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Mt. Ashland Ski Area to open one lift Friday

ASHLAND — Thanks to recent snowfall, Mt. Ashland will open for the season on Friday, Dec. 19, beginning at 9 a.m. on a limited basis.

The ski area will offer beginner terrain on the Sonnet chairlift with $7 lift tickets. Lesson and rentals will be available and the Sonnet terrain park will have a few features set up, officials said. With more snow in the forecast, additional terrain on the ski area's 222 acres will be opened as conditions permit.

“We have received enough snow to safely operate the beginner area,” Mt. Ashland General Manager Hiram Towle said in a news release. “We invite everyone to come on up, take a few runs and watch SOU’s first appearance in the college National Championship, which will be on the flat screens in the bar.”

As of Wednesday morning, Mt. Ashland reported a 10-inch base, with a 20-inch depth at the top. A decision about next week’s operations will be made over the weekend. The ski area typically needs a base of 18-24 inches to open the whole mountain.

"We know we have the Sonnet going, and the crews are trying to move some snow around to see if we can get another opened up," said Sales and Marketing Director Jamie Schectman. "We're cautiously optimistic — there's an infectious enthusiasm in the air."

Mike Petrucelli, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Medford, said the mountain could see more snow this weekend.

"Don't expect anything really significant up that way in terms of snow amounts until we get into Thursday night," he said. "The snow level at that point should be around 6,000 feet,  but it should be coming down to around 5,000 feet Friday morning."

Petrucelli said it's hard to say exactly how much snowfall to expect, but said a ballpark figure would be 3-6 inches at the base.

"We'll have another storm coming in Saturday, and at that point I think the snow accumulation will start to creep up," he said.

Hopes were high Wednesday afternoon at Rogue Ski Shop in Medford, where more than a dozen customers were packed around the counter with skis, snowboards and outerwear in hand. Shop owner Bob Matthews described the ski area as vital to the Rogue Valley's winter ambience.

"There are a lot of families in the valley that can't afford to pay $800 to take the whole family to Mt. Bachelor," he said, ringing up a pair of skis for a customer. "They're not going to give up on their local mountain."

Mt. Ashland will broadcast the Southern Oregon University Raiders' first national championship game, against the Marian, Ind., Knights, starting at noon. The eighth-ranked SOU will face the seventh-ranked Marian in Daytona Beach, Fla., for the 59th NAIA championship.

Reach reporter Thomas Moriarty at tmoriarty@mailtribune.com. Follow him at @ThomasDMoriarty.