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Snow scarcity

Despite snow being late to the party, a newly renovated ski lodge was cause enough for a celebration at Mt. Ashland Ski Area Saturday. The ski area had hoped to open today. Instead, sunny skies, warm temperatures and grassy swaths put a kibosh on the plans.

But that didn't stop Mt. Ashland's Snow Stomp party, where a crowd of roughly two dozen boarders, along with a handful of skiers, spent the afternoon practicing tricks in a freestyle area at the bottom of the bunny hill. Inside the lodge, local band Buckle Rash churned out tunes, while food, beer, a raffle and a "best boots contest" kept people hopping.

It took three days of shuttling pickup trucks full of snow from the parking lot to get the area ready for the party, according to manager Hiram Towle.

"We pull out all the stops to get people skiing and riding in Southern Oregon," Towle said.

Wearing a '90s-style purple snowsuit and zebra-stripe Nike boots, employee Todd Snyder was among the crowd cheering on boarders of varying abilities as they tried their hand at tricks. Snyder says he wears the outfit on opening day as part of "Day Onesie."

Snyder said the "hometown feel" and welcoming atmosphere of Mt. Ashland are among the reasons he has remained in Southern Oregon and spent eight seasons with the nonprofit ski area. He finds the lack of elitism displayed on the mountain refreshing.

"Everybody's on the same level," Snyder said. "If you can stand on a snowboard, please hang out."

Above the freestyle area, Mark Saunders of Grants Pass, along with his wife and three children, trekked to the top of the bunny hill with a sled, lightheartedly calling it the "Dirt Stomp."

Saunders said he recently spent a $100 Christmas bonus at Costco on a lift ticket three-pack.

"I know I'm going skiing at least three times," Saunders said.

Although the weather hasn't cooperated yet, the event was planned months ago, according to Towle, and it gave people their first look at the renovated ski lodge.

Among other features, the expansion moved the ski rental area inside the lodge, allowing beginners easier access to the bunny slopes, Towle said.

A high-pressure system means the outlook for snow remains bleak for the near future, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Brad Schaaf. The system is responsible for recent clear, cold nights, sunny days and warmer-than-usual temperatures.

The high-pressure system could break down by Thursday or Friday, but the chance for precipitation is relatively low — a roughly 20 percent chance of snow above 6,000 feet by next weekend.

"There's no real guarantee," Schaaf said. "It's not something to really get your hopes up at this point."

— Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.

Denison Lee and Greta Lee, 5, of Ashland, dance to Buckle Rash during the Snow Stomp Party at Mt. Ashland Saturday. [Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch]
Cole Bolster, 17, of Medford, catches air Saturday on a small jump built with friends during the Snow Stomp Party at Mt. Ashland. [Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch]