Rusty Gregory lays out plans for June Mountain

monosupervisorsMono Supervisor Chair Byng Hunt laid out the ground rules at Tuesday’s Board meeting in Bridgeport with Mammoth Mountain CEO Rusty Gregory and a room full of people from June Lake. Hunt said officials wanted to hear about the re-opening of June Mountain but also about the revitalization of the community. Hunt also said there should be “no back-stabbing or tomato throwing. I want civility in the Boardroom.”

junelakecrowdThe June Lake crowd, wounded by Gregory’s decision to close the ski area last year, did speak calmly but also made it clear that the CEO had to gain their trust by his actions. Gregory said he realized what he did “created a lot of hardship and a lot of bad feelings.” He said he was there at the Board meeting to “be accountable.”

Throughout the three-hour session, Gregory said he knows he is “not well-liked”. He said he intends to build trust through his actions. He started with what he called a three-point plan. First, he will open June Mountain this summer when crews will begin to prepare the ski area for winter operation and conduct four weddings and a triathlon. Second, Gregory will focus on snow-making and a new lift for J1. Third, he will focus on community development. He said the town needs 1,000 additional hotel rooms.

The CEO said his plans include test drilling for snow-making water this summer and in January of 2014 updating the June Mountain Master Plan with hopes to get construction rustygregory1approvals from the Forest Service for the new lift and snow-making. Gregory said construction would start in the summer of 2015 with plans to operate the new lift and snow-making the winter of 2015-2016. Later Forest Service Ranger Sarah Tomsky said that it could take two years for bureaucratic approvals for the replacement of Chair 1 at June Mountain.

Gregory retraced the financial down-turn and problems with lenders that led to the closure of June Mountain which was losing $1.5 million. He spoke about the major ups and downs of Mammoth and June Mountains, depending on weather and finances. Gregory said he would “re-position the resort” by making it an entry level family ski area with a “learn to ski family package.” He also made it clear Mammoth Mountain no longer has first right of refusal to buy the Rodeo Grounds and is not interested in that.

junemountainAlice Suszynski from the Committee for a Viable June Mountain spoke of opposition to Mammoth’s land trade to acquire property at the Main Lodge for hotel development. She said, “You’re going to spend $600 million at Mammoth Mountain while June Lake goes unimproved.” She suggested a mediation between Gregory and the community over long-term viability. She said, “We suggest that the Mono Supervisors not support the land exchange until our agenda is addressed.”

To those who questioned his sincerity, Gregory said, “I know I’m not well-liked,” and “trust comes from actions not words.” Connie Black, owner of the Double Eagle Resort in June Lake, asked Gregory if there were some small measures he could take this summer to help with trust. She said no major improvements until 2015-2016 doesn’t feel very good.” Gregory said, “Tell me what you want. I know there is animosity. I am not saying to love me. Tell me.” She said some type of small improvements to re-build trust. Gregory said, “I have a very thin skin. I do care how people feel about me. I don’t want to do token things.” Black indicated she would present items later.

At that point, Gregory asked Carl Williams and Ron Cohen from the Mountain to hold up a banner that displayed June Mountain along with Mammoth Mountain as services for MVP holders. He said he would share his June Mountain operations plan with the community in May or later. He said the fact that the community organized major events last winter and showed commitment caused him to go forward with plans for June Mountain.

At the end of 3 hours, Supervisor Tim Alpers said he plans to agendize more on June Mountain next week if there is new information. After that, Alpers will offer a policy recommendation to the Board. He said, “Let’s get our new beginning going.”


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34 Responses to Rusty Gregory lays out plans for June Mountain

  1. Dingo April 10, 2013 at 6:23 pm #

    I’m still hearing Mammoth sold to Vail, I heard its a done deal, from a fairly reliable source.

    • Benett Kessler April 10, 2013 at 7:03 pm #

      At the Mono Supervisors meeting Tuesday one of the June Lake people asked Rusty about that. He once more said there is no deal. Mammoth is not selling. I will be doing a story on his comments.

    • Ken Warner April 12, 2013 at 10:01 pm #

      It is hard to believe anybody anymore.

  2. Trouble April 10, 2013 at 8:30 pm #

    Rusty’s word means Jack…. here. Corporate fly boy in my book.

