Skiing June Mountain

I first visited June Mountain around 1980 and it made a lasting impression on me. A beginner skier, I had learned on the crowded slopes of several Southern California ski resorts. I had fun skiing in the Southland, but skiing there was most often like going to Disneyland. I’d wait in line for a long time and then ski down in a few minutes. The ride was over quickly. I wanted to try someplace new, different and uncrowded, so I headed up north to ski Mammoth and June mountains.

Mammoth Mountain was fun and, like its name implies, big. June Mountain was small and quaint—just the way I like my ski areas. Often called California’s best-kept secret, June Mountain was also quite intimidating in the beginning. I saw the black diamond runs that grace the north side of the mountain and wondered about skiing down them.  The only way up to the chalet where I would eat lunch and catch the other lifts to the very top of the mountain was by taking Chair J1 up. But I soon learned that I could get back down the mountain by riding the lift or I could ski a long intermediate run back to the parking area. I didn’t have to ski black diamond runs to get back to my car.

Chair J1 was my access (and it can be yours too) to a very fun, friendly ski area. And in addition to fun, it still offers some of the most incredible scenery around.

Splendid Views

Flash forward about 30 years and I’m back at June Mountain, only this time my husband, Mike, is with me and we’re here to ski and enjoy the area. We live in the foothills of Colorado’s San Juan Mountains where the scenes are grand, yet at June we often stand in amazement at the panoramas around us. We gaze to the north and see fog blanketing Mono Lake, and as we look around at the 360-degree view, we marvel at the lofty peaks and incredible scenes. June Mountain is our kind of place!

June is popular with the locals too. When the freshies fall, the locals head up the mountain to ski powder-filled tree runs and steep chutes. Families also love June Mountain’s wide-open cruise runs. The runs couldn’t be more perfect for beginner and intermediate skiers and snowboarders.

Seven lifts—two quads, four doubles and one surface—provide access to 500 acres and a vertical rise of 2,590 feet. Thirty-five named trails traverse the area, which stretches from the parking lot elevation of 7,545 feet to the summit of June Mountain at 10,090 feet. June’s longest run is about two miles. There’s something for everyone here, with 35 percent beginner terrain, 45 percent intermediate and 20 percent advanced. The mountain receives an average of 250 inches of snow each year. (This snow season began slowly, but t there were 40 inches of snow reported by mid-January. Check Junemountain.com for current conditions.)

June Mountain has been welcoming guests for more than 50 years now. In fact, the resort had a big bash on March 5, 2011. The ski area opened in 1961 with 12 inches of fresh snow and Chair J1. In 1965, Chair J2 went into operation.

Chair J1 opens at 7:30 each morning and runs until 5 p.m. Chair J2 opens at 8:30 a.m. and the remaining chairs normally open at 9 a.m.

Good Variety

Mike and I often skied from Chair J7, which got us to the top quickly. From there we enjoyed great intermediate runs and excellent views all around. Matterhorn and Sunrise runs are must-dos. One of our favorite black diamond runs was Schatzi, and we thrilled to the moguls on Sunset Run. If you like blue runs, check out Chair J6, for it is a potpourri of delights for intermediates. Want to take it easy? Check out Silverado, a green run that leads back to the June Meadows Chalet.

June Mountain offers a number of awesome Terrain Parks and a humongous Super Pipe. The ski area was voted in the top six by readers of TransWorld SNOWboarding magazine in 2010. It was voted number one for Best Vibe and Best Value, number two for Best Snow, number three for Best Park, and number six for Best Halfpipe. In the 1980s, June was one of the first resorts to embrace snowboarding.  The embrace continues today with a 16-foot super pipe, unique jibs and precision features sculpted with their one-of-a-kind hip-cutter.  If you’re a beginner, check out small to medium features at Mambo, off Chair J2.  Skiers and riders will find medium to large boxes at Upper Sunrise Jib Park, as well as propane tanks, jib, and lots more.  Sunrise offers medium to large features, including jumps, transitions, rails, boxes, hips, propane tanks, jibs, rollers, and whatever else their park crew comes up with. Check out the perfectly groomed super pipe under Chair J2. The dragon-cut pipe has 16-foot walls.

If you’d like to learn more about the area, be sure to check out the free naturalist tours.  Volunteers lead the tours and offer information about the natural surroundings of June Mountain, including Mono Lake, the glacial canyon, and nearby volcanic activity.  Tours are available Friday through Sunday at 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Starting Out

June Mountain is a great place to learn to ski and snowboard. Group and private lessons are available. Of course, guests may rent skis and snowboards, even helmets.  Check out the June Meadows Chalet for more information.  You’ll find rentals, lessons, repairs, a sport shop, lockers, as well as cafeteria-style dining and good food with a fantastic view.  The Chalet is open from 8 a.m. daily and serves breakfast and lunch.  

There are plenty of places to stay at June Mountain, but there are no accommodations at the ski area. The town of June Mountain is a couple of miles away and offers a gas station, a store, some restaurants and motels.  Another option is to stay at Mammoth Lakes, where there are motel accommodations as well as an RV park that’s open year-round. RVers will truly enjoy Mammoth Mountain RV Park. In the winter, 30 amp electric and cable TV are available.  There are no water hookups when the temperature dips, but water is available to fill your RV.  Call (800) 582-4603 for more information.

If you’re staying at Mammoth and would like to skip driving, you can take the June Mountain Express Shuttle that runs between the two ski areas. One-way shuttle fare is $7, while a round-trip shuttle is $13.50.  Call (800) 922-1930 for more information.

June Mountain is 20 miles north of Mammoth Lakes off U.S. Highway 395.  Take Highway 158 West at the June Lake Loop; drive approximately four miles to the ski area.

If you’re traveling by RV and you’d like to park in the June Mountain parking lot, it’s probably OK. The folks at June Mountain say they don’t mind if RVers spend a night or two. However, it’s not their land, and in the past the Forest Service has ticketed some folks for spending the night. It hasn’t happened lately, so perhaps parking in the lot would be OK. Just know that a parking ticket may be your cost for parking overnight.

If you’re looking to save money and you are 80 years old or older, you’ll be able to ski or snowboard for free. For more information on June Mountain, call (888) 586-3686 or check out JuneMountain.com.

Donna Ikenberry is a writer and photographer who lives in South Fork, Colorado.

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