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Mt. Ashland Ski Area: Low snow closes 'bunny hill' chairlift for beginning skiers

The Mt. Ashland Ski Area shut down its beginner hill chairlift Monday because of a lack of snow, but other chairlifts remain open serving intermediate and expert slopes.

Most of the Sonnet beginner's run, which is served by the Sonnet chairlift, is closed. But beginning skiers and snowboarders can still use a smaller section of the run served by a rope tow, said Hiram Towle, general manager for the ski area.

The Sonnet hill is frequently swept by winds and gets more afternoon sunshine than the north-facing intermediate and expert runs served by the Comer, Windsor and Ariel chairlifts.

"We've had a snow deficit on the learning terrain and around the parking lot. Our team has been moving snow onto the beginner's slope, but we ran out of snow to bring there," Towle said.

Along with other newbies, beginners from a large school group used the rope tow section of Sonnet Monday. Those who could demonstrate their ability to stop and turn graduated to the intermediate runs served by the Comer chairlift, Towle said.

Since the closure of the Sonnet chairlift, beginner ski lessons are confined to the area served by the rope tow, he said.

Snow that fell on the mountain more than a week ago has shown staying power on the intermediate and expert slopes despite the spring-like weather. The base snow depth was 21 inches and the upper snow depth was 56 inches Monday. The inch counts have shown little shrinkage since the last snowfall.

"The upper mountain is holding up great. It's remarkable how well the snow holds because of the north-facing slopes," Towle said.

Bare spots are beginning to show on routes leading to the bottoms of the Comer, Windsor and Ariel chairlifts, but they are still easily avoidable and can be covered with snow during grooming, he said.

Towle said Mt. Ashland managers are fielding questions about whether the ski area is still open.

"The plan is to stay open until we say otherwise. We're not only open, skiing is great on most parts of the mountain," he said.

As part of an ongoing Saturday afternoon concert series to draw more visitors to the mountain, singer and guitarist Jeff Kloetzel will play from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday in the ski area lodge.

On Saturday night, the ski area will hold its annual Bavarian Night fundraiser to benefit the Mt. Ashland Ski Patrol. The event features night skiing from 4 to 9 p.m., raffle prizes, beer, bratwurst, live music with Encore Five and fireworks.

For more information about events and conditions, visit www.mtashland.com or call the snow phone at 541-482-2754.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-776-4486 or valdous@mailtribune.com. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.