MOUNT ASHLAND — If the 2007-08 ski and snowboard season were a downhill skier, it would have wound up this year's season with a snow-spraying flourish.

MOUNT ASHLAND — If the 2007-08 ski and snowboard season were a downhill skier, it would have wound up this year's season with a snow-spraying flourish.

With 1,167 skier visits needed on Sunday, the last day of the season, to top last year's count, the community-owned Mt. Ashland Ski & Snowboarding Resort drew 1,200 visits that day for a total 91,022 skier seasonal visits. That was 33 more visits than last season, according to Rick Saul, the ski area's marketing director.

It was also the third consecutive year Mount Ashland has added an extra weekend to its regular operating schedule, Saul said.

"When we get snow like we did, it generates a lot of interest," he said. "And we had a tremendous amount of snow early in the year."

In fact, the area, which usually has between 280 and 300 inches of snow each season, had 244 inches of accumulative snowfall by the end of January, observed Woodie Tesh, the area's outdoor operations manager.

By Sunday, the area had 298 accumulative inches of snow. Another 5 inches were recorded on Monday, followed by a foot more on Tuesday.

There were 85 inches of snow at the lodge Wednesday with 130 inches at the 7,500-foot summit.

Mount Ashland operated 100 days and 23 nights in the season that ended Sunday. During the previous two seasons, the area was open for 116 days but it has since closed operations on Tuesday, accounting for 14 of the 16-day difference.

Severe storms closed the resort four times during January, including a Jan. 3-4 storm that recorded 70 mph winds and dumped 49 inches of snow, Saul said.

"That created some operational challenges," he said. "Our groomers weren't able to get out and groom as much of the mountain as they normally would because there was no solid base."

It took roughly a month for the groomers to catch up with Mother Nature, he noted.

The heavy snow early in January also foiled an attempt to find a water line leak, he added. A huge rock used as fill when the water system was put in place in 1963 had apparently broken a water line but the snowfall stymied attempts to find the leak, he explained.

"We were very close to locating the leak when the storm hit Jan. 3," he said. "We didn't get back to solving that issue until the snow stopped around Feb. 1."

As a result, half of the rest -rooms were shut down during that period and portable toilets were brought in, he said.

"We had to watch our water usage but the skiers are a hardy group — they understood what we needed to do," he said.

The 2007-08 season represents the highest number of skier visits since Mount Ashland changed its tallying procedure three years ago. There were 90,741 in 2005-06 and 90,989 in 2006-07.

Based on a process that relied more on speculation, there were 102,479 visits in 2002-03, 102,329 in 2003-04 and 100,138 in 2004-05, Saul said. The new system relies more on more precise parking lot visits, he explained.

This year's season began Dec. 20 with the average start being Dec. 10.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.