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Hire 'em and pray for snow

Seasonal workers have flocked back to the Mt. Ashland Ski Area for the coming winter, despite last year's failure to open.

The ski area was able to fill all its seasonal job openings. It has about 150 employees ready to go once enough snow falls to open the ski area, said Jamie Schectman, director of sales and marketing.

That employment number is comparable to past years, he said.

The mountain has a few inches of snow so far.

Last winter, the Mt. Ashland Ski Area was unable to open because of historically low snowpack. It took out a $750,000 Small Business Administration lifeline loan in the spring to stay afloat.

Schectman said there was a great turnout at a Nov. 13 job fair.

"The sentiment of potential employees is cautious optimism. Last year's not opening was the first time in 50 years that happened. If you're a statistician, that's a 1-in-50 chance of that happening, or 2 percent," he said.

Seasonal employees who weren't able to go to work at the ski area last winter were left scrambling to find last-minute alternate jobs.

Many seasonal employees return year after year to the ski area. Schectman said a substantial majority of repeat winter employees are back for the season despite last year's lack of snow.

Meanwhile, the nonprofit ski area has launched a $50,000 crowdfunding campaign using Indiegogo, a popular Internet fundraising site.

Launched on Nov. 21, the campaign had netted $6,000 as of Wednesday.

Money from the campaign, which runs until Dec. 15, will be used to fund improvements to the ski lodge, food service and bar. It will also help the ski area stage more events, such as live music performances, ski officials said.

A summer survey that drew 1,200 respondents showed 53 percent of people wanted better quality and healthier food, 33 percent wanted lodge upgrades and 25 percent wanted an expanded bar area.

Creating more and longer ski runs was a priority for only 12 percent of respondents. The ski area has been bogged in controversy for more than a decade over a multimillion-dollar plan to expand the number and length of ski runs. It lacks money to carry out the expansion.

People who donate to the crowdfunding campaign will receive perks such as stickers, T-shirts, hooded sweatshirts and ski passes, depending on their level of contribution.

The clothing is emblazoned with the ski area's new logo, which features the letters "Mt" in black sliding down the steep leg of a large blue letter "A." The logo also proclaims, "Local Mountain Fun Since 1964."

"This is the first opportunity people will have to purchase merchandise with our new logo," Schectman said.

Crowdfunding campaigns typically give out merchandise or prizes to donors.

For more information about the Mt. Ashland Ski Area fundraising campaign, visit https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-next-50-years-of-mt-ashland/.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-776-4486 or valdous@mailtribune.com.

Whiteout conditions hound the Mt. Ashland Ski Area Wednesday. Managers and new employees are cautiously optimistic the mountain will open this year after lack of snow prevented operations in 2013-14. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch