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Mount Ashland will be open next weekend

Mount Ashland had some tough competition over the weekend from the Pear Blossom Festival, but enough skiers and snowboarders visited the mountain to extend the season one more weekend.

Ski area managers had promised to open the resort April 17-18 if 1,500 people showed up on Saturday and Sunday. General manager Kim Clark said the counter passed the magic number by early afternoon.

All lifts will operate, weather permitting, during the bonus weekend, and all regular guest services such as equipment rental and food and beverage service will be available. Lessons are the only service that will not be offered on the extra weekend.

Clark said Saturday was a bluebird day on the mountain, but Sunday turned blustery, with fog, wind and spitting snow — what riders call "a Mount Ashland day." The Ariel chairlift had to be closed around 1:30 p.m. because of high winds.

Work ended Sunday for seasonal employees such as lift operators and kitchen staff. Managers and supervisors will staff chairlifts, flip burgers, park cars, and pour drinks in the bar on the bonus days.

Riders found ample snow everywhere on the mountain during what would have been the final weekend, and plenty of freshly groomed runs. Spring storms over the past week delivered 15 inches of additional snow. There was 92 inches on the ground at the lodge and 134 inches near the summit.

Although April can bring great skiing, Mount Ashland and many other many ski areas typically shut down this time of year because their many of their customers turn to other kinds of recreation when spring takes hold. There is no required closing date in the operating permit issued to Mount Ashland by the U.S. Forest Service.

This is the third consecutive year that skiers and riders have met the challenge to extend the season. Owners of limited weekday season passes can use them on the bonus weekend at no charge.

Reach reporter Bill Kettler at 541-776-4492, or e-mail bkettler@mailtribune.com.