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Bring your own lodge

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Skiing and snowboarding this winter on Mount Ashland will have much of the flavor of 2020 — right down to the masks and social distancing.

And that includes BYOL, as in Bring Your Own Lodge.

Skiers and snowboarders will need to be as self-contained as possible when Mt. Ashland Ski Area opens as early as next weekend.

And that even means riding singles on the chairlifts to the summit.

“We generally ask you to share a ride if you’re alone, but this is a totally different year with coronavirus, so you’ll be encouraged to ride alone if you don’t show up with any ski buddies,” ski area Manager Hiram Towle says.

Even with social distancing precautions, the mountain is expected to be the next great snow-white outlet for area residents stuck in their homes for much of the week.

“It’s a great, healthy, outdoor release, especially with the pandemic,” Towle says. “What better way to get over your quarantine fatigue? We’ll end up a healthy outlet for a lot of people. Healthy minds, healthy bodies. That’s what skiing provides.”

The ski area’s targeted opener is Dec. 12, but that will depend heavily on whether enough of the right snow falls between now and then to create good and safely ridable slopes.

And when it does, the Mt. Ashland experience won’t even start on Mount Ashland.

“Everything is going to start on your phone or your home computer,” Towle says.

Skiers and snowboarders will need to purchase lift tickets online, then redeem them for a pass at one of two kiosks in the parking lot. That will help reduce money transfers and still allow staff to monitor the numbers of skiers on the slopes at any given time to ensure proper social distancing.

Some ski areas have gone to a reservation system for pass holders, and while that’s a possibility, Towle says he doesn’t see that as likely.

Season passes cost $424 for adults, $374 for juniors aged 13 to 17, and $214 for youths ages 7 to 12.

When the ski area opens, expect a different scene at chairlifts that are set up to run regularly, but differently.

Riders will be required to wear facial coverings, but the vast majority already do, Towle says.

Expect to ride chairlifts only next to people with whom you came to the mountain, he says.

If you show up alone, expect to ride the lift alone.

The ski area will not offer its free bus service from Ashland nor its twilight skiing Thursday and Friday nights.

Plans are to open the lodge, but in a far more limited way.

Visitors in all buildings will be required to wear facial coverings, and traffic inside the lodge will be limited, largely focusing on rentals and kid skiers.

That means the parking lot is more than just a place to stash your rig. It will be your lodge.

Visitors need to be very self-contained.

The ski area’s lodge largely will be open for staff, rentals and kid groups, Towle says.

“The rest of us, we’re hardcore skiers and we’ll be doing this old-school,” Towle says. “Consider your vehicle to be your lodge.”

That means food, extra blankets, plenty of water and enough gas to cover your idling while your toes defrost.

As for drinks, be it hot cocoa or something with a little more kick to it, you need to schlep it up the access road yourself.

“We can’t serve it to you in the lodge, so you have to bring it yourself,” Towle says.

In the end, skiing and snowboarding are the main draws of Mt. Ashland in winter, and consider that as good as it gets in the year of COVID-19.

“This year it’s all about the outdoors, not the indoors,” Towle says.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.

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Mail Tribune/File PhotoSkiers ride the Sonnet chairlift at Mt. Ashland.