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Skiers left to wait for opener at Ashland

The weather-watching wait is on for eager skiers, who hope storms loomingoff the Oregon Coast will bring enough snow to allow Ski Ashland to opensoon.

Warm weekend rains shrank the snowpack in Southern Oregon and NorthernCalifornia. Ski Ashland had just 14 inches of snow near the lodge on Monday,down from 18 inches last week.

Officials had hoped to open Ski Ashland on Wednesday but didn't get enoughsnow over the weekend.

It looks like a no-go, Ski Ashland spokesman Gene Landsmannsaid Monday. We are still a very good storm away from being able toconsider it. The weather has been miserable but it hasn't produced much.

Only an inch of snow fell at the lodge between Sunday morning and Mondaymorning. To open, Ski Ashland needs 24-30 inches of snow -- depending onits water-content -- at the lodge.

Forecasters were expecting Monday's storms to bring — to 5 inches ofnew snow above 4,000 feet, and more snow was expected to fall above 5,500feet today. The ski lodge at Mount Ashland lies at 6,350 feet.

Once the snow arrives, the facility needs to be groomed and the crewassembled before the park is ready for skiers.

We need at least 24 to 48 hours after we have the snow before wecan open up, says Landsmann.

Ski Ashland opened Dec. 12 last year and the average opening date isDec. 10. The last time the park opened for Thanksgiving was 1995, when skiingbegan Nov. 16.

We are still early but the extra bonus is clearly Thanksgiving,says Landsmann.

The Mt. Shasta Ski Park, which opened last week after an early seasonstorm, had about 18 inches of snow at the lodge Monday, and about threefeet at the top of the ski area.

Some Rogue Valley skiers couldn't wait for Ski Ashland and headed southto over the weekend, according to Rogue Ski Shop owner Bob Matthews.

The shop has been bustling in recent days with skiers readying theirequipment -- and wishing they could ski at Ashland rather than make thetwo-hour drive.

You get a bunch of people that are frustrated that they can't goto Ashland, Matthews said. That's only a half-hour drive. Thenational average drive time is three hours. This community has gotten usedto having things in its backyard.

He said lack of snow at Ski Ashland won't keep avid skiers from the slopes.

The skier that's a real serious skier or snowboarder is going toski their 20-30 days a year, Matthews said. They just changewhere they go.

A few cross-country skier ventured onto trails over the weekend at CraterLake National Park, where there was about 21 inches of snow on the ground,said park dispatcher Andrea Coulter.

Bill Kettler of the Mail Tribune contributed to this story.

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