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Mt. Ashland manager announces departure

Mt. Ashland Ski Area manager Hiram Towle is headed to a ski area in Bozeman, Montana. [File photo]
Mt. Ashland Ski Area General Manager Hiram Towle, right, is pictured on the mountain in this file photo. Towle announced plans this week to lead the Bridger Bowl Ski Area near Bozeman, Montana. [Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune]

Mt. Ashland Ski Area General Manager Hiram Towle is headed to Montana to run a larger nonprofit ski area eight years after helping transform the local powder mecca from a struggling business into a thriving one in good snow years and those not quite so.

Towle announced Thursday that he will be the new manager of the Bridger Bowl Ski Area near Bozeman.

The ski area’s board of directors said it will launch a nationwide search to replace Towle, who was lauded for his leadership skills and affable personality.

“It was unexpected and it’s difficult, but I am fortunate and grateful for the eight years we had him,” board President Curt Burrill said Thursday.

“He and his staff on Mt. Ashland were rock stars, and when you do that, people notice,” Burrill said.

The ski area began in 1964 and has been a nonprofit for more than 20 years, often struggling financially amid low snow years.

During Towle’s time, the ski area’s finances improved along with infrastructure improvements such as the overhaul of the lodge as well as improved snow-grooming equipment.

“He helped get us to a place we’ve never been before,” Burrill said.

Towle did not immediately return telephone calls seeking comment Thursday.

Towle announced is departure Thursday morning in what he said was his final “Hiram on the Hill” post on Facebook.

Bridger Bowl covers about 2,000 acres and includes eight chairlifts, four lodges and is the benefactor of an average of 350 inches of snow annually, according to its website.

“If he were to leave us, that’s where I’d like to see him go,” Burrill said.

Burrill said the Mt. Ashland board will launch a nationwide search, and he believes it should draw exceptional talent.

However, because the West’s ski season begins in less than three months, Burrill said a new general manager might not be in place when Mt. Ashland’s ski lifts start spinning later this year.

“We might find the right person, and we may have to wait for that person to come to us,” Burrill said.

“The mountain will open whether there is a general manager or a interim general manager,” Burrill said. “Hopefully, it will be in a way that no one sees a hiccup there.”

Mark Freeman covers the outdoors for the Mail Tribune. Reach him at 5451-776-4470 or email him at mfreeman@rosebudmedia.com.