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Storm invigorates Mt. Ashland staff, guests to work, play hard

The storms that have pummeled Oregon over the past week meant skiers could once again break out the gear and head to the slopes. For many employees at the Mt. Ashland Ski & Snowboarding Resort, it also meant they would once again be receiving a paycheck.

"I think the whole staff is happy to be back," said training director Linda Parazoo. "It was just nice to see the forecast —… when I saw that it was solid, I just thought, 'Oh, finally.' "

The 17-day closure, which affected about 125 workers, didn't strain her financially, said Parazoo, who also works two days a week as a surgical assistant for Oregon Oral and Facial Surgeons in Roseburg.

But for other employees, the temporary layoff was tougher to weather. "This is their livelihood," said Kim Clark, ski area general manager. "It's how many of them make a living."

Most of Mt. Ashland's employees weren't immediately called back but will be rotated into the schedule as the season progresses. "It looks like everybody's coming back "… so I'm sure they're all looking forward to getting back on the snow," Clark said.

"But you have to staff to what you need "… and you have some people that just work particular shifts."

He said about 50 employees were called back for Thursday's opening, the first chance skiers and snowboarders have had to ride the mountain since it closed Jan. 2 because of lack of snow. A handful of workers were called back on Wednesday to prepare the ski area for the incoming storm, said Clark.

"This is what we've all been waiting for," he said. "We told our employees and guests that this was a temporary closure and the weather has finally come through. —… We're looking forward to some good snow."

Thursday's reopening also was the first opportunity for students in the After School Ski Program and the snowboarding class at Southern Oregon University to ride on the slopes — an unusually long wait, Parazoo said.

As of Friday afternoon, the ski area had received 2 feet of snow since the storms arrived, bringing its total to 36 to 65 inches. The mountain is operating on its regular Thursday-through-Monday skiing schedule, staying open until 4 p.m. except on Thursday and Friday, when it offers night skiing until 9 p.m.

"Everyone's excited for us to reopen again," said Monica Farnsworth, who works in administrative support for Mt. Ashland. "The phones are ringing off the hook." Thursday was Parazoo's first day back on the slopes of Mount Ashland since the closure.

"The weather is one thing this industry always depends on, we all know that," said Parazoo, who also has worked at Willamette Ski Area and Mount Bachelor during her 15-year career at ski areas. "But we obviously like the work, or we wouldn't choose to work in this industry."

Reach Daily Tidings reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-499-1470 or email swheeler@dailytidings.com.

James Bowcock loads guests onto the Windsor chairlift Thursday morning at Mt. Ashland Ski & Snowboarding Resort. “I think the whole staff is happy to be back,” said Training Director Linda Parazoo. “It was just nice to see the forecast … when I saw that it was solid, I just thought, ‘Oh, finally.’ ”