It wasn’t exactly a “best friends forever” moment Tuesday at the Mono County Board of Supervisors meeting as June Lake residents tried to heal a split over how to spend some county money—but it was a start.
At the center of the storm was Supervisor Vikki Bauer. A few weeks ago she told the supervisors that she and others had experienced a “hostile takeover” at a June Lake Chamber of Commerce meeting over how to spend a portion of the $100,000 in “bridge” money the county gave June Lake to survive a winter without June Mountain Ski Area.
Bauer’s remarks were enough made at least a few supervisors reconsider allowing June residents to keep the remaining $25,000 to $30,000 (they have since pulled back) and that got Bauer in some hot water with June residents.
On Tuesday, she tried to make peace.
“My concern is not about your efforts,” she said. “I love your efforts. I think you have done an awesome job—but it’s that without a functioning ski area, we cannot be much more than we are,” she told the new members of the June Lake Chamber of Commerce and members of the “revitalization committee.”
The committee, headed by Double Eagle Resort and Spa owners Ralph Lockhart and Connie Black, had just finished telling the supervisors about their plans for the money, emphasizing winter events, trail and activities enhancement, and marketing the village of June Lake in conjunction with Mammoth Mountain Ski Area.
Bauer said she thinks the committee needs to make opening June Mountain as much of a priority as getting through the winter.
“But I am still concerned that we don’t take our eye off the ball, that we are actively looking for another buyer, that we pursue the right activities to keep the Rodeo Grounds project viable,” she said.
“We are at a critical juncture. A few winter activities will not keep this community alive long term. Alone I can’t do a thing. Without your help, I can’t pursue this.”
Lockhart said that the committee had not abandoned its efforts to keep pressure on MMSA to reopen June Mountain next year, and/or to find another buyer for the ski area.
“There is a group of us who are working aggressively to find a new buyer,” said Black. “In fact, some information came forward yesterday. And yes, we agree, we do need to have an operating mountain to be ultimately successful.”
Lockhart also noted that former June Mountain general manager Carl Williams told him the most critical thing June Mountain needs is snowmaking capabilities, not a new lift or other amenities.
“That’s something we want to talk to the county about,” he said, noting that finding the water for snowmaking would be the first hurdle.
The supervisors gave their full support to the revitalization committee. At the heart of the committee’s efforts is a massive marketing effort, much of it through MMSA, to the tune of about $75,000 of the $100,000. The rest will go toward activities, lights, events and trail expansion and will be monitored and administered through Mono County Tourism (for more details, see below).
At the same Tuesday meeting, the supervisors learned the Inyo National Forest had finally sent out a "letter of non compliance" to Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, telling MMSA that the forest believes MMSA is not in compliance with its special use permit that it holds to operate June Mountain. The letter was sent out on Friday, Sept. 28, according to forest officials.
The news was greeting with approval by the supervisors, who have been pressuring the forest to keep the pressure on Mammoth Mountain for such an action.
WHAT JUNE LAKE WANTS TO DO NEXT
Below are the main activities Mono County and the June Lake community are pursuing—and using the $100,000 from the county toward—in hopes of keeping June Lake alive this winter.
• Package deals with Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, including lift and lodging deals. Ski MMSA, stay in June Lake is the main idea.
• Marketing done in conjunction with MMSA’s marketing teams as much as possible, using its contact information and advantages. Also, marketing including billboards (near the Paiute Palace), map guide, advertising, social media, website, etc. The primary target will be families, long time June Mountain lovers, people who are likely to stay in June Lake and ski at Mammoth Mountain. The primary message: “June is open, it’s a good value, there is a lot to do and it has a gorgeous setting with a perfect small town atmosphere.” Total cost for marketing is expected to be between $75,000 and $85,000 of the $100,000, according to Mono County Tourism.
• Trail development, including cross country skiing, snowmobiling, and snow-play areas. Some will be on private land, like the Double Eagle Resort and Spa land, some on public land. Some community members have voiced resistance to some of the trail expansion plans, but overall, June residents are supporting such actions, according to Double Eagle owner Ralph Lockhart.
• Transportation between MMSA and June Mountain using a shuttle system for at minimum, daily service, four times daily on holidays, weekends.
• Entertainment, including events, ice sculpture contests, etc. The idea is to help two larger events that can continue year after year, such as a snowmobiling competition, winter triathlon, or winter festival, along with a number of small events to keep people coming to June each week.
• Atmosphere and animation, including lighting, live music, hot drinks, Saturday Night specials, activities for families, etc.