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Casey Smith, left, of Medford, and Tanner Schuyler, of Riverside, California, share a moment at Bear Creek Park in Medford Thursday. [Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch]

Snow day

It looks like skiers and snowboarders will have a chance to vent their Olympic excitement, after all.


Just in time for the final weekend of the Winter Olympics, Mount Ashland got a big enough blast of powder to get the lifts running again at the idled ski area, and local schoolkids were handed a rare snow holiday when several inches of white stuff turned the valley floor into a morning snow park.


Mount Ashland will reopen at 9 a.m. Friday, thanks to a healthy wallop of snow that fell Wednesday night and Thursday morning.


The mountain has seen 13 inches of new snow over the past week, including 4 inches that fell from the early morning hours Wednesday to noon Thursday. The ski area will operate until 4 p.m. Friday, with the Sonnet, Comer and Windsor lifts scheduled to be running.


If the snow continues, the ski area will remain open through April, Mt. Ashland Ski Resort officials said. The ski area is open Thursday through Sunday, and it is scheduled to be open all seven days during Ashland and other school districts' spring break, from March 24 to April 1. 


"We're feeling confident at finishing this season strong," said General Manager Hiram Towle.


The mountain has been open just eight days so far this season due to lackluster snowfall, and it's been closed since Feb. 4. By midday Thursday, however, the snowpack at the facility's mid-level elevation had reached 31 inches.


More winter weather is expected this weekend. Snow is forecast for the mountains, though less white stuff is expected to make it down to the valley floor than fell Thursday, meteorologist Charles Smith said.


"It's not unreasonable that we could see some snow during the morning hours," he said.


Snow levels could dip down as low as 2,000 feet this weekend. As much as a foot of new snow is expected to fall around Crater Lake and Diamond Lake from 5 p.m. Friday to 5 p.m. Saturday, with up to 5 more inches for Mount Ashland during the same period.


Snow on the Rogue Valley floor closed schools across Jackson County Thursday and forced delays at Rogue Community College and U.S. District Court. Southern Oregon University was also closed Thursday. Snow also forced the temporary closure of a portion of East McAndrews Road in Medford.


Over a 24-hour period, about 7 inches fell near Gold Hill, with 5 inches near Shady Cove, and 4 inches reported at sites in Central Point, White City, Rogue River, Eagle Point, Butte Falls and Prospect. Some areas in Medford and Ashland received 3 inches, with about 2½ inches near Phoenix, and about 2 inches in the Applegate.


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

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