Mammoth Mountain extends an olive branch, June residents wary


It will take some changes before community trusts MMSA again

At a crowed meeting in June Lake April 2, Mammoth Mountain Ski Area representatives made it clear they intended to open June Mountain. They also found out it could take some time—and some concrete changes by the Mountain—before the company regains the trust of the June Lake community.

“There is plenty of money for Mammoth, and none for us,” said community member Michael Bogash. “We see you in the paper spending a million on Eagle Lodge for the summer, on Chair Five. We want to work together, but you own us. It’s very frustrating to hear you say that when you spend money there, not here, then close us down. We look so angry and we are. But we don’t want to fight you, we would love not to have to fight.”

About 100 people filled the June Lake Community Center Tuesday night. MMSA representatives, Mono County tourism officials, and community members who attended a “peer resort tour” in early March spoke about the trip and shared ideas on how to revitalize June Mountain.

The trip to four, small, family-oriented Vermont ski resorts was sponsored in part by MMSA after the company announced it would open June Mountain for skiing in 2013 with a new emphasis on attracting families and first-time skiers.

MMSA’s vice president of real estate Jim Smith, along with Ron Cohen, vice president of human resources and administration, attended.

June Mountain Ski Area’s general manger, Carl Williams, also attended.

Rusty Gregory, Mammoth Mountain CEO and the target of much of the community’s anger since he announced the ski area would close last summer, did not attend. 

At its most simple, MMSA and other tour attendees said the results from the tour boiled down to something very basic but effective: fantastic customer service designed to put families and beginning skiers first, to make them feel comfortable, and to anticipate their every need and want.

For example, at least one of the resorts provided GPS units for every child, allowing parents to trace their children all day. Others made sure the minute the ski hill closed, there was something for every member of the family to do, from teenagers and six-month-olds, to exhausted parents.

MMSA officials said June Mountain and June Lake could be “California’s favorite mountain experience.”

But first, they had to get the audience’s buy-in.

“I hear you,” said Smith to the audience. “I know there is a lack of trust. I want to tell you, the premise is we are going to go forward as a community. If this is true, then we each have a responsibility. The proof of our intent will be in our actions.”

He said MMSA had a responsibility to be judicious in how it spends its capitol, so that it could “move the needle, increase skier visits, generate some ROI (return on investment),” and then, get more investment.

“We have made an investment,” Smith said. “We will open June no matter what you do, or what happens. It wasn’t a qualified statement. When we get to December, June Mountain will be open. We did add June to the season pass, and we did it, at no additional cost. We could have made it cost more, like Tamarack (Cross Country Ski Resort). But we did not.”

The community also has a responsibility, if the premise is everyone will work together, he said.

He mentioned entitling the Rodeo Grounds parcel to allow for real estate development, continuing the work the community has done already this past winter, and he asked community members to get involved in what he called a “leadership team” that would work with MMSA and Mono County to bring both June Mountain and June Lake into prosperity.

“In every one of these resorts, there was someone—a family, a group—championing these changes and making it happen,” he said. “We need to create that.”

“We aren’t all on board when it comes to entitling the Rodeo Grounds for just ski resort development,” said one audience member. “Maybe a golf course or something for the summer season would be better.”

“It doesn’t cost much to add four letters, ‘June,’ to every one of your websites, stickers and marketing efforts,” said another.

MMSA officials invited the public to visit to get full details of the peer resort tour findings and how to get involved.

Gregory will add more details to MMSA’s plans for June next week when he speaks before the Mono County Board of Supervisors the afternoon of April 9, in Bridgeport and via videoconference in Mammoth Lakes.