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Early snow day

Some 1,000 skiers and snowboarders held celebratory runs down Mt. Ashland Sunday morning after the ski resort opened a week earlier than normal.

"There's a little bit of rain, but it's a blast up here," Travis Matsdorf said. "Everybody is having fun."

The 39-year-old Ashland resident, who brought his 8-year-old son, Isaac, for a day on the slopes picked up a season pass.

The ski area was set to open Dec. 10 but a four-inch snowfall last Tuesday, with more in the forecast, pushed the date up. Last year the ski park opened Dec. 13, but in 2014-15, Mt. Ashland opened for only 38 days, and in 2013-14, the ski park was closed because of lack of snow.

"We're excited to have it rolling this early," General Manager Hiram Towle said.

Despite an early morning mist that made the snow a little wetter, Towle got a report at the lodge Sunday afternoon that it was snowing on top of the mountain.

More snow was expected last night on Mt. Ashland through Tuesday morning, according to the National Weather Service Service in Medford. Snow could fall on the valley floor late Monday night and Tuesday.

With 130 employees as well as volunteers the popular local ski resort pushed to have everything open Sunday, with the Ariel lift in the upper mountain possibly opening on Thursday.

By early afternoon, 1,000 visitors had shown up, which was more than last year.

"It was a good day financially, plus we're selling lots of season passes," Towle said.

Starting Sunday, the ski area is operating on its regular five-day schedule and is closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The ski area will be open seven days a week during the winter holiday break, between Dec. 19 and Jan. 2.

For opening day, the ski area held a "Day Onesie" promotion, in which skiers wearing a one-piece ski outfit or costume received lift tickets at the discounted rate of $25. Normal weekend rates are $49 for adults, $39 for youths ages 7 to 12 and free for children and seniors.

Snow depths were just over two feet around the ski lifts on Sunday.

"The snow's ok, but kind of heavy," Aaron Bolenbaugh said.

The 33-year-old Phoenix resident said the crowds weren't too bad and the lifts were moving quickly.

Like a lot of visitors, Bolenbaugh was surprised that it was relatively warm at the mountain without the wind.

"It almost felt warmer in town than up here," he said.

— Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.

A pair of snowboarders unload from the Comber lift at Mt. Ashland's opening day Sunday morning. Photo by Andy Atkinson
Mt. Ashland General Manager Horam Towle (front right) and a guest load the Windsor lift at opening day Sunday morning. Photo by Andy Atkinson