A trip to several ski resorts in Vermont in late February is the latest item to be placed on the June Lake community’s plate.
The trip, reminiscent of the peer resort tours that Mammoth town officials enjoyed during the Town’s heyday years ago, was brought before the townspeople by June Mountain General Manager, Carl Williams who appeared at the most recent Citizens Advisory Commission and Chamber of Commerce meetings.
According to meeting attendees, Williams said that Mammoth Mountain Ski Area was coordinating the trip in order to see how the smallish ski areas that would be visited, work. The idea seems to be that MMSA and the June Lake community would study these areas in an effort to plan for June Mountain’s future. Various people from MMSA would also attend.
On the surface, the idea may seem like a good one, but some community members are skeptical.
“From what I understand there has not been enough detail in regards to its purpose and goals,” said June Lake resident Kirk Maes. Maes felt knowing what MMSA already has in mind for June Mountain’s future ahead of time would allow the trip to be more focused.
“The information we have is that the trip would cost $2,500 per person and would visit three small ski venues, some successful, some not,” added resident Alice Suszynski.
Perhaps the biggest concern is how the trip would help and not hinder reopening June Mountain next year, which is the top priority for the community at this time.
Maes pointed out that planning efforts have been done in the past and didn’t go anywhere.
“It should be noted that there was a plan laid out in conjunction with the county, community, Intrawest and MMSA during the years of around 2005 thru 2008. MMSA never followed through on these plans, what makes a community member think spending $2,500 and time (name your value) to have MMSA not follow through again?” Maes said.
Others, however, see potential benefit of the trip.
“It’s a positive thing,” said Double Eagle owner Ralph Lockhart who plans to participate in the trip. “MMSA is attempting to do some strategic planning and think critically about June Mountain’s future.”
Lockhart added that there is a chance that MMSA would cover some of participants’ costs as well, which he believed would be a great gesture of good faith.
Mono County District 3 Supervisor Tim Alpers, who represents June Lake, also felt that the trip was a good thing.
“We need to talk to the people there about their marketing, pricing and amenities,” Alpers, who also plans to attend on his own dime, said. “I want to learn more about the industry so that we can make educated decisions.”
Alpers said he went on a similar type of tour for hatcheries years ago when he was learning about that industry as well. He felt it was a productive effort. Alpers also said he believed that one of the stops in Vermont would be to a resort once owned by Andrea Lawrence’s family (Pico Mountain, which was purchased by Killington).
He also added that he believed MMSA’s CEO Rusty Gregory would be in attendance on the trip.
“It’s not like we’re just trying to tweak something small, we’re going to look at ways to get outside the box for June Mountain, so yes, I’m quite sure that Rusty will be there,” Alpers said.
The Sheet spoke with Rusty Gregory late Thursday afternoon. MMSA’s CEO said he was very supportive of the trip. He explained that Alpers and Carl Williams were leading it and hoped it would plant the seeds of a collective vision for June Mountain. “Carl worked in senior management at Stratton [Mountain] and knows the area,” Gregory said.
In regard to whether or not Gregory would attend, he said, “I will absolutely go if they [the community] invite me. I don’t want animosity toward me to get in the way of developing the community vision for a winter resort.”
Gregory said that MMSA would indeed cover the cost of meals, lodging and transportation once the group gets back east. “We’re aware of the difficulties some people are having in this economy.” When asked whether or not there was a limit on how many people could attend on the Mountain’s dime, Gregory said there was no limit.
“I would love to see 20 people show up,” he said. Gregory added that in addition to Supervisor Tim Alpers, Supervisor Larry Johnston is also considering attending.
On Friday morning Williams explained the breakdown of the trip.
“We are leaving Sunday, Feb. 24 and would fly into Albany, New York, and we plan to return March 1,” Williams said. “We will go by a lot of resorts [including Pico mentioned by Alpers] but the three we will really stop and see are Bromley Mountain, Smugglers’ Notch and Waterville.”
The thing the three resorts have in common are their family-oriented atmospheres.
“Bromley is close to the bigger Stratton, so it’s similar to the June/Mammoth scenario,” Williams said. “Smugglers’ Notch is one of the top-rate family resorts in the country, and Waterville is New Hampshire’s family ski resort and it incorporates what the town is doing into what the mountain is doing.”
The goal of the trip, according to Williams is not just to study ski resorts but also to learn how other ski communities are functioning.
Williams said that he, Julie Brown, and hopefully Ron Cohen and Jim Smith would be the MMSA employees attending.