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Mount Ashland will hold off on closing date

For skiers and snowboarders, winter&

s big party will last a little longer.

Ski areas on Mount Ashland and Mount Shasta will remain open past their original April 9 closing dates to take advantage of bountiful snow, and forecasters said more snow could be on the way today and Wednesday.

Mount Shasta will operate daily through Sunday, April 16, adding a full week to its season. Mount Ashland will add two days: it will close at the end of the day on Sunday, April 9; remain closed that Monday through Friday; and reopen for the weekend of April 15-16.

Skiers and snowboarders provided the impetus to keep the chairlifts running, said Rick Saul, Mount Ashland&

s marketing director.

&

People kept asking us (if we were going to extend the season),&

Saul said. &

There&

s still a lot of energy and pent-up demand.&

On Monday, Mount Ashland had 10 feet of snow on the ground at the lodge and more than 14 feet at the summit. Mount Shasta had nearly 9 feet at the lodge and 12 feet at the top of its Coyote Butte chairlift, the highest point in the ski area.

Snow-measuring stations across the Rogue and Umpqua basins had similar eye-popping numbers. The water content of the snow in the combined Rogue-Umpqua basins stood at 154 percent of average for late March, and total precipitation was 135 percent of average.

Saul said Mount Ashland traditionally closes at the end of the second weekend in April, even if there is ample snow to continue skiing, because many skiers and snowboarders turn to other activities when days get warmer and the sun comes out.

&

Once we get into spring, we have to compete with golfing and tennis and biking and gardening,&

he said.

Spring weather has been so scarce this year that many people are still interested in winter sports, Saul said.

As of Monday, Mount Ashland had measured 331 inches of snow, the most since the winter of 1998-99, when 325 inches fell. (Total snowfall is larger than the snowpack because snow compresses as it accumulates, and rain can further reduce its volume.)

Saul said the extra-deep snow has changed the terrain on Mount Ashland. Chutes in the glacial cirque at the summit are much wider now because the extra snow has covered the rocks that usually define them, and big rocks that skiers and snowboarders used as launch pads for jumps have disappeared completely under the snow.

Winter started late on Mount Shasta, but more than 8 feet of snow fell at the resort during the first two weeks in March, and snow depth is about 130 percent of average, said Gene Landsmann, marketing director.

Landsmann said Mount Shasta had barely enough snow to remain open during the busy Christmas holidays, which often account for as much as 20 percent of a ski area&

s income for the entire season. The ski area had to make artificial snow to keep its ski trails covered.

&

Another day or two of warm rain and we would have been finished,&

Landsmann said. &

Artificial snow is what saved us.&

He noted that ski areas all over the Northwest have enjoyed deep snow this winter, one year after warm, dry weather forced many to curtail their operations and some to close altogether.

&

You never know in this business,&

he said. &

It&

s feast or famine.&

Skiers and snowboarders who want the feast to continue beyond April 16 will have to travel to Mount Hood or Mount Bachelor. Mount Hood Meadows will remain open until April 30 if there is adequate snow, and Mount Bachelor will operate through May 28, the last Sunday in the month, &

snow willing.&