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Mt. Ashland's big year

Mount Ashland Ski Area Manager Hiram Towle says an increase in skiers visiting from California is part of the reason for the publicly owned resort’s hugely successful season. Plenty of snow helped as well, after low-snow seasons two of the last three.

Much of the credit, however, goes to the Mount Ashland Association board, which implemented a series of changes to weather low-snow years without endangering the ski area’s survival. After the wake-up call of the 2013-14 season, when the mountain never opened for lack of snow, the board set out to build a financial cushion and to take steps to operate on more days when snow depths are less than optimal.

Those steps included new loading ramps for two chairlifts that can function with only an inch of snow, trimming vegetation to remove obstacles on the slopes and installing snow fences to stop snow from blowing away.

Mount Ashland’s comparatively affordable lift ticket prices helped attract the aforementioned California skiers, who are accustomed to paying more than $100 a day at Lake Tahoe resorts. Mount Ashland’s $52 adult walkup ticket for weekend and holiday days is a bargain by comparison.

The board’s goal of having $800,000 in reserve on Dec. 1 in case of a low snow season was met and more this year, with $1.1 to $1.2 million forecast to be on hand to start the 2019-2020 season.

Hats off to Towle and the board for working to ensure Southern Oregon’s community-owned ski area stays financially healthy regardless of the weather.