Mt. Ashland posts record December

Mt. Ashland Ski Area posted record monthly income in December, exceeding $1 million, while skier visits were up 41 percent compared with 2015, the association's board of directors learned Monday at its monthly meeting in Medford.

“This December is destroying the records for this month,” said Treasurer Robert Hague.

An early start to the season Dec. 4 gave the resort four extra operating days. Over the holidays, the area was open every day from Dec. 15 through Jan. 2.

“The snow has been great, the weather has been sweet,” said General Manager Hiram Towle. During the holiday period, the area saw 16,610 visits. December visitors numbered 22,133.

Revenue for December was $1,006,039, with the bulk of that, from lift ticket sales, accounting for $616,457. Food and beverage was the second-largest category at $104,550, followed by ski school at $77,598. Revenues for December exceeded budget projections by 51 percent.

“It’s interesting to see the contrasts, what we were thinking versus where we ended up,” said Hague.

The days before and after Christmas showed the largest visitor totals of the holidays, with 1,380 skiers Dec. 24 and 1,381 Dec. 26. The ski area exceeded 1,300 skiers Dec. 29, Dec. 31 and Jan. 2.

Sunny skies and 20 inches of powder on Thursday, Jan. 5, a day when schools were closed due to icy roads, led to the highest total so far this season with 1,548 visitors. Income for the day was in the $40,000 range, similar to a good Saturday, Towle reported. But high winds closed the mountain Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 7-8.

Night skiing opened Jan. 5 with 300 visitors, followed Jan. 6 by 285. Visits through Jan. 6 totaled 25,111 over 28 days. Last year the area hosted 68,880 skiers and riders over 88 days.

Sales of tickets by a business partner helped add to the totals.

Costco Wholesale in Medford, which makes three-packs of tickets available to its members for $99, placed three bulk orders for tickets during December, compared to one last year for the same period. In addition, the Costco store in Roseburg also got a batch of tickets to sell, a first. Online ticket sales exceeded 130 purchases on some days, Towle reported.

In other news:

• Mt. Ashland will replace the main cable, known as the haul rope, on the Ariel lift after this season. Inspection showed the cable is safe but will need to be replaced within a few years. Towle said the ski area wants to replace the item sooner rather than later. A new haul rope costs $60,000.

• The Ski Hopper 40-seat shuttle service, offered free this year from Ashland, was full several times during the holidays. Shuttle service continues Saturdays, Sundays and holidays through the end of February. Despite four days of full parking lots, patrons chose to circle, waiting for space rather than returning to Callahan’s, so the shuttle wasn’t used to bring skiers and riders from overflow parking available there.

• Ariel chairlift was closed three days due to start-up problems with a new, $30,000, low-voltage electrical system. Fixes have been implemented, and over the long run the system, with its digital displays, should prove more reliable, said Towle.

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

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