  3. Eastern Sierra Local April 11, 2013 at 8:37 am #

    In 2004, the community of June Lake was given an opportunity to comment on the Specific Plan for the Rodeo Grounds project. I remember this quiet vividly and remember how much opposition from the community there was regarding any change to the nature of June Lake with new roads, homes, and commercial developments proposed by Intrawest and Mammoth Mtn. Many of these developments included new additions to June Mtn Ski area. The following quotes come from the “Advocates” website, which has yet to be updated from 2004 and is quiet telling of the outlook then in perspective with now.

    “This development proposal is therefore unacceptable.”

    “We urge you, therefore, to reject the Specific Plan, require Intrawest to abide by the law, and support the rights of the citizens you represent.”

    “There is no reason to amend the existing plan. After all, the natural resources of June Lake have not changed; what has changed is the desire of a developer to create corporate wealth.”

    Fast forward 10 years and the community is solely blaming Mammoth for the demise of June Mtn but I can’t help and think that the residents of June (as represented by the Advocates) also had their hands in it too- as evidence by the “339 survey responses thus far (out of 800).”

    Of course, the USFS can’t be exempt from blame either, they only allow June Mtn to be open from Dec 15-April 15 regardless of snow conditions.

    The solution to the problem of June Mtn and the entire economy up there is:
    1st. the USFS needs to permit the ski operation longer than currently allowed- let the market and ski conditions dictate the opening and closing dates, not the permit.
    2nd The community of June needs to be more open to residential and commercial development and not oppose everything up there- change is good.
    3rd. Mammoth Mtn needs to invest in it’s investment of June.

    • Just an idea April 11, 2013 at 10:01 am #

      Perhaps a solution would be to return the area to its natural state.

    • Ken Warner April 13, 2013 at 7:38 am #

      I see a lot of people making the point that June Lake is not “business friendly” That the community opposes “development” and that’s the reason MMSA had to close June Mountain. And if the community of June Lake embraces development, all it’s economic problems will be solved.

      The reasoning behind those positions is not clear to me. Rusty said that June Lake needs a 1000 more beds but that’s the kind of thing spokespeople for big developers say. To them, development is the answer to all (their) economic problems. But Mammoth Lakes is a great example that isn’t true. We’ve had lots of development to the point where the quality of life has diminished markedly and the local environment has suffered greatly. And yet the promised prosperity remains just out of reach like the proverbial carrot.

      Town revenues diminish yearly. Businesses fail. So where’s the “Benefit to the Community”? The community has lost it’s precious heart and the town only avoided bankruptcy by making “draconian cuts” to it’s budget.

      We’ve had a series of big developers spending big money to buy into the development of Mammoth Lakes who wouldn’t do that unless they could make money doing that. Each developer leaving town with some kind of profit gained either through direct income or sophisticated business strategies that include bankruptcy and paying their own subsidiaries. Business strategies that are far from transparent and understandable.

      So who benefited from the “Development Cures All Problems” strategy? Do you see any evidence that the community of Mammoth Lakes has benefited? A small handful of real estate brokers may have made a living. A few businesses may scratch out enough business to keep the doors open. But a lot of businesses have also failed. A lot of people lost everything.

      And if development is the economic solution to all problems, why is there the continual drum beat from the business community for more advertising, more money spent on amenities and events, more money spent on the airport, more money spent to redevelop Main Street. More money, more money, more money. It seems like the community can never do enough to satisfy the Business Community.

      Where does it end? When does it end? Who gets the money?

      Maybe “Development” is not the answer after all. Maybe Development only benefits the developers at the expense of the community. Maybe the people of June Lake see that more clearly than the people of Mammoth Lakes see that.

      Maybe there’s a better way…

  4. MJA April 11, 2013 at 8:39 am #

    Whilst we are on the subject of reopening old businesses,
    I miss the Pioneer Market, Baskin Robins ice cream, Paradise, Hot To Go chili, the Winery muffins, 2 dollar gasoline, the cornice on Cornice, the trees in Reds Meadows, the meadows in the meadows, some dear friends and family that have come and gone, and even some youth too. Hey Rusty, what can you do?


  5. ferdinand lopez April 11, 2013 at 12:51 pm #

    its very unfortunate that so many people are affected by so fews decisions

  6. jane marie April 11, 2013 at 1:29 pm #

    all this from a guy who commonly instructs employees to “believe what i do, not what i say.” c’mon rusty… you’re disliked and not trusted because of what the community has seen you do over the years. your bottom line and personal power are the only things that appear to matter. now you want everyone to trust you because you say they should? yes, trust does come from actions, not words. at least your staff admonishment is believable.

