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Mt. Ashland hopeful for Dec. 10 opening — or earlier

Mount Ashland is shooting for a Dec. 10 opening date, roughly its historical average opening day, but with snow already falling on the mountain this week and more in the forecast, officials are watching closely to see whether conditions merit opening earlier.

"People should definitely stay tuned, because this time of year it happens very quickly," said ski park General Manager Hiram Towle. "It'll be a relatively quick decision."

It might be sooner than later. By Sunday, National Weather Service meteorologist Ryan Sandler says, snowfall could total 2 feet at the lodge, with 1 or 2 more feet higher up.

"Now look at that weather forecast," the mountain's official Twitter account proclaimed in a Wednesday Tweet.

On Wednesday morning, the Mount Ashland webcam showed slopes already blanketed in white near the lodge as good-sized flakes sprinted past the lens.

A series of fronts are forecast to move through the region the rest of the week, with rain and snow expected from Thanksgiving night through Friday night, the National Weather Service said. The agency issued a winter weather advisory from 10 p.m. Thursday to 10 p.m. Friday.

By Saturday night, up to 6 inches could fall on the Siskiyou Summit, with 12 to 18 inches possible at Crater Lake, Diamond Lake and higher peaks over the same three-day period. Mount Ashland could see as much as 20 additional inches, weather officials said.

Trace amounts of snow fell as low as 1,500 feet in Jackson County Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. From 1 to 3 inches fell at the 4,000- to 4,500-foot level, while areas at 5,000 to 5,500 feet saw up to 10 inches. Crater Lake saw 9 inches of snow overnight.

Oregon Department of Transportation officials say holiday travelers should be prepared. Travel on a full tank of gas and pack water, snacks and blankets. ODOT spokesman Jared Castle said motorists should also have tire chains at the ready and know how to put them on. So practice before you head out, maybe again after turkey time before you head home, he said.

"They highly recommend that you get a little exercise after you eat a full meal," Castle said.

But even with the chilly and wet forecast, Mount Ashland probably won't open this weekend, Towle said, because the ski park still needs to hire seasonal staff. Mountain staffers also know not to get their hopes up. Heavy snow on the ground is the clincher, not heavy snow in the forecast.

"We've been fooled before by Mother Nature," Towle said.

Last year, the park opened Dec. 13 and was open for 88 days. More than 68,000 skiers and snowboarders hit the slopes by season's end in mid-April. Towle said he's hopeful for a repeat of that success.

— Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/ryanpfeil.

George Kolby, left, and Margaret Robinson run through fresh snow Wednesday at Mount Ashland. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch