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It's Time for Winter Sports in June

December 10, 1989|MICHELE GRIMM and TOM GRIMM | The Grimms are Laguna Beach free-lance writers/photographers and authors of the updated "Away for a Weekend."

JUNE LAKE, Calif. — If the June Mountain ski area seems to be a secret, that's all right with the folks who live in this alpine village or come here for a quiet holiday. Let the downhill hot-doggers and apres -ski people have their fun over the ridge at Mammoth Mountain.

June Lake is host to couples looking for seclusion and families who just want to spend some time together.

Many accommodations include kitchens, enabling guests to cook for themselves rather than dining out.

A ski school for children offers special instruction for 3- to 12-year-olds. For novice skiers there are packages with equipment, lifts and lessons. Of the 35 runs down June Mountain, 35% are designed for beginners, 45% for intermediates and 20% for advanced skiers.

This year, beginners are guaranteed to learn to ski or they get the first lesson again for free.

June's ski area has become a haven for snowboarders, who look like out-of-water surfers riding down the slopes on single wide boards. A new challenge for them is a 450-foot chute called the Half Pipe, where snowboarders show off their acrobatic skills along the chute's high sides. Snowboard lessons and rentals are available, and championship races are set for January.

June Mountain ski area in the eastern Sierra is just off June Lake Loop Road (California 158), a narrow highway flanked by sheer slopes, lakes that are sometimes frozen and the tall pines of Inyo National Forest.

First-time skiers arriving at the parking lot may be frightened by the steep terrain in front of them, but most of the runs begin and end higher up the mountain, including flat, wide areas for beginners and gentle, rolling trails for intermediates.

The base lodge is June Meadows Chalet, a four-minute ride up the mountain face in novel QMC (Quad Mono Cable) tram cars that hold 20 passengers. They climb more than half a mile to the chalet, where six chairlifts continue to the 10,135-foot summit of June Mountain and slightly lower Rainbow Summit.

The rental shop, ski school and snowboarding chute are at the chalet, which features a cafeteria where breakfast and lunch are served. Meals also are served on the sun deck during weekends and holidays.

Non-skiing visitors can take the QMC Tram to the chalet to eat and sightsee. On Friday and Saturday evenings, special buffet dinners are offered between 5:30 and 9 p.m. A round-trip ride on the tram costs $7, children $3.50.

Skiers pay $35 for an all-day lift ticket, children 7-12 years old pay $17. Kids 6 and under and seniors 65 and older ski free.

A detailed booklet for both June Mountain and Mammoth Mountain ski resorts is available by calling (619) 934-2571. For current snow and ski conditions at each area, call (213) 935-8866 from Los Angeles, (714) 955-0692 from Orange County or (619) 231-7785 from San Diego.

Lodging facilities for June Mountain are scattered in the village of June Lake and along June Loop Road. After a snowfall, that road is closed at the electrical power station near Silver Lake and becomes a scenic trail for cross-country skiers.

Nordic skiing also is popular on trails groomed by the U.S. Forest Service east of U.S. 395 by June Lake Junction, the turnoff for California 158 to the village and downhill ski area. If those trails are melted, cross-country skiers go a few miles south to the Obsidian Dome Trails at the Glass Flow Road turnoff. For details, contact the ranger station: (619) 647-6525.

Skis, poles and boots for both nordic and downhill skiing can be rented in June Lake at Ernie's Tackle & Ski Shop. Snowboards, toboggans and discs for sledding also are available. Call (619) 648-7756 for rental rates and shop hours.

The village does not offer many diversions for shoppers, although you can visit the Tree Wizard Gallery to watch Gary Burns fashion artworks from wood burls. He carves them with power tools in a workshop at the rear. Also displayed in the gallery are batiks and pottery created by Burns' wife, Sallee.

The Tree Wizard Gallery is adjacent to the Country Store, the tourist information center for June Lake. It is on California 158 just beyond the huge balancing boulder that marks the entrance to town; look for the Mobil gas sign and BP gas pumps. Hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. You also can call (619) 648-7584 for visitor information.

The Country Store rents videotapes and sells post cards, sweat shirts and other June Lake souvenirs. A short stroll up the road is Geri's Gift Box next to Schat's Bakery. The major place to buy groceries is the June Lake General Store.

Two restaurants in town are open in winter--the Sierra Inn Steak House and Coffee Shop, and its neighbor, the Tiger Bar and Cafe. Both serve breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Farther along the June Loop Road and beyond the ski area is Carson Peak Inn, considered June Lake's best restaurant. It opens daily at 5 p.m. for dinner. The popular Mountain Rose dinner house has closed.

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