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Mt. Ashland sets forth plan for season

In his first report to the Mt. Ashland Ski Area board of directors, new General Manager Hiram Towle announced “$99-per-carload Mondays” for up to seven passengers, an attempt to boost the resort's weakest day and help shrink its carbon footprint.

The long, expensive and sometimes controversial parking lot paving will be done Wednesday, and summer weddings are looking busy, Towle said. A hefty 1,200 responses were filed by the public on where Mt. Ashland should go in its next 50 years. Those answers will be made public soon.

Mt. Ashland celebrated its 50th anniversary last season and had books for sale about its history, but since the resort didn't open, few people saw the books or celebrated the date. The association will try to make up for that this year, members said.

Despite last year’s non-opening, season pass sale volume is on par with normal, but providing about half the revenue because last season's pass-holders were allowed to pay half this year, said Emily Parrish, director of Mt. Ashland guest services.

The ski area is getting boosts from several directions. The resort's restaurant at Howard Prairie Lake served 800 meals to firefighters at their fire camp there last month. In addition, Mt. Ashland got an anonymous stock gift valued at almost $10,000, as well as two bequests totaling $55,000, said Michael Stringer, interim development director. A high-mileage Chevy Suburban was given to the company and will be sold.

Lithia Motors will donate design of a new logo and website, said board member Alan DeBoer. As part of its broadening of its mission and image, the association plans to forge a new “DNA statement,” defining “who we are and what we promise,” said Mt Ashland marketing director Christine Cook. “It’s basically branding, so if we say we’re stewards of the environment, we’re going to act like it,” and the same when it comes to aiding people with disabilities, she said.

As part of the overall belt-tightening to deal with the non-season — and a massive $750,000 loan from the Small Business Administration — Mt. Ashland is saving $20,000 by getting new competitive bids on its insurance, said board member Annette Batzer. It was too late this year to get insurance against weather, she said.

Jeff Works resigned from the board because he works for a consulting firm the resort has hired. He will be a “non-voting member,” he said, adding that, despite the lean past season, “we’re in a relatively good cash position, but it’s because we borrowed a lot of money. We’re looking really closely at running an extremely tight ship until we know if the snow is going to fly.”

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.