June Lake’s Winter Festival and Triple Threat Winter Triathlon event was a great example of a community coming together and being proactive in response to the loss of its biggest business booster.
When Mammoth Mountain Ski Area announced (unexpectedly) its decision to close June Mountain Ski Area for the 2012-13 season, we imagined every June Lake citizen’s hearts dropped to the bottom of his or her stomach. Ours did.
Coming off of a bad snow year into a year where your lifeblood is nonexistent is a sure recipe for worry, fear, and hardship.
Since the announcement, June Lake community members and business owners gathered together to figure out ways to avoid demise for the little town, and last weekend was their first shot at hosting a brand new event. Among the many activities planned for the three-day event, it featured a never-before-heard-of race—the winter triathlon.
This race consisted of snowshoeing, cross country skiing, and laser rifle shooting.
The night before the race, only three people signed up. Yikes.
By the next morning though, more than 30 people showed up at the registration table before the race and signed up (thank goodness).
The triathlon was well received and the June Lake community was thrilled. Cars lined the street and guests and locals enjoyed playing in the snow, listening to live bands, and judging snow sculptures.
As much as we appreciate a new idea, we think June Lake could have attracted a lot more people if it focused on the already established sport (with an established athlete base) of biathlon.
Biathlon is wildly popular in Europe (some call it the NASCAR of Europe) and it is gaining more and more traction and popularity in the United States. Mammoth Lakes has hosted a biathlon race for the last five years.
With the number of racers increasing every year, it quickly grew to be the largest biathlon race in the nation.
June Lake should capitalize on the current and increasing interest in the sport and make itself the place for biathletes to train.
The Eastern Sierra is lacking one crucial element in training, though: a biathlon range.
Although Mammoth Lakes has conducted and completed studies and suggested three potential locations in Mammoth Lakes for a biathlon range, the process has halted at the doorstep of the U.S. Forest Service. By the time the government agency conducts its studies and approves a location (if it decides to approve it at all), it could be years.
We think June Lake is a great location for a biathlon training center for a variety of reasons.
First, it’s at a lower elevation, which makes it more inviting for those who are not used to cross-country skiing at high altitude (ahem … the L.A. market). Second, it’s predominately flat (which you need for an effective range).
Third, certain businesses (ahem … Double Eagle Resort and Spa) sit on privately owned land, thus avoiding jumping through hoops with the Forest Service. Cross country ski trails already exist in June Lake (with help from the Forest Service), so we think it naturally warrants inclusion of a range. Biathletes would then have the full ability to practice the two aspects of the sport at the same time—skiing and shooting.
And last—but certainly not least—June Lake can bring in tourists and visitors for itself and not have to depend so heavily on the June Mountain Ski Area.
If the ski area is open, great! We want it to be open every year. But in these times of uncertainty (and the general uncertainty of snowfall year to year), June Lake has a fantastic opportunity to sell itself to an established and growing winter market.
The closest official biathlon range for biathletes to practice is at Auburn Ski Club’s range—a four-hour drive from Mammoth Lakes.
We think local biathletes would be more interested in driving the 20 miles to June as opposed to driving to Auburn.
And who knows? Instead of June Lake being known as the “hidden gem” in the Eastern Sierra, it could be known as the place for biathletes to train in California.