Beginners will have an easier time making their way down Mt. Ashland Ski Area's bunny hill this winter.
Crews are working 11-hour days, seven days a week to make the Sonnet Run next to the ski lodge more gentle and consistent, alleviating the steepness that caused some novices to accelerate out of control.
"It will be a much more level, consistent, even slope that will be much more conducive to the learning experience," General Manager Kim Clark said.
Workers are using dirt and rocks removed from the parking lot to recontour Sonnet. The lot, which often overflowed on busy days, is being expanded by 101 spaces. Work on that project began at the beginning of the month; the Sonnet Run recontouring followed after permits were issued by the U.S. Forest Service and Jackson County.
Clark said plans call for the work to be finished before the start of the ski season, depending on the weather.
Earlier this summer, the ski area cut trees to widen existing runs.
"We're looking forward to debuting it all," Clark said.
Former Ashland City Councilor Eric Navickas had opposed the parking lot expansion and run recontouring. He voiced concerns that the projects could cause erosion and sedimentation into Cottonwood Creek and Ashland Creek.
A county hearings officer ruled in August that Navickas lacked legal standing to challenge the projects.
Navickas subsequently appealed that decision to the state Land Use Board of Appeals, but did not seek a stay to block the projects.
Navickas said ski area officials should not have pushed to start the parking lot and run recontouring projects so late in the season with snow on the horizon.
He said those projects should have been started next spring, when workers would have had plenty of time to put mitigation measures in place.
The off-season improvements to widen runs, recontour the Sonnet Run and expand the parking lot cost $250,000.
So far, the ski area has raised at least $230,794 in donations to pay for the work, which is confined to the existing ski area.
The nonprofit ski area has no plans at this time to carry out a major expansion that would include new ski runs and chairlifts.
In 2011, the U.S. Forest Service approved plans for the new ski runs, chairlifts and other additions, which would cost at least $3.5 million.
Navickas has been a longtime opponent of the full expansion.
Reach Ashland Daily Tidings reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-479-8199 or firstname.lastname@example.org.