Small ski areas continue to feel the brunt of the burdens associated with a largely dwindling ski industry economy in 2012. The day after the summer solstice California’s Mammoth Mountain, who purchased June Mountain in 1986, announced that June Mountain would be closed for the summer and with no plans to run the resort for next ski season. While June Mountain has in fact been owned by the much larger Mammoth Mountain for more than 25 years the mountain maintains more of a ski area feel as opposed to a ski resort. The area is family friendly, small, and located in the quaint mountain community of June Lake in the Eastern Sierra Nevada. The ski area is also located in a great place for backcountry skiers and riders with amazing sidecountry and backcountry opportunities that can be accessed from the ski area. Not to mention their parks and pipes that have won awards, June Mountain has long been looked at as a “stash” sort of area where skiers and riders can escape the sometime baffling crowds at Mammoth, and score fresh tracks when Mammoth has long been been cut up.
On June 21st Mammoth Mountain put out the following press release:
Rusty Gregory, Mammoth Mountain Ski Area Chairman and CEO, announced today the company will not operate June Mountain this summer and for the upcoming 2012- 13 winter season. “June has operated at an annual deficit each year since its purchase in 1986,” said Gregory. “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.”
Mammoth purchased June Mountain in 1986 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, resulting in a connection between 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. Cessation of operations will help the company dedicate its focus to a new future for June Mountain. Mammoth will be working with its partner the U.S. Forest Service to reach the best possible result in this endeavor.
In the weeks to come, Mammoth will be working to determine if and to what extent it can absorb June’s year round workforce.
Mammoth Mountain will continue to offer world-class skiing, snowboarding and summer activities for locals and visitors to the region.
Mammoth Mountain has operated continuously under permit from the U.S. Forest Service since 1954, and operated both resorts for the past 26 years. Mammoth Mountain Ski Area also owns and operates a variety of resort businesses including recreation, hospitality, food and beverage and retail including Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, Tamarack Lodge and Resort, Mammoth Snowmobile Adventures, Woolly’s Adventure Summit, Mammoth Mountain Bike Park and the Mammoth Mountain Inn. Mammoth Mountain also operates Juniper Springs Resort, the Village at Mammoth, and Sierra Star Golf Course.
In a day and age when we all know the economic bottom line is the main driver of ski industry protocol it still hits home when such a small quaint operation like June Mountain will no longer be able to stay open because it doesn’t make enough money. While the above press release takes the tone of a professional way to handle things major questions concerning the work force and impact to the June Lake community at large are left unanswered.
Mammoth Mountain itself had to answer some heavy questions earlier in the 2011-2012 ski season when below average snow totals sent rumors swirling around the local Mammoth community about people losing their jobs, impacts to the local economy, and what was first reported as a possible closure of mountain operations. With this latest press release many in the area are not worried that June is taking a year off from operation, they are more concerned that this news represents the possibility that the mountain may be closed indefinitely.
In the local area it’s no secret June hasn’t been operating on the profit side of things for a long time, if ever, but as ski resorts help shape community character many local people have grown to rely on the jobs, recreation and tourist dollars the small ski area has brought to the region for many years. The thing that seems to stand out the most with regard to the recent press release is most visitors and locals were getting ready for June to drop into their summer operations last week when instead they got blindsided by the news of the mountain’s closure.
Going back to how Mammoth Mountain handles things, when they put out their press release last winter telling people not to worry about all the rumors they had heard about the mountain closing, layoffs, etc. while the mountain never closed prematurely many long-time employees did end up getting laid off. We all know economic woes have focused domestic news for several years now and the ski industry and ski centered communities have been right there at the core of many negative impacts. In fact, Mammoth Lakes as a town has been rumored to be close to bankruptcy for some time. However, the question that remains is if little guys like June Mountain are going under, and economic turmoil continues unabated across the country and throughout the ski industry, what economically sustainable measures can be taken to ensure healthy steps are taken in the future to maintain and support the stability of mountain communities and the ecosystems that rely on them?