Mount Ashland ski area gears up for heavy winter

ASHLAND — Mount Ashland ski area managers plan to hire more than 100 workers for the coming ski season amid hopes that a cold, wet La Niña weather pattern will bring plentiful early snow to the mountain.

The ski area already received 5 inches of snow in the past week.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture is predicting an abrupt transition to very stormy weather in November, with abundant mountain snowfall persisting at least into spring 2011.

"The weather forecast looks very hopeful for a Thanksgiving opening," said General Manager Kim Clark.

The ski area opened on Dec. 17 last year, slightly later than the average opening day of Dec. 13, he said.

To prepare for the season, the ski area is planning a Mount Ashland Job Fair from 5 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 10, in the commons area of the Historic Ashland Armory, 208 Oak St.

The job fair is for potential new employees, not for returning employees.

Managers hope to hire 45 ski school teachers, 40 lift operators and more than 30 employees to work as bartenders and cocktail servers, bistro workers, cashiers, cooks, lodge and retail workers, rental equipment workers, snow groomer operators, parking lot attendants, ski patrollers and terrain park workers.

Applicants are encouraged to visit Mount Ashland's Web site to fill out a job application in advance of the job fair. For more information, visit or call 541-482-2897.

Ski area workers and the board of the nonprofit Mt. Ashland Association have been laying the groundwork to encourage a strong visitor count at the mountain this winter.

Workers sold 1,185 more season passes for the coming season than last year, thanks in large part to a $199 season pass sale held earlier this year, Clark and Mt. Ashland Association treasurer Lisa Beam reported.

An adult lift ticket will cost $39 this winter, down from $43, Clark said.

The lodge has a new coat of paint and new carpeting, outdated snowboard rental gear has been replaced with new K2 brand gear, the Center Stage Terrain Park has a new rail feature, and the purchase of a snowcat will mean improved grooming, Clark said.

The ski area will debut a new user-friendly website later this fall, he said.

Beam said the ski area ended the past fiscal year on June 30 with $97,237 in profits, after boosting operating revenue by $86,504 compared to the previous year and cutting expenses by $154,961.

"That's a great accomplishment considering the economy and other factors," she said.

The Mt. Ashland Association made $254,910 worth of contributions to youth and educational programs and related benefits in its last fiscal year, Beam said.

Programs supported by the ski area included the Youth Summer Service Program, an after-school ski program that served 1,000 kids, Special Olympics athlete training, the Candle Lighter Cancer Foundation Field Trip for children with cancer and the 7,500 Foot Crew Internship Program where teens learn what it takes to run a ski area.

"When you add all these up, I don't see any other ski area on the West Coast doing so much," said ski area Marketing Director Rick Saul. "It's a lot of work for a small nonprofit."

Meanwhile, outgoing Mt. Ashland Association Board President Sam James said the board remains committed to its plans to add runs and other improvements to the ski area. He said 30,000 people drive by Mount Ashland each year to go to the ski area on Mount Shasta, which is known for its easier terrain.

James said capturing some of those visitors with new beginner and low-intermediate runs at Mount Ashland would put the ski area on stable financial footing for years to come.

The first and major phase of the expansion would cost $4 million, ski area officials have said.

Expansion opponents have questioned whether the expansion is financially feasible.

The U.S. Forest Service previously approved the expansion, but environmental groups sued to stop it and it was halted by a court injunction in September 2007.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals raised concerns about landslide hazard zones on the mountain and possible impacts to the Pacific fisher, a weasel-like animal.

In March, the Forest Service issued a draft supplemental environmental impact statement to address concerns raised by the court.

The Forest Service is analyzing public comments it received on the draft and beginning work on a response section for a final version. There is no firm date for the release of the final SEIS, but it could come out in late January 2011, said Steve Johnson, Siskiyou Mountains Ranger District recreation specialist.

The forest supervisor will then decide whether to issue a new decision about the ski area expansion, Johnson said.

Vickie Aldous is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach her at 541-479-8199 or

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