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No word yet on whether Mt. Ashland will open Saturday

Mt. Ashland Ski Area officials still don't have an official word on whether the mountain's opening day will be Saturday.

General Manager Hiram Towle said about another foot of snow was needed to give an answer.

"We're going to need between 12 and 20 more inches for the coverage we need," Towle said late this afternoon.

Although forecasts are calling for about that amount of snow, Towle said it was too close to call without observing the mountain Friday to see how much snowfall it received overnight.

"We're going to need another day to assess," Towle said.

Snow blew past the mountain's live web camera for much of this afternoon, hiding the lodge and slopes from view. 

The National Weather Service in Medford said up to a foot of snow could fall on elevations above 5,500 feet by Friday. Areas between 4,500 and 5,500 feet could see up to 8 inches. The top of Mount Ashland sits at 7,533 feet.

Snow levels are expected to rise Saturday, followed by a steep drop on Sunday, with chances for additional snowfall close to the valley floor.  

The storm that began Wednesday night dropped as much as an inch of rain on some parts of the Rogue Valley by today. Meteorologist Brett Lutz said in the 24 hours prior to 5 p.m., .89 inches of rain were recorded at the Medford airport. Observers recorded as much as 1.55 inches of rain in Eagle Point and as low as 0.6 inches in Medford. Lutz said much of Ashland recorded a little over an inch of rain.

"We had some areas get a little more than an inch and others a little less," Lutz said.

Overnight wind gusts got up to 87 mph on Squaw Peak, while 39 mph gusts were recorded in Medford. 

Snow fell on several other higher elevations around the valley, including Dead Indian Memorial Road and Highway 140. Big Red Mountain, which meteorologist Brad Schaaf said typically sees comparable amounts of snowfall to Mount Ashland, saw 7 inches of new snow for a total of about 16 inches on the ground. Lutz said the gauge is located at 6,050 feet on the California side of the Siskiyous. He said a mixture of rain and snow falling on the mountain meant that snow didn't start accumulating until about 4 a.m. today.

Lutz said he saw that Mount Ashland had wind-scoured patches that had melted, but adequate snowpack in other areas.

"It just so happens I was out there picking up my pass today," Lutz said.

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/ryanpfeil.