Mammoth Mountain Ski Area announced Thursday that it is suspending operations at neighboring June Mountain, effective immediately. The closure will extend through the 2012-13 snow season.
In a press release posted on the June Mountain website yesterday, CEO Rusty Gregory stated that: "June Mountain has operated in an annual deficit every year since its purchase in 1986 ... 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."
The carefully-worded declaration has prompted many in the Mammoth community and snow industry-at-large to speculate if the closure might not extend past the next winter season, possibly indefinitely.
Asked to comment on the speculation, a Mammoth representative replied, "Right now there is not much to add. The press release details where we are at at this time."
For years June Mountain has been the place skiers and snowboarders "in the know" have gone to get away from the crowds at Mammoth. Its uncrowded parks and pipes have won numerous awards, and the ability to find fresh tracks well into the afternoon on a powder day has been a long-treasured secret shared among fans of the resort.
"I have been snowboarding all over the country," said resident pro snowboarder Jeff Kramer, "and I can say in all honesty that June has something you don't just don't see many places anymore: soul."
In addition to providing a refuge for those looking for a homey alternative the mega-resort vibe twenty miles to the south, June Mountain has also provided much-needed jobs for the tiny community of Mammoth, which has less than 500 permanent residents in the winter months.
But while many may have reveled in the lack of crowds at June, less skier visits means less profit -- it is no secret that the resort has long been losing money.
"I understand the dynamics of business and the state of the economy," said local Art Montoya, who has worked off and on at June Mountain, doing everything from snow removal to snowboard instructing, for twenty-five years. "But honestly, I feel like someone passed away. We just lost a very special place."
What made this report so shocking was not the news itself but the abruptness with which it came. June Mountain was scheduled to open for summer operations on Thursday, with planned-offerings of scenic chair rides and brunch at the historic lodge atop the legendary "Face." Yet many employees were notified only the day before -- a move similar layoffs at Mammoth in February, when unexpectedly dismissed approximately 70 year-round employees in one day. (Gregory attributed the decision at the time to low numbers, claiming in an interview with local Mammoth news outlet The Sheet that the resort was experiencing a "30-percent deficit to our projected 1.3 million skier visits.")
In an effort to ease the blow to June Mountain's now-former employees, MMSA stated that it would be looking in to options as to how to absorb this workforce.
"I'm concerned about the complete lack of warning," Tim Alpers, June Lake's recently-elected county supervisor said in an interview Thursday with the The Mammoth Times. "I think we need to call a special board of supervisors meeting, a town hall meeting. We need to look at the lease. We need to see if there are any options at all, see if any entrepreneurs might be willing to look at buying it. This is going to be absolutely devastating to the whole community."
This news comes on the heels of a long string of financial woes for the town of Mammoth Lakes, which is currently on the brink of bankruptcy.