Mono 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.”
The 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 approvals 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.
Alice 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.”