County agrees to help June Lake this winter

Analysts examining the body of June Mountain Ski Area this week found a faint pulse.

June Mountain is still slated for closure this winter, but the Mono County Board of Supervisors committed to supporting the community with at least $100,000 in “bridge” money to help it survive this coming winter.

At the meeting, it was clear that at least some community members and political leaders expect June Mountain to close this winter.

“We need someone with some serious money to come in and do it very soon, and I haven’t seen that yet,” said June’s County Supervisor Vikki Bauer Wednesday.

Also during Tuesday’s meeting, County Counsel Marshall Rudolph informed the public of a 2010 appraisal document that shows the mountain’s value (for taxation purposes) to be “around $3 million”—far less than the $14 million quoted previously by MMSA CEO Rusty Gregory as a possible sale price. The number was arrived at by both the county and MMSA, Rudolph said, during a appeal by MMSA of the county’s assessed value for MMSA’s property when MMSA was sold in 2005.

That number could not be confirmed or denied by MMSA before press time.

During the meeting, all five supervisors agreed to put the $100,000 up for a vote next week. The loss to the county, should the ski area close, is estimated to be between $100,000 and $300,000 in transient occupancy taxes (TOT), meaning the county has a vested interest in helping June Lake increase visitation to offset the losses.

The money will be managed and distributed through the Mono County Tourism Commission, after input by the June Lake Citizen’s Advisory Committee (JLCAC), the June Lake Chamber of Commerce, and other community groups and individuals.

Although details remain scarce, at least some of the $100,000 will likely go to keep a winter-long, four-times-a-day shuttle running between Mammoth Mountain and June Mountain, unless MMSA agrees to contribute.
It is estimated the shuttle service—running from Dec. 15 to April—will cost about $40,000.
How the $60,000—and any possible other forthcoming funds from the county—will be used is still unclear. Who will decide is also still unclear.

June Lake members threw out dozens of possible options that they believe will increase visitation to the community this winter, from ice skating events to an Oktoberfest event to ice carving contests. Their hope, they told the county supervisors, is to capture enough visitors who would love to stay in June Lake because they love the little town to keep the town from being decimated this winter.

“We can expect an 80 percent decrease in lodging revenues if the mountain closes,” said Connie Black, Double Eagle Resort and Spa owner and a leader in the fight to keep June Mountain open.

But the concession from the county did not come easily—or quickly, and it took hours of discussion between the supervisors and the community to establish a tentative process to fund and allocate the money (see continuing coverage of this issue in future MT issues). The county will have to dig deep not only to come up with the $100,000—but to do so on top of the missing TOT.

And no county supervisor believed the $100,000 was the end of the possible needs, noting that getting events going is expensive and time consuming.