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NOW there's snow!

Nearly 2 feet fell in two days, and storms are expected to continue into the New Year

ASHLAND ' After acting like Scrooge reluctantly dispensing snow this holiday season, Mother Nature is finally getting into the Christmas spirit.

She dumped nearly 2 feet of snow on the Mount Ashland ski and snowboard area in the past 48 hours, bringing the base to 49 inches by Monday.

First, we don't have anything, then we have all these storms, observed Gene Landsmann, Ski Ashland's marketing director.

He wasn't complaining about the snow, although officials at the community-owned facility weren't too keen about the fact the recent blustery storm knocked out the power to the ski area.

We're eager to open, he said late Monday afternoon.

There is now enough snow to open, but it will take about 48 hours for Ski Ashland crews to prepare the ski area once power is restored. Pacific Power crews were working on restoring power Monday.

We have a (Ski Ashland) crew up on the mountain evaluating the snow conditions and checking on the infrastructure, Landsmann said. We had a battering storm in the last two days with a lot of high winds.

The roughly 200 seasonal workers employed by Ski Ashland, purchased by the community in 1992, have to do everything from preparing the lodge to grooming the runs.

The snowstorms also snarled traffic in both directions on Interstate 5 at the Siskiyou Summit. An accident in Northern California closed the southbound lanes briefly Monday afternoon and others inside Oregon caused problems as temperatures dropped Monday night.

About 50 miles to the southeast of Mount Ashland, folks at the Mount Shasta Board and Ski Park are preparing for a Wednesday opening.

The snowpack at the 6,600-foot elevation on Mount Shasta was 60 inches at last report Monday morning, with heavy snowfall continuing.

Some 50 air miles to the northeast of Mount Ashland, the snow level at the Crater Lake National Park headquarters is now 30 inches.

While that is more than the mere 10 inches on the ground five days ago, it is still well short of the average 48 inches for this time of year, according to a National Park Service spokesman.

With the National Weather Service predicting the snow level to drop as low as 2,000 feet today and mountain snowfall forecast into the weekend, Mount Ashland is expected to get plenty more snow by Christmas. Snow levels are expected to remain low through the week.

Moreover, storms are expected to continue marching through the region into the New Year, according to the weather service.

Although the average opening date for Ski Ashland is Dec. 10, Landsmann, who has worked for the ski area for more than 20 years, notes there is still plenty of time for a long ski season. The season usually continues through March.

The season didn't start until Feb. 17 in 1976, he observed.

Mount Shasta typically opens by Dec. 7, and stays open until mid-April.

Sunday marks the first day of winter.

We've got a nice snowpack now, Landsmann said, reiterating that the ski area will open once crews have it prepared for the season.

For more information on Ski Ashland snow conditions, call 482-2754 for an updated recording or visit mtashland.com on the Web.

Plow drivers did the best they could to clear the road to Mount Ashland on Monday after nearly 2 feet of snow fell over the weekend. The snow also caused some miserable driving conditions on the Siskiyou Summit. Mail Tribune / Roy Musitelli - Mail Tribune Roy Musitelli