The June Lake community is alive with ambitious plans for this winter, despite a brief tussle between Mono County Supervisors over how to monitor and allocate the $100,000 the supervisors gave the community as “bridge” money.
At the top of the list are expanded cross-country ski and snowshoe trails, a snow play area, a Holiday Village atmosphere, an ice-skating area and, even, dog sled rides.
“I’d like to see if we could get Dog Sled Adventures in to do rides,” said Connie Black, the owner of the Double Eagle Resort and Spa and a community leader in the effort to keep June alive through the winter.
Black has about 33 acres of private land associated with the resort, and it is possible, she said, that some of the activities could occur there.
She also spoke about contacting Mammoth Nordic, a nonprofit cross country ski advocate group, that has the equipment and knowledge to groom cross country ski trails, and ask them about expanding the existing cross country ski trails.
Increasing marketing of these activities, and of the existing, groomed snowmobile trails in the area is another high priority, she said.
Black is a member of the “June Lake Revitalization Committee,” which sprung into existence after Mammoth Mountain Ski Area CEO Rusty Gregory announced in early summer that June Mountain Ski Area would not open this winter due to financial difficulties.
The move prompted the county supervisors earlier this month to allocate $100,000 out of its contingency fund toward the group, to be distributed under the supervision of the county’s tourism commission.
The committee, composed mostly of June Lake Chamber of Commerce members and June Lake Citizens Advisory Committee members, has now broken into four subcommittees, each with assigned projects, Black said.
The work is progressing with cooperation from the Inyo National Forest and Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, she said.
But the last minute nature of the effort—Gregory abruptly announced the closure about two months ago—has not made the group’s efforts any easier.
Under the best circumstances, creating new grooming trails on forest service land, or even a snow play area, would take months of effort just to get the necessary permits and set up public safety safe guards required by the forest.
“We do require the project proponent to show they are capable of being responsible for public safety,” said Nancy Upham, Inyo National Forest spokeswoman.
She said the forest, which holds the special use permit under which June Mountain Ski Area is run, is very motivated and willing to work with the community, but she also said that the forest is bound by internal regulations that it must follow.
Will the $100,000 be enough?
Liability issues are a big concern for a group considering ice skating, sledding, skiing and other winter activities that have some elements of risk—and the insurance to cover possible problems is not cheap.
At a Wednesday county budget hearing, June Lake’s supervisor, Vikki Bauer, said she would like to see $40,000 of that $100,000 earmarked only for transportation, illustrating some of the possible demands on the relatively small pot of money.
With June Mountain closed, getting former employees and other June Lake residents to jobs in Mammoth is a big concern, she said.
But other supervisors pushed back, saying they would rather let the tourism commission and the revitalization committee decide how to spend the money.
“I think we need to let them go with it,” said Supervisor Larry Johnston.
He noted that a Tuesday meeting with Gregory (to assess Gregory’s willingness to help June) bore fruit.
MMSA is willing to help with marketing, and it will provide a van to shuttle workers, for example.
But the community’s hope that at least one lift on June Mountain could be kept open to give cross-country skiers and snowshoers access to the backcountry behind June is unlikely, he said, due to liability issues.
June Lake is determined, said Black.
“I have never seen this community so unified, so focused,” she said.
But she ended on a somber note.
“None of this will matter if we don’t get snow,” she said.