A slew of Mammoth Mountain bigwigs hit June Lake late Tuesday night, Nov. 5 to roll out an ambitious new plan for June Mountain Ski Area that they say will save the ailing ski area – and to set a new industry precedent.
“We are going to offer ‘Kids Under 12 Ski Free,’” MMSA Chief Operating Officer Greg Dallas told approximately 120 people crowded into the community center in June Lake. “That’s a huge deal. No one else is doing this. Most places there are restrictions, there are asterisks in the fine print.”
The goal is to make June Mountain “the” place to go in California and the West for families with young children, he said.
The ski area, owned by MMSA, is set to open Dec. 13, after it was closed completely all of last winter.
Kids skiing free at June Mountain with no restrictions is just the beginning of massive changes – both to infrastructure and marketing – planned for June Mountain beginning this winter.
MMSA CEO Rusty Gregory was at the Tuesday meeting, along with the vast majority of Mesa’s recently expanded management team, some of whom have been assigned to focus solely on June Mountain.
Gregory said MMSA has already begun to throw its full support – both financial and in terms of personnel – to make June Mountain and the June Lake community different enough from Mammoth Mountain.
“We are going to stop looking at June as an under-resourced, underdeveloped ski area in a small town and instead, we intend to make June succeed by differentiating it dramatically from Mammoth Mountain, versus allowing Mammoth Mountain to gobble up the vast majority of resources,” he said to applause.
To do that, MMSA intends to market and develop June Mountain as a kind of training ground for young skiers, with ski schools, facilities, restaurant menus and activities, reviving the “Bucky” deer mascot and more; all aimed at making parents with younger children want to go nowhere else in the winter more than June Mountain Ski Area, he and Dallas said.
There are no other resorts in the West that are doing anything quite like this, he said. This uniqueness, combined with June Mountain’s close proximity to Southern California, will set the little ski area up for success, he said.
“Once you take good care of Southern California, you are in position to take on the world,” Gregory said. “Southern California is known as the most discriminating in terms of food, in lodging, in the world. If we succeed with them, the rest of the world will follow.
“Mammoth Mountain quite frankly is not that great for kids,” he said. “You end up in the bar at Main Lodge and your kids end up in the bathroom at Eagle Lodge. We never made an effort to market June as different from Mammoth. We added June in the first place to take off some of the pressure from Mammoth on big days.
“You were right,” he told the community, referring to a contentious meeting more than a year ago when 300-plus angry June Lake residents packed into the same room and spent four hours excoriating Gregory over his decision to close June Mountain last winter.
One of the most consistent criticisms then was that MMSA was treating June like Mammoth, rather than capitalizing on June’s unique differences – its small-town feel, its relatively less dramatic terrain, its charm.
On Tuesday, Gregory agreed.
“You were right and we were wrong to run it that way,” he said.
Gregory and other MMSA management members also laid out plans for the physical changes coming to June Mountain, beginning with an application to the Inyo National Forest for setting up snowmaking facilities on June Mountain.
Gregory said MMSA would begin that process right after the holidays, noting it will require the Mountain to drill test wells to search for water and more.
A new lift up the face of June Mountain is also planned, he said.
Tickets priced reasonably, lodging and ticket packages, discounts, an aggressive program to market June Mountain alongside Mammoth Mountain and at big name stores such as REI and Sports Chalet and more are also part of the rebirth of June Mountain, said Eric Forsell, vice president of MMSA marketing.
“We will be putting June Mountain on the Mammoth site,” he said. “Every time someone looks at Mammoth Mountain, there will be a button there for June Mountain.”
Even June’s aging phone, radio and computer systems are being completely redone, he said, in time for the Dec. 13 opening date this winter.
There is one thing MMSA cannot do for June Mountain.
Make it snow.
“There is only one reason we will ever close the lifts, here or at Mammoth Mountain,” Gregory said. “That’s if we cannot ski it from top to bottom. If we can, I can promise you, we will keep it open.”