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Not yet, skiers! Mount Ashland snow falls short

Rain on Thanksgiving Day brought minimal snow to Mount Ashland, so skiers and snowboarders will have to wait at least until next weekend for their first runs of the season.

Only 1 inch of new snow fell overnight, leaving Southern Oregon's ski area 15 to 20 inches short needed to open, according to the ski area Web site.

The storm dropped nearly 2 inches of rain at Brookings, but less than a quarter of an inch in Medford. Early season storms have tended to bypass Southern Oregon, dropping most of their moisture farther north. As of Friday, the Medford airport rain gauge has collected just 1.93 inches of rain since Sept. 1, which is 2.67 inches below the average total through Nov. 26. The Mount Ashland business office was closed Friday, but its Web site reported 13 to 16 inches of snow on the ground around the lodge, and as much as 24 inches at higher elevations. Additional snow is needed to cover rocks, brush and other hazards.

Historically, the ski area's average opening date over four-plus decades has been Dec. 10, although it didn't open until Dec. 20 the past two winters.

The extended outlook doesn't offer much encouragement for the snow sports crowd. Forecasters were expecting cooler temperatures, but there was no rain in sight through Friday.

There's ample snow at Crater Lake National Park for cross-country skiers and snowshoers — the National Park Service reported 24 inches on the ground Friday at the park headquarters, below the rim.

Whenever the snow comes to Mount Ashland, the ski will operate only on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 13. Beginning Friday, Dec. 18, it will operate daily — snow permitting — through Monday, Jan. 4, for the Christmas holidays, and then begin regular Thursday-through-Monday operations.

Managers decided to close the ski area on Tuesdays and Wednesdays to trim operating costs.

Mount Ashland is the only major ski area in Oregon waiting for enough snow to open. As of Friday, Mount Bachelor had 4 inches of new snow and 38 inches at mid-mountain; Mount Hood Meadows had 1 inch of new and a 47-inch base; and Timberline had 3 inches of new and a 65-inch base.

The Mount Shasta Board & Ski Park's Web cam showed a mix of light snow and bare earth at the lodge.

Reach reporter Bill Kettler at 776-4492 or e-mail bkettler@mailtribune.com.