    • Desert Tortoise April 11, 2013 at 4:22 pm #

      So, lets see, you expect the guy to keep a business open and lose money so you can keep a job? Hmmm. Did you forget there was a big depresson, people down south going underwater on mortgages, losing jobs, losing their homes and their life savings (I hvae some family that suffered this way) but someone up in Mammoth Lakes gets all snooty because the local ski resort couldn’t keep it’s doors open in the face of a sharp decline in patronage. Amazing the entitled position some people take. Grow up.

      • Mark April 12, 2013 at 7:36 am #

        it’s the new younger more liberal generation that thinks businesses can be run like the government.

    • ullrnation April 12, 2013 at 8:51 am #

      @ jane marie –

      In my opinion, you and others might be being a little too hard on Rusty; this is pure speculation, but perhaps:

      1) When Dave McCoy sold MMSA to Sternlicht/Starwood (herein S & S), S & S acquired ultimate management and control of MMSA (and June Mtn.).

      2) Subsequently, decisions regarding both areas were made by S & S based not so much on the welfare of the community, as had been the case, but on its corporate bottom line and its sought-after prestige in the global travel/tourism market.

      3) With those two considerations in mind, S & S probably viewed June Mtn. as a quaint and unprofitable area that didn’t mesh with its desire to make MMSA a “world class resort,” capable of competing with Aspen, Vail, etc. and so decided to “bag” June Mtn.

      4) This last statement is supported by the fact that S & S put its $ into improving and marketing MMSA, letting June Mtn. whither on the vine.

      5) Rusty, being a part of the McCoy/MMSA “family” for so many years, probably didn’t like that direction, but could not oppose it directly; but he could delay the inevitable, by continuing to operate June Mtn. at a loss for several years.

      6) He may have thought that the only way he could push back against S & S was to abruptly close June Mtn., knowing the public outcry that would result, the hot water MMSA would get in with the USFS, and the political fallout that could put S & S’s plans for the land trade/new main lodge at MMSA in jeopardy.

      7) In this regard, Rusty may have been playing chicken – with his own career in the balance -with his corporate handlers at S & S, knowing also that HE personally would incur the wrath and name-calling of the locals.

      8) Now, it appears from the plans to improve and market June Mtn., that S & S has relented, and that June Mtn. may live to see another day. What convinced S & S to change course by 180 degrees?

      9) Consequently, Rusty may have actually saved June Mtn. and in doing so walked a probably very difficult gauntlet between S & S and the June Lake /Mono County crowd.

      Maybe all I’m saying is that is difficult, for me at least, to judge Rusty so harshly when I know that neither he nor Dave McCoy are any longer calling the shots.

      These decisions are ultimately being made by S & S, with its corporate bottom-line and image in mind; but some people seem to forget that and instead relish making Rusty out to be the villain.

      And I know its sacrilege to suggest this, but perhaps it was Dave McCoy’s decision to sell MMSA to the likes of S & S that triggered this avalanche in the first place.


      • Roger April 12, 2013 at 7:07 pm #

        As a former and long term employee of MMSA, I don’t want “the Bully in Black” to be given credit for even a HINT of any human instincts for compassion and concern for others. He has stabbed in the back everyone he’s ever done business with, including Dave. He is an out of control VILLAIN. The people of June Lake need to be very cautious when dealing with him.

  7. CL April 12, 2013 at 11:48 am #

    June Mountain isn’t able to stand on its own two feet and yet the ski area should keep it open as what? A public service? I don’t trust the June people to make any effort to ensure that their town will actually bring enough people in this winter to see a profit get turned at June Mountain, if you want to talk about trust. The comment about people thinking businesses should be run like government is spot on.

    Sorry I love June Lake and its people and I don’t mean to be so harsh. I will spend my dollars there in the summer and support a really nice local area but I just can’t get behind this thought process that a failed business part should be kept alive artifically.

  8. ExSkiBum April 12, 2013 at 9:12 pm #

    One way Rusty can make amends to June Lake locals is to offer reasonable priced season pass for locals again. June Mtn did that years ago and it was a great seeing alot of locals and families skiing at June. They loose money anyway, so why not try to attract more tourism money to benefit local merchants by having local season pass that peeps can afford. I’d buy one. Everybody will benefit and be happy and Rusty can be the responsible CEO again.

  9. Mark April 13, 2013 at 9:51 am #

    Wow Exskibum’s post is a perfect example of the entitlement issues some loopers seem to have. The ski area is on public land and Exskibum thinks for some reason June Lake locals should get a better deal then others. Locals all ready have the benefit of being locals and now they want a discount pass too.

