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'Vastly different' Mt. Ashland ski season starts this weekend

Mt. Ashland Ski Area opens this weekend, but those without season passes best plan ahead before they hit the slopes.

Only season pass holders will be allowed on the slopes Friday for the season’s grand opener, according to Mt. Ashland general manager Hiram Towle, and those without passes will need to make reservations online at least two days in advance.

“It’s a vastly different season with a lot of changes,” Towle said, recommending skiers check mtashland.com before showing up at the mountain.

No lift tickets, rentals or ski instruction classes will be sold on the mountain this year as an effort to eliminate money exchanging hands at the ski area during the pandemic. The ski lodge is closed to the public this season, as is the locker lodge.

“There will be nothing purchased on the mountain this year,” Towle said.

The reservation system for day tickets will also allow the ski area to meter crowding on the mountain, according to Towle. Season pass holders will not need to have a reservation because the ski area believes they can limit crowds enough with day tickets alone.

Other restrictions designed to reduce the spread of COVID-19 include required face coverings around the chairlifts, indoors and any time physical distancing isn’t possible.

Despite the new restrictions, it’s not all bad news for the ski area. Towle said early season conditions are “phenomenal” for powder skiers with 26 inches of snow on the mountain as of early Thursday evening and more falling.

“TH lower mountain will have some grooming on it,” Towle said.

The upper mountain — slopes accessed using the Aerial chairlift — has less grooming and Towle recommends it for “advanced skiers and snowboarders only” this weekend.

The season opener won’t have the usual “Day Onesie” fanfare this season, according to Towle. Instead the ski area will celebrate the season’s start with the early access day.

“Our special event is simply to honor our pass holders,” Towle said.

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

Mail Tribune/File Photo Skiers ride the Sonnet chairlift at Mt. Ashland.