Mt. Ashland Ski Area plans to upgrade its lodge, giving skiers and snowboarders more room to stretch out, less congestion in the food service area and easier access to rental equipment.

The Mt. Ashland Association has announced a $1.4 million restoration and improvement project for the 1964 lodge as part of the 25th anniversary of community ownership. A fund drive is now underway.

“Our previous generations built the lodge. It is our responsibly to preserve the lodge and make it even better,” said Development Director Michael Stringer.

Highlights of the plan include expanding the lodge by 1,000 square feet to reduce crowding on busy days, relocating the rental shop to the lodge basement, moving the food service area, replacing the roof and repainting the exterior.

Presently, first-time skiers and boarders rent equipment in a building located several hundred yards away from the beginners slope next to the lodge. First-timers then carry the equipment across one of the windiest spots on the mountain, adjacent to the parking lot, to get to the lesson area.

“Mt. Ashland feels really strongly about creating the next generation of skiers and riders," said Stringer. “The improvements we have planned will help create a great first-time experience."

To make room for the change, locker space in the lodge basement will be moved to the rental shop area for annual locker rental patrons. There will be 200 new lockers and 48 day lockers in the "ski-in, ski-out" facility.

Two mostly unused outside decks on the lodge will be enclosed to create the additional indoor space. One is on the west side of the building facing the Juliet run, the other off the north side. Rooflines of the two additions, which will have soaring ceilings with large windows, will match those of the current lodge. Kistler + Small + White Architects designed the additions.

“With the enclosure of the Juliet deck, there will now be fantastic views of the ski area as well as the summit,” said Stringer.

The central stairway in the lodge will be removed and placed in the north side addition — opposite the main entrance — to create a more open feeling in the main lodge area and reduce congestion on busy days. An outdoor exit to the beginner slope will be added adjacent to the north side addition, creating a third access point for the lodge.

The service counter for the cafeteria will be moved from its current location, where it partially blocks traffic from the main entrance, around a corner to the side of the building closest to the Sonnet Chairlift to improve flow both for diners and for skiers and snowboarders coming and going through the entrance.

The ticket area and sports shop in the lodge will be remodeled, as will the main entrance, "to create a clear sense of entry."

The association has set an aggressive timetable and hopes to have the projects done before the snow falls next winter.

“The hope and plan is to raise all the money in time to start construction in May and complete all projects in October,” said Stringer. “We don’t want to do phases; doing anything individually will add more cost.”

Major fundraising announcements are expected in the next few weeks, he said.

Enclosure of the two deck spaces and construction of a new interior stairwell is budgeted at $400,000. The locker room/rental shop swap will cost $200,000 and foundation work for the newly enclosed spaces will be $160,000. Kitchen work is estimated at $80,000. Exterior painting of the entire building will cost $175,000 and roofing will be $71,000. The $1.4 million figure includes a 15 percent contingency and other upgrades.

Stringer said construction expenses on the mountain are higher than in the valley due to transportation costs and the need for materials that can withstand the rigors of the altitude.

“All these costs have the 6,500-foot price on them because of the significance of doing construction at high altitude,” he said.

For more information and floor plans, see www.mtashland.com/2017-lodge-improvements.

Tony Boom is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com.