    Shame on you Exskibum!

    • ExSkiBum April 13, 2013 at 8:47 pm #

      Mark, you are another knee jerk reactionary with anger issues. Suggestion for lower cost season pass for June Mtn Ski Area as it had in the past generated full parking lot of skier and boarders at June many years ago, these Wednesday specials and low cost season passes drew lots of locals from all over Eastern Sierra and SCal who otherwise couldn’t afford to ski or ride. Many Southern Cal families that appreciated the ambiances of June Mtn. benefited too. It is not what I want or what June Lake locals want, my suggestion is simply public relation and marketing suggestion for Rusty to take. June Lake business benefited and skiers and boarders were happier to pay affordable lift tickets.

      You got any suggestions that is helpful or just have loud mouthed, angry and negative inputs?

      • Benett Kessler April 13, 2013 at 9:23 pm #

        Someone asked Rusty at last Tuesday’s Board meeting if he would bring back $10 Wednesdays. He said no.

      • Mark April 14, 2013 at 7:19 am #

        ha ha you don’t even know me 😉

        My suggestion would be to offer an inexpensive June pass or mid week pass to everyone; not just June Lake locals who feel Rusty needs to treat them special to make ammends with them.

    • Ken Warner April 14, 2013 at 2:36 am #

      Being a local isn’t something you win in a lottery or have to apply to Rusty for. It’s a choice of living in a community that fits your personality and your life needs.

      Locals form a labor pool and support base for local businesses and shape the community into what it is. It’s not something you get the “benefit” of as if you somehow become member of a privileged class.

      MMSA depends on locals from the community to run and operate it’s businesses. Why not share the wealth in hard times and give back some of the support MMSA gets from the locals?

      I didn’t say this well. My thought is that the local community and businesses like MMSA depend on each other so why not help each other if they can?

      • Trouble April 14, 2013 at 4:22 pm #

        You hit the nail on the head Ken. The McCoy’s knew how to treat people the right way. Mammoth is now just a corporate cesspool.

      • Mark April 14, 2013 at 5:53 pm #

        We’ll have to agree to disagree.

        I believe there’s something called an employee pass.

        Rusty also mentioned some type of discount for employees of employers that participated in the BID.

        So if you want a discount and you’re fortunate enough to be a local get a job.

        But offer a disount based on where someone lives and I’ll raise hell with the USFS while I scramble for a post office box at the 93529 post office.

        • Trouble April 14, 2013 at 7:08 pm #

          Mark, isn’t it a shame when the people who work for a company can’t afford the products they sell?

          • Mark April 15, 2013 at 9:39 am #

            Many customer service jobs don’t pay enough for employees to enjoy the services their employer offers to paying guest.

            MMSA gives them a pass which allows them to ski while barely being able to pay rent and eat. I told my kids it’s better to get an education, get a good paying job, then take ski vacations where ever you want, instead of working for MMSA just to ski for free. I know ski instructors who have worked for MMSA for thirty years. Over those thirty years they’ve gone from home owners to renters barely scraping by. They also turned liberal 😉 go figure.

        • Curious April 14, 2013 at 9:19 pm #

          Are not the taxpayers the ones really participating in the BID?

          The money isn’t coming out of the “employers” pocket, why do they get a discount?

          More smoke and mirrors by the plutocrats!

          • Mark April 15, 2013 at 9:26 am #

            Curious – Duh, read everthing posted again. The BID money comes from a percentage of the employers gross profits.

        • Curious April 15, 2013 at 10:37 am #


          Then why is there an increase in percentage sales and TOT in the form of additional taxes being passed on to the customer tab?

          I smell a Mammoth Tourism, Chamber of Commerce or a MMSA weasel!


  10. ESBorn April 14, 2013 at 7:20 pm #

    I find the dichotomy of the people here in the Eastern Sierra (especially Mammoth) very confounding: Everyone admits that the local economy depends upon tourism and the corresponding monetary benefit to exist yet the community as a whole rejects any measure that will make the Eastern Sierra more accessible to the public.

    While I completely disagree with the way that MMSA has been run over the last couple of years, I find it abhorrent that the sole argument of many is that June should be kept open at a loss of 1.5 million to one of the largest employers of local labor. Who runs a business to lose money and why should MMSA be expected to do so for the benefit of the few who choose to live and have “second homes” in the June Lake area?

