Fueled by a fresh coat of snow on Mount Ashland, a shuttle service is once again offering rides for skiers and snowboarders wanting to slide down the mountain.
The Snowboard & Ski Express will begin offering roundtrip rides for $20 per person from the Rogue Valley to the Mt. Ashland Ski Area beginning Saturday, Jan. 28, provided there are enough prepaid reservations.
"We will be operating by prepaid reservations — we've got to have 35 passengers to run," explained Cole Watson, manager of Central Point-based OC&W Coachways, which is operating the shuttle.
Since the lion's share — roughly 90 percent — of those expected to take the shuttle are students, buses will mainly run on weekends, holidays and school in-service days, he said.
"But we will run any day we have 35 riders," he added. "We've got to have that many to make it worthwhile."
A previous shuttle service run by Ashland Mountain Adventure canceled its winter runs up the mountain on Jan. 5, after owner Bill Roussel said too little snow during Christmas break made it impossible for his company to break even. However, Roussel said Ashland Mountain Adventure plans to operate a winter shuttle next year on the mountain.
After a slow start with scant snow this winter, the Mt. Ashland Ski & Snowboarding Resort reopened this week. It had 50 inches of snow at the base with 80 inches on the mountaintop Saturday morning.
The Snowboard & Ski Express received a permit late last week from the U.S. Forest Service to operate the shuttle, said Watson, who worked on Mount Ashland in the late 1980s. The ski area is in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.
Riders will be in luxury passenger coaches with reclining seats and the ability to watch movies, Watson said. Ski and snowboarding gear will be stowed underneath in cargo bays, he added.
"We will arrive on the mountain when they open and leave when they close," he said.
There will be pickup points in White City, Central Point, Medford and Ashland. Medford sites include the Northwest Outdoor Store on Biddle Road and St. Mary's School.
Each bus can carry 55 passengers, and an additional bus will be added if needed, Watson said.
After those with prepaid reservations are aboard, others will be picked up on a first-come, first-served basis, he noted.
"If we have the ridership, we will do night skiing," Watson said. "If we have the ridership, we will do whatever the community wants."
To make reservations or for information, call Watson at his office at 541-879-1144, by cellphone at 541-301-4005 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or email him at email@example.com.