They're snowed! And loving it

Mount Ashland Ski Area has its best December in four seasons, with visits up 44 percent
While the weather created whiteout conditions on Mount Ashland Monday, the ski area reported a banner December, with skier visits and revenue both hitting high marks. Mail Tribune / Jamie LuschJamie Lusch

With heavy snows and a recovering economy, the Mt. Ashland Ski Area racked up the best December yet in the four seasons since it went to a five-day weekly schedule, said General Manager Kim Clark.

"It's very definitely helping us dig out of our financial hole," he said.

Mt. Ashland took a beating from last winter's inadequate snow, resulting in a shortfall that triggered a $350,000 fundraising campaign in April that is now three-quarters of the way to its goal, said Clark.

This season is on track for a record year, Clark noted, "especially with us coming out of the recession, although some people could argue with that."

"The industry in the Northwest is having an incredible year so far," Clark said.

"We're seeing the end of the tunnel ... and we're very happy."

Mt.Ashland is "debt-free" except for a few small notes, he said, and the fundraising campaign is expected to make up for last year's $150,000 shortfall and build up exhausted reserves for future projects.

Reserves totaled $2.4 million in the 1990s, but $1 million was spent on a wastewater treatment plant and $250,000 went toward legal costs for the proposed expansion. The rest was spent on consultants, research and permits.

The fundraising campaign has four more months to run, said Clark.

"I don't know if we can do this in one year," he said, "but it would be awesome if we can."

Mt. Ashland recently received two large gifts from local contributors, for $50,000 and $10,000, though Clark declined to name the donors.

December's 21 operating days were 66 percent above the five-year average for the month.

Guest visits were up 44 percent, and the snowfall totaled 57 percent above December's average, said marketing director Rick Saul. The ski area was closed one day in December because of high winds.

Mount Ashland reported snow depths of 76 to 105 inches on Thursday morning, with 5 inches of new snow reported overnight. It was snowing there Thursday and forecasts called for new snow every day through Sunday.

The ski area is open Thursdays through Mondays and offers night skiing on Thursdays and Fridays.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.


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