese hit the spot, fueling us up for the next part of our adventure.
From there, we drove past the almost entirely empty June Mountain parking lot on what was to have been its opening weekend. We stopped at the Fern Lake trailhead, one of the steeper climbs in June, but certainly one of the most picturesque. Stopping along the way at many points, the view of the Loop is breathtaking, with views of June, Gull and Silver lakes, and many of the mountain peaks June is famous for.
Wind not withstanding, we made our way up nearly two miles to Fern Lake, and were treated to not only a gorgeous lake situated just above a mule ear-filled meadow. White caps on the water were a thrilling bonus part of the stop, frothed up by the low-pressure system gusting winds over the water’s surface. Worth getting to, in any case.
Following that, we stopped for happy hour at the Double Eagle, a favorite end to many of our day trips to June Lake. There, some of the discussion with the locals involved the closing, as one might imagine.
We took in the sights, sounds and smells of June Lake, put some money in the local economy, and later reflected that such activity might be one way to pitch in and help June prepare for what could well be a bleak winter.
Adding additional irony: news over the weekend came that long range forecast models are indicating a fairly moisture-filled winter for the Eastern Sierra, at least for now.
Following last week’s news, there were immediate public calls for Mammoth Mountain, JMSA’s parent company, to reconsider its closure of June, if not for the summer than certainly for the winter. And online petitions urging MMSA to put JMSA on the market for private owners or Mono County to take over have been circulated on social media.
These are noble pursuits, and great ways to exercise First Amendment rights to express frustration and concern about the dire consequences that could befall the community. Beyond that, though, my wife and I reason that in the short term, what could help the Loop more is patronizing the area and spending money. June is only 15 minutes from Mammoth. Visit the area, celebrate what it has to offer. Shop local. Do as much business there as humanly possible.
Assuming we do get a good snow season this winter, pitch June Lake almost as a Mammoth suburb. Ski MMSA, but stay in June while you’re here, suggested one local business owner. Advertise the Loop for its other winter attributes: cross-country skiing, snowshoes and snowmobiling.
It might not cover the entire loss, but it could do a lot to mitigate some of it, and keep some jobs going until JMSA is reopened and things improve.
And I disagree with those calling for boycotts of MMSA. What does that accomplish? This isn’t David and Goliath, much as we’d like to think it was. If June Lake is to return, hopefully reinvented and reinvigorated, let’s give MMSA the benefit of the doubt and let business take its course for now.
Whether MMSA can or wants to keep June and bring it back anew for now we can only speculate. One thing’s for sure: the lease will have to be redone, since it essentially requires MMSA to operate June as part of the deal.
In the meantime, what we can do as an interconnected community is come together around June. Don Morton said in his comments to The Sheet last week that, “In 10 years, June Lake will still be here.” Locking arms with Loop residents, whether we live there or not, is one active way we can participate and help make sure Morton’s optimism is honored, and June’s future assured.
NOTE: The protests will reconvene next Sunday, July 1, in the Rite Aid parking lot at 10 a.m. and plan to walk the streets of Mammoth and rally to save June. MMSA CEO Rusty Gregory is scheduled to address the June Lake Citizens Advisory Committee on July 10 in the Jiune Lake Community Center at 6 p.m.Share Email This Post