Mount Ashland ski area reports a healthy 2010-11 winter season

Reeling under a snow drought in January and February, then blizzards on spring break, Mount Ashland didn't set any records, but ended the 2010-11 season well, boosting attendance by 8.8 percent and revenue by 10 percent over the previous year.

"Mount A" ended the year in mid-April with 78,708 skier visits, Executive Director Kim Clark said Thursday, and will end the year June 30 in the black. He declined to release specific dollar amounts.

The ski area fought back against the Great Recession with across-the-board lower prices and saw its "My Turn" bargain learn-to-ski (or snowboard) program grow by 29 percent over the 2009-10 season, instead of the expected 10 percent, Clark notes.

The package was only $99 for three lift tickets, three rentals and three days of lessons — and drew from all age groups, he said. The influx also bodes well for Mount Ashland because the participants were all new skiers — and mostly families — who will likely return to the mountain in future seasons.

All-new snowboarding rental equipment and a new Snowcat groomer scored points with patrons — as the grooming machine could get at difficult areas, improving runs that previously couldn't be groomed, he says. Another plus was early, heavy snow, with 100 inches falling in December.

Mount Ashland also hopes to boost revenues with summer events, marketing the lodge and surroundings for weddings, business conferences, educational seminars and retreats, as well as athletic events such as biking and running events.

The ski area got only seven inches of snow from Jan. 5 to Feb. 14, which cut into attendance at mid-season, says Clark. But heavy spring snows replenished the slopes for a strong finish. The area still has about 70 inches at the lodge and 140 inches at the summit, with some hardy skiers trekking up the mountain on foot for the downhill run.

"It was a good winter overall, no records set, a little longer than normal," Clark notes.

Mount Ashland recently won its years-long battle to expand westward by 71 acres to add 16 runs and one lift, but faces possible further appeals. If those hurdles are cleared, construction could begin in mid-September, with completion in time for the start of the 2012-2013 season, says Clark. Construction would be done in the summer and would not interfere with skiing.

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