Opponents of the planned expansion of the Mt. Ashland Ski Area are calling on like-minded residents to boycott the ski area and businesses that sponsor it.
Business sponsors said a boycott, if successful, would just hurt the nonprofit ski area and its programs that help kids and the environment.
Emery Way, a member of the activist group Phronesis, said he and other expansion opponents want to put financial pressure on the ski area and its main business sponsors in hopes that the Mt. Ashland Association will abandon its plans to expand in the sensitive Ashland watershed.
Way said the watershed, source of Ashland's drinking water, could be harmed by plans to build new ski runs, lifts and buildings on the mountain.
"That scale of a threat calls for something more radical," he said.
Mt. Ashland Association officials contend the expansion will not harm Ashland's drinking water supply.
During a televised Ashland City Council meeting on Sept. 20, Way urged people to join the boycott. Expansion opponents also scheduled a demonstration on the downtown Ashland Plaza on Tuesday evening to launch the boycott.
Mt. Ashland Ski Area General Manager Kim Clark said the ski area's sponsors support operations and special programs — things unrelated to the expansion.
"I hope people can separate the expansion and what we're currently doing. Our sponsors support our current operations and programs," Clark said.
Valley View Winery outside Jacksonville is among the businesses that could be affected by the boycott.
The winery is labeled a Gold Sponsor on the ski area's website for donating at least $2,000 to help fund an after-school ski and snowboard program, youth internships, environmental programs, training for Special Olympics athletes and field trips for children with cancer.
Valley View Winery President Mark Wisnovsky said one of the main reasons he and his brother Michael Wisnovsky donate to the ski area is because their own children have benefited from the after-school ski program.
Mark Wisnovsky said the winery wants to help kids go skiing and snowboarding who might not otherwise be able to go because of the cost. He said a boycott of the ski area and its sponsors will hurt those kids.
"I don't think we've ever been boycotted before," he said of the 40-year-old winery. "We'll continue to do what's right for the community."
While the winery will continue to fund special programs at the ski area, Mark Wisnovsky said he doesn't know yet whether it will donate any money for the expansion itself.
Mt. Ashland Association officials have said they plan to pay for the expansion through fundraising. The first and most significant phase of the expansion will cost $2.5 million to $3.5 million, ski area officials estimate.
Former Ashland mayor and former Mt. Ashland Association board member Alan DeBoer is another Gold Sponsor. His car dealership, TC Chevy on Ashland's outskirts, is a sponsor on a lower tier.
DeBoer said expansion opponents have a right to call for a boycott, but he said he believes most people want the ski area to survive.
"I would ask other people to support the businesses. Mt. Ashland is a great economic driver for all of Southern Oregon. It generates revenue in the winter when things are slow," DeBoer said.
DeBoer said his donations are to support ski area operations and special programs, but he also plans to donate to help fund the expansion in the future.
In addition to several Gold Sponsor members, the ski area has a number of other business sponsors on a lower tier that include the Mail Tribune, which contributes to a renewable energy purchase plan designed to offset the ski area's use of fossil fuels.
Longtime expansion opponent and former Ashland Councilman Eric Navickas said the ski area has a number of beneficial programs in place for public relations purposes.
While some people might be concerned about the boycott's impact on special programs, Navickas said he is concerned about the expansion's potential impacts on Ashland's water supply.
He said expansion opponents plan to distribute fliers with printed lists of ski area sponsors.
"It's reached a point where we have no choice except to boycott," Navickas said.
The U.S. Forest Service has approved the expansion, which is on land under its jurisdiction.
The agency plans to ask a U.S. District Court judge to lift an injunction on the expansion that was previously put in place. The Forest Service does not yet have a court date, Siskiyou Mountains Ranger District Recreation Specialist Steve Johnson said this week.
The Rogue Group Sierra Club plans to fight the lifting of that injunction, and also to file a new lawsuit against the expansion. It hasn't filed the new lawsuit yet, Rogue Group Sierra Club Chairman Tom Dimitre said this week.
Meanwhile, the city of Ashland and the Mt. Ashland Association are in negotiations for the city to give up its permit for the ski area. The association could then apply to the Forest Service to become the new permit holder.
Ashland city council members agreed to give up the permit if the Mt. Ashland Association accepts a number of conditions, including that it raise millions of dollars for the first phase of the expansion before cutting any trees.
Clark met on Tuesday morning with City Administrator Martha Bennett to discuss those conditions. He said association board members have issues with some of the conditions.
Several city officials are traveling to a League of Oregon Cities meeting out of town later this week, which could delay the negotiations, Clark said.
The soonest an agreement between the association and the city of Ashland could come to the City Council for final approval would be this coming Tuesday.
Vickie Aldous is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. She can be reached at 541-479-8199 or firstname.lastname@example.org.