June Mountain skiing for families: the best kept secret of the Sierras

Skiing families have heard of Mammoth Mountain, one of the largest ski resorts in the western US. But are your familiar with Mammoth’s little sister, June? June Mountain Ski Area is located less than 20 minutes from Mammoth, tucked into a blissfully serene corner of the Eastern Sierras adjacent to pretty June Lake. Arrive at June—which cozies up to the boundary of Yosemite National Park—and you’d swear you’re a world away from busy, often crowded Mammoth.

June-Mountain-skiing

June Mountain closed its doors for the 2012-2013 season, much to the dismay of the local community and its loyal patrons, and re-opened this season (2013-2014) with new energy, new ideas, and a new focus: families.

June Mountain skiing for families:

The potential as a family-focused ski area has been present in June’s foundation all along: arriving at June, families find just one parking lot (as opposed to half a dozen), one chair over the face of the mountain to the main lodge, and plenty of greeters to help with all that ski equipment. The ‘Chalet’ lodge is beautiful, peaceful, and offers breathtaking views of the Sierras, and provides families with all they need (and not more): dining services, lockers, rentals, and a roaring fireplace.

June-Mountain-face

The terrain at June is 45% intermediate and 35% beginner, making it an ideal place to focus on making those first turns without crowds or distractions, but the 20% of advanced terrain is nothing to scoff at: I practically drooled looking at the black diamond chutes at June, and the ski area is known for its excellent backcountry. In this manner, June offers skiers and snowboarders two extremes: intense off-trail glade and tree skiing and easy groomers. Note: the only less-than-young-kid-friendly aspect of June Mountain is the initial J1 chair, required to access the lodge and ski terrain. This double chair rises up and over the June face, and can be more difficult to load than most chairs (due to the bar in the center). Families with backpacks or other gear and young kids will want to ask the lifties to slow the chair until they’re well-versed, and you’ll want to use the safety bar on the ascent. This chair can be downloaded as well, for families not wishing to ski to the bottom at the end of the day.

June-Mountain

Families’ ski vacation dollars will stretch much farther at June than Mammoth. Lessons are roughly half the cost, and kids 12 and under ski free at June any and every day of the year. No blackout dates. No restrictions. What this means to me: I can afford to pay for multiple-day lessons for my school-aged kids!

Youth (ages 13-17) pay just $48 for a regular one-day lift ticket, and adults $72, but if you’ll be there more than four days in a season, June season passes offer even steeper savings. With 1,400 skiable acres, June is far more manageable for families; parents can allow kids free reign to explore, and with only one lodge, there’s no fear of school-aged kids getting lost on the hill. You get seven lifts and 35 named trails, with plenty more in the trees.

The nature nut in me loves that fact that June appreciates its location on National Forest Service land and incorporates nature walks and interpretive programs into its kids’ programming. Expect to see scheduled nature walks during the day, and check out signage pointing out animal tracks to be observed in the snow. Pretty different from your average ski resort, right?

June-Mountain-Chalet-lodge

Still not sure? If you’re skiing at Mammoth Mountain, you can try June risk-free: your Mammoth lift ticket is good here. Our recommendation: start at June for lessons for the kids (or yourself) and work your way up to Mammoth. We’re fans of both mountains, but our ultimate goal at Pit Stops for Kids is to help families make the most of their vacations and spend their ski trip budget wisely. Try June and see the value of a relaxed, friendly, low-key ski community!

Lodging:

There are several options in June Lake, just minutes from the ski area. However, if you’re staying at Mammoth, rest assured: you’re only 20 minutes away.

Dining:

You’ll find good ski hill fare at the Chalet lodge at June, but this resort is ‘sack lunch friendly’ as well. In the town of June Lake, apres or dinner options can be found along the main drag from the ski area.

june-mountain-teepee

Directions:

June Mountain, Ca. is located about 20 miles north of Mammoth Lakes in June Lake. From US 395, take Hwy. 158 west at the June Lake Loop. Drive approx. 4 miles to the ski area.

About the author

Amy Whitley AUTHOR: Amy Whitley is the founding editor of Pit Stops for Kids and content editor of Trekaroo. She writes on staff monthly as a family travel expert at Go Green Travel Green and Practical Travel Gear, and contributes to Outdoors NW as an outdoor adventure traveler. Find Amy at Google.

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