    Let’s not forget the airport improvements in Mammoth. It seems that most of you want to complain with every breath about this wonderful addition the Eastern Sierra. Nearly every one of you is quick to blame MMSA for the quandary that has come about because of poor choices that elected officials (you the voters elected over and over) made. You are so quick to want to pull the plug on the airport that has allowed someone like me to move back to the area and bring my income with me: an income that I go out of my way to spend locally and keep local, something I know most of you don’t do.

    • Ken Warner April 14, 2013 at 9:10 pm #

      Mark, you made a good point. Discount passes for people who work in June Lake — or Mammoth Lakes — should be available. Giving free passes to everybody who lives in either town is not what I was suggesting. That wouldn’t be right. But MMSA has the MVP pass which is a very good deal. A June Lake specific MVP pass might be a good idea. If it is a little cheaper than the standard MVP pass, it would bring people to June Lake and people in town is the goal. People spend money even if they don’t stay the night.

      And to ESBorn, I’m glad you find benefit from the airport but your gain is at the expense of everybody else in town. I pay (indirectly) and the airport is of no use to me. Further, the airport can’t even sustain it’s own operating costs. So a few people may benefit and at a lot of other’s expense.

      And the idea is not to keep June Mountain open at a cost of 1.5 million dollars a year. The discussion is how to run June Mountain in a way that is viable. I think that’s what the discussion is about — or at least should be.

      The airport; how to operate June Mountain viably; passes for locals — those things have not been decided in the way you’ve argued against. I don’t mean to provoke you but your arguments are sort of strawman arguments.

  11. Trouble April 14, 2013 at 8:25 pm #

    EsBorn-just because a corporation claims to be losing money does not make it true. Look at the Dodgers. The owner was claiming bankruptcy one day and cashing a check for 2 Billion Dollars the next. Closing June makes Mammoth worth that much more on paper. Wake up.

  12. Curious April 14, 2013 at 9:35 pm #

    If you’re so successful, why do we need to subsidize your airfare?

    If June Mountain is expected to be profitable to remain open, shouldn’t we expect the same from the airport that looses millions more in “taxpayer” dollars per year?

    Sorry, I find your points full of red herring.

  13. Desert Tortoise April 15, 2013 at 5:22 am #

    Resort destinations offering discount tickets to local residents is founded in sound economics. It is known in the technical jargon of economists as “third degree price discrimination”. How much of something is bought and it’s price are subject to supply and demand. The demand curve for resort products is a great deal more elastic for a local than it is for a tourist. The tourist often comes for that specific resort destination and is willing to spend to enjoy the amenities because it is something seldom done and saved for with relish.
    For the local, there are more alternatives, so price becomes more of a consideration. The demand curve of the local for entertainment is more elastic, so price has to be lower to attract the local customer. If you look south of the San Gabriels, Disneyland, Knotts Berry Farm, Universal Studios all offer lower priced deals to residents of local zip codes. At Universal a one day pass buys you a year of free subsequent visits.
    Now if the resort at Mammoth Mountain thinks that locals don’t have any alternatives to the services they offer, or alternative forms of entertainment that compete with skiiing, then there is no motivation to lower price. They think your demand for skiiing is as inelastic as that of someone from Newport Beach. But there is a precedent for local discounts in the resort industry and such a discount might be good business practice rather than a gift from the resort.

  14. June fan June 3, 2013 at 9:27 pm #

    When MMSA bought June it was to join the two areas. Dave came in and tore out a lot of trees and reformed the contour of the Mountian and put in new lifts (chair#6 and detachable quad #7), then a couple of bad winters and June Mt. is not affordable to connect to MMSA. And it’s the redheaded stepchild. If June is a viable ski area on its own will take business away from MMSA. So better to let it fail, $ wise. If MMSA doesn’t want to promote the Mountian then they should sell it, or put it back to its original state.
    Well what we find hard about June mt. Is chair #1. Taking a child with equipment up and down is a far bigger adventure then I want to take. And if it is going to be marketed as a family resort we need to get the family up to the skiing, and down at the end of the day. We did have a tram (the QMC) that was taken out. It was nice way to get up and down, safe and comfortable. The buildings are still there for the tram.
    As for June lake needing 1000 more rooms. If the hotels would put a comfortable beds in the town it would have enough rooms. I have stayed in all the places in June and unless you are wiling to pay big bucks at the Double Eagle there is hardly a comfortable bed in the hole town.
    All this being said I hope June Mountain is sold to Vail resorts and put on their epic pass. June Mountain is one of my favorite places on earth. It was viable before MMSA bought it. And it should be again.


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