Residents and visitors were given the greenlight this week to enjoy backcountry skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing in and around June Mountain Ski Area for the rest of the winter season.
Restrictions prohibiting such winter activities on national forest lands within the ski area boundaries have been lifted, now that the Forest Service and Mammoth Mountain Ski Area finalized an operations plan for June Mountain.
The Forest Service still urges extreme caution in some areas due to avalanche danger.
The plan approved this week outlines how MMSA, owner of June Mountain, will manage the ski area this season even though June Mountain is not in operation.
The Forest Service required MMSA to present management plans regarding issues such as public access, administrative access to facilities and communication sites, avalanche control, ski patrol duties and safety concerns.
Those safety concerns were of the utmost importance this season because even though the ski resort is “non-operational,” the public would still be coming to recreate on public lands – without the same level of safety nets June Mountain provides (ski patrol, avalanche control, grooming of slopes and trails, etc.).
“It is important that anyone who travels in the June Mountain area treats this as the backcountry environment that it is,” District Ranger Jon Regelbrugge said Monday. “Avalanche control activities will be very limited. Dangerous avalanches can and likely will happen in areas normally controlled were the mountain operating.”
Other dangers, he said, include unmarked obstacles, June Mountain Ski Area snowmobiles and equipment, ungroomed slopes and avalanche control work.
Ski patrol will not be conducting normal patrols in the area.
Under the plan, according to Regelbrugge, ski patrollers are authorized to prohibit access to the area during avalanche control activities. “The ski area remains prohibited to entry by snowmobiles and other motorized use by an existing Forest Order, except by special use authorization,” a press release notes.
Regelbrugge said public cooperation with these restrictions and safety considerations is critical to ensuring the safety of the public and the employees involved in avalanche control efforts. Those failing to comply with posted avalanche control or other regulations are subject to citation.
Operations at June Mountain 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.
Gregory and MMSA have said June Mountain will reopen for the 2013-2014 ski season, with a projected opening date in the first week of December.
In the meantime, according to the Forest Service, “Winter backcountry enthusiasts will be able to travel in and through the June Mountain area, and to access adjacent backcountry areas.”
Anyone who plans on visiting the area is asked to be aware of and stay out of avalanche control closures, and carry proper backcountry avalanche safety gear. Stay informed of avalanche conditions by obtaining the most recent avalanche advisory at www.esavalanche.org  or calling (760) 924-5510.
A phone number with recorded avalanche closure information for June Mountain will be made available soon.