With new snow on the ground and plenty more on the way, residents and visitors alike are looking forward to a variety of winter recreation opportunities available on the Inyo National Forest – including June Mountain Ski Area.
Although the 52-year-old ski area is still closed after last summer’s cessation of operations, recreation activities will be available this winter at and around June Mountain. Double Eagle Resort has applied for a temporary permit to groom Nordic ski trails around June, and, depending on snow conditions, the Inyo National Forest’s snowmobile trail system may be accessed from the area. Grooming for that trail system began Dec. 18.
But for now, national forest lands within ski area boundaries remain closed to the public for safety reasons.
“The Forest Service fully recognizes the public interest in accessing June Mountain and we are in the process of analyzing several complex safety issues related to limited avalanche control and other factors,” District Ranger Jon Regelbrugge said.
Operations at the ski area were abruptly suspended June 21 – what was supposed to be the start of its summer season – by its owner, Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, in response to what CEO Rusty Gregory said were 25 years of annual deficits for June. The closure also came on the heels of a brutally dry snow year for both resorts.
“June has operated at an annual deficit each year since its purchase in 1986,” Gregory said in a press release issued June 21. “It is time to invest some of this subsidy into the analysis and planning required to position the resort for a sustainable future, then secure the approvals and financing required to create it.”
In the same press release, MMSA Communications Director Joani Lynch said June was heavily subsidized by Mammoth Mountain.
She explained that when MMSA purchased June Mountain, it did so with the idea of significantly increasing the size of the resort by building new facilities, extending new runs to the June Lake Village and fostering additional developed ski areas along the San Joaquin Ridge that would connect Mammoth and June mountains.
“For a number of reasons, these plans were never realized and June Mountain has, in turn, suffered from an identity crisis that has both stifled its ability to achieve its full potential and required substantial financial subsidy from Mammoth on an annual basis,” Lynch said. “Cessation of operations will help the company dedicate its focus to a new future for June Mountain. MMSA will be working with its partner, the U.S. Forest Service, to reach the best possible result in this endeavor.”
MMSA’s work with the Forest Service this season has included submitting its annual plan that outlines how it will manage the ski area and facilities. Even though June Mountain is closed this season, MMSA was required to submit the plan just as any other permittee would – and especially because the Forest Service said it feels public safety is an increased factor this year (see the Dec. 31/Jan. 1 edition of The Inyo Register for more on this particular issue).
The Forest Service received Mammoth’s Draft Operation and Maintenance Plan for the 2012-13 winter season in mid-December.
“At this time the Forest Service has not yet accepted the Draft Plan,” a press release states. “The plan is currently being reviewed and evaluated for its sufficiency by the Forest Service and legal counsel to the agency. The Forest Service has had several discussions with MMSA regarding questions and concerns with some elements of the plan. MMSA has agreed to make several changes that have been requested.”
Regelbrugge added, “Prior to accepting MMSA’s Operation and Maintenance Plan, we believe public safety is best served by prohibiting access until a final determination is made regarding whether public safety can be appropriately managed given the situation.”
For more information about winter recreation opportunities on the Inyo National Forest, contact the Mammoth Welcome Center at (760) 924-5500.