While much of this January turned out to be disappointing in its lack of snowfall, it excelled in other areas … one of those being tourism. Mono County’s Tourism Commission discussed the topic on Tuesday as part of its regular meeting. Many visitors decided that winter in the mountains is preferable to being in the city and took the dearth of snow in stride. During the Christmas holidays, June Lake’s Double Eagle resort had some early cancellations, but a waiting list filled in the blanks, and the resort was 100% booked through New Year’s.
The north county, meanwhile, found itself with an unexpected blitz of visitors, many of those likely sent by Mammoth business leaders and locals, who directed guests to rare winter opportunities to see Mono Lake, Bodie State Park and even Yosemite Valley. All of those areas are typically inaccessible during January, but were wide open this year.
In Lee Vining, Tim Hansen told Commissioners the town easily logged its best January in recent history. Lake View Trailer Court owner Bill Banta said he was averaging 70% occupancy during the period, a figure typically unheard of at that time of year. And Commission Chair Jimmy Little, whose business is just a little north of the Bodie turnoff, noted that his research revealed that every open north county trailhead was consistently being used.
One casualty of the lack of snowfall: Quentin Tarantino’s upcoming feature film, “Django Unchained,” which was to have shot several exterior snow scenes at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, not far from Chair 14. Local Location Manager Steve Morrison told the Mono Tourism Commission that the filmmakers had to make a decision, given their fairly tight shooting schedule, and moved the snow scenes to Wyoming.
At press time, the cabin and tent city sets were being struck. Earlier in the week, the production finished shooting scheduled scenes in Lone Pine and Independence.
Morrison did, however, report that talks are progressing regarding a big-budget Tom Cruise film, which is eyeing Little Walker Lake as a location for two weeks of filming this summer in June or July. Described as a futuristic drama, the title is still being settled on, and a deal to shoot in Mono County has not yet been reached. Morrison said he’ll continue to brief the Commission on any further progress and details as they become available.