“If you think you can wait until November to decide to reopen this mountain, you can’t,” said June Mountain Ski Area’s general manager, Carl Williams, to a packed room of citizens at the Mono County Board of Supervisors meeting in Bridgeport on Tuesday.
Williams’ comments capped an emotional hour and a half as residents and June Mountain aficionados spoke at length about the impact Mammoth Mountain Ski Area’s closure of June for the summer and coming winter (announced publicly June 21) would have on the unincorporated community of June Lake.
They spoke about themselves and their friends and neighbors losing jobs, they spoke about their love of riding or skiing June, they spoke about their frustration that the whole thing happened so fast that they had very little time to prepare. The short notice made the entire issue even worse, they said.
They talked about knowing people who were interested in buying the resort and they talked about their frustration that (they believed) June was never prioritized or marketed properly as a ski area by MMSA.
They asked the county supervisors to support them in all this (see breakout box below), noting the county, too, would suffer if June Mountain shut down.
Williams spoke after most of them had vowed to fight for June, to find a solution that would reverse the news that came out two weeks ago.
If June Lake residents were looking for reassurance, they didn’t get it from Williams.
“If anyone has brilliant idea and very deep pockets and doesn’t want a return, that would be great,” he said.
“Dave McCoy called me the other day to ask me how I was doing,” Williams said. “I told him a very wise man (McCoy) once told me that when it stops being fun, it’s time to do something else. Well, it has stopped being fun.
“I know the numbers, probably better than anyone, better than Rusty. If you want to keep this mountain open, it starts today. We cannot decide in November to open a ski area.”
It’s not possible, he said. There is too much that needs to be done in advance of the fall, to get the mountain open again.
Even the Inyo National Forest, the agency that holds the special use permit that allows MMSA to operate the ski area, vented frustration.
“I found out about this on June 20,” said Mammoth and Mono Lake District Ranger Jon Reggelbrugge. “We advised them that we were somewhat disappointed, both in terms of our relationship with them and because they did not benefit from consultation with us.
“They said they had pressing reasons for this (abrupt decision),” he said, but then added that he did not know the details of why MMSA made such a drastic, eleventh hour decision to close June the very day it was supposed to open for the summer season.
In fact, Reggelbrugge seemed as mystified about what had happened—and why—as was most of the audience. If the audience had hoped for concrete answers from the forest service, they didn’t get that either.
Reggelbrugge reiterated comments made last week by the Forest Service that operating the ski area is a “privilege not a right” and he said MMSA was clearly violating its permit.
But he didn’t give any specifics about how long such an action could continue before the Forest Service forces the MMSA’s hand, and he didn’t say what the consequences would be to MMSA if it didn’t reopen the resort anytime soon.
Instead, he said that he and Ed Armenta, the forest supervisor, would meet with Gregory next Tuesday and begin discussion.
“After that, I will know more,” he said.
Even Ron Cohen, executive a tMMSA, didn’t have much information to add to the discussion. He deferred most questions to Gregory, saying that until Gregory and Armenta met, he was not at liberty to add to anything that MMSA has already said about the situation.
The county supervisors vowed to support the June Lake community and put pressure on MMSA and the Forest Service to be involved in upcoming discussions, but it was clear they didn’t have many answers either—and not much power.
June Mountain Ski Area is on public land. MMSA is a private corporation. Both of those facts severely limit what a county government can do, something that Tim Hansen, the county supervisor for Lee Vining and areas north, was well aware of.
“It’s not like we can go tell a private company what to do with their money,” he said.
County Supervisor Larry Johnston was defiant.
“Closure is not an option,” he said. “This is on public lands. This is our land. They shouldn’t be meeting in private.
“We are going to hold their feet to the fire,” he said to applause.
County supervisor Hap Hazard was subdued.
“It’s natural we are here today, we will do everything we can do to help but it’s premature,” he said. “We simply don’t know what the heck Mammoth Mountain is thinking about or what they are going to do.”
The county did agree to address a list of demands by the citizens and to prioritize the June Mountain issue by making sure county supervisors were involved in various meetings, such as the upcoming June Lake meeting next Tuesday when Gregory is scheduled to speak to the June Lake Citizens Advisory Committee. The JLCAC meeting is Tuesday, July 10, at 7 p.m. at the June Lake Community Center.
Local business owners, such as Double Eagle Resort and Spa owner Connie Black and other members of the JLCAC said the CAC group would be the primary citizen action group related to the closure issue from here on.