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Restoring inner beauty

MOUNT ASHLAND — Not a single old skiing artifact was found when workers tore into the 53-year-old Mt. Ashland ski lodge for renovation, but the work has uncovered beautiful old-growth wood and views of the soaring interior that will greet guests next winter.

“Not even an old trail map,” area General Manager Hiram Towle said during a tour Friday. But the project is on schedule, within budget and will showcase the original architect’s vision.

Completion will add 1,000 square feet to the lodge by enclosing two decks, relocating the rental shop and creating better guest services. Work began in mid-July and is scheduled to end by Nov. 22. Opening day is set for Dec. 9.

A couple of changes have been made to the plans. A vestibule has been added for access to the new basement rental shop, and large wooden lockers in the basement will be installed in the former rental shop instead of being replaced with new, smaller units.

The main lodge floor will be more open, with the stairway relocated to one of the enclosed decks. False ceilings are being removed in several areas.

“I don’t want it to look like a school cafeteria. It needs to look like a ski lodge,” said Towle.

Pulling out a false ceiling right above the bar revealed tight-grained, old Douglas fir that will be finished and left exposed. A false ceiling in the bar seating area was removed and revealed a cathedral-like interior.

An agreement with the U.S. Forest Service and the Oregon State Historic Preservation Office to keep the historic character of the lodge has helped reveal the work of architect Bob Bosworth, said Towle.

“(The agreement) was so essential to getting a handle on what the beauty of the building was and getting it back to that,” said Towle.

Creation of the vestibule and reinforcing that area under one of the newly enclosed decks has added $36,000 to costs. But an anonymous donation of $20,000 from a couple who have supported the area and the Mt. Ashland Racing Association in the past helped with the expense. The donors saw the value of a vestibule rather than the proposed shed roof, said Towle. Reusing current lockers saved $40,000 budgeted for new ones.

Donors have given $1,015,000 so far to support the effort. Additional money needed for the work will be taken from reserves and replenished as the drive continues.

“Mainly it has been people making donations to match the Karen and Sid DeBoer Foundation,” said Development Director Michael Stringer. The DeBoers gave $500,000 as a matching grant.

Some work, such as replacement of the roof, had to be put off until next summer due to a lack of contractors. A new entry tower over the main entrance will not be built, and the current retail shop and ticket counter setups will be retained to keep down costs.

Digging into the building revealed potential future problems that are being rectified, including replacement of corroded conduit and frayed electrical wires, reinforcement of the “slab on grade” kitchen floor, and getting rid of dry rot. Total floor space will be 15,379 square feet with the additions.

The new locker lodge will have 1,800 square feet, with more room for benches and gearing-up than the old facility in the basement. Locker renters asked that the larger wooden units, which can hold a family’s ski gear, be kept. Many had customized theirs and added décor that could not be replaced.

Adroit Construction is general contractor for the project.

Smoke has been mostly minimal at the site.

“I feel bad for my brothers down in the valley,” said Jacob Fry of Medford, who works for Grissom Framing. “It’s been an honor and a privilege to be part of this project that will be here 100 years, a community facility.”

Fry, who snowboards, said the 6,300-foot altitude with occasional smoke causes a little shortness of breath. He’s also had to watch sun exposure at the higher altitude and stay hydrated.

While no loose artifacts were found, workers did uncover a tile floor by the first-floor fireplace. It would have dated from the era of leather boots with rubber soles and was likely covered up to provide better traction when plastic boots became the norm, Towle explained.

— Tony Boom is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com.

A construction worker carries materials at the Mt. Ashland ski lodge Thursday. [Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch]
Renovations at the Mt. Ashland ski lodge are expected to be finished in November. [Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch]