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Low snow shuts down ski area again

The Mt. Ashland Ski Area will be closed at least through Thursday due to a lack of snow.

The ski area is normally closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and will be closed those days. But rather than reopening for the week on Thursday, the ski area will remain shut down.

Ski managers will evaluate the situation on Thursday to see if the resort can open again on Friday, said Jamie Schectman, director of sales and marketing for the ski area.

The announcement of Thursday's closure revives bad memories of last winter, when the ski area was unable to open for the entire season due to a lack of snow. There's little chance of snow in the forecast in coming days and warmer weather could eat into the existing base. The area on Monday was listing snow depths of 18 to 31 inches, but many of the more heavily used runs have been skied down considerably below that.

"We desperately need snow. We have a lot of rocks. We had to close the Ariel chairlift today," Schectman said on Monday evening, referring to the chairlift that carries skiers and snowboarders to the top of the ski area for access to the longest runs.

Runs served by the Ariel chairlift had been open, with a warning about early season conditions. Ski area managers had urged people to use their old "rock" skis or snowboards. 

Schectman said cold weather could return to the mountain on Thursday night. Ski workers need cold nights for the snow to freeze and set, allowing snow groomers to travel over the surface without damaging the snowpack.

"If you put a heavy groomer on it, it messes the snow up," he said.

Although the ski area lacked deep snow over the critical Christmas and New Year's holiday break, many skiers and snowboarders came to the mountain to enjoy what snow was there, Schectman said.

"We had a great Christmas holiday considering the product we had to work with," he said. "We had a lot of great feedback from the community. It was the first time they had gotten to ski in 20 months. It was nice to have the community be thankful and grateful and excited."

The ski area launched Carload Mondays this week to encourage people to come on traditionally slow Mondays in an environmentally responsible way. A whole vehicle-load of people — up to seven — can ski for $99. Everyone in the car must be able to wear a seatbelt.

The Carload Mondays special is not available on Jan. 19 or Feb. 16.

"We had a few carloads on Monday," Schectman said. "It was a quiet day after the holidays."

He said he hopes more people will take advantage of the offer in the future.

For updates on snow conditions and open days, call the ski area snow phone at 541-482-2754 or visit www.mtashland.com.

The National Weather Service is forecasting high temperatures in the lower 50s or 60s on Tuesday and Wednesday, with high temperatures dropping to the 40s or 50s later in the week in the Siskiyous. A chance of rain or snow is predicted for Sunday night and next Monday.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-776-4486 or valdous@mailtribune.com. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.