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Photo by Larry Turner

Karen Schumacher makes some turns at Mt. Shasta Ski Park the Thursday before Christmas.

Shasta on skis

Fog sometimes shrouded visibility to only a few feet. The wind occasionally felt like lashings from a whip. Chilly temperatures clouded our ski goggles. And, by mid-afternoon, rain proved that a friend’s new jacket wasn’t waterproof.

The conditions at Mt. Shasta Ski Park the Thursday before Christmas weren’t ideal. But we were anxious to ski and, despite the weather, the snow was good and plentiful enough for a great day of downhill skiing.

After too long a wait, it was this season’s first day of downhill skiing for the five of us, and we were hankering to get in some runs. Although the weather played peekaboo, we and other ski and board diehards kept making like gerbils, riding chairlifts up then skiing and boarding back down.

Fickle winter weather has delayed openings at some ski areas, and equipment problems caused the Mt. Shasta Ski Park to close for a few days before it reopened. But there was enough snow to be open when we went, and since then at least 10 more inches have fallen, so things are definitely looking up for people who judge winter by the number of times they get to go skiing.

“We’re trying to keep us a blue-collar, family-friendly ski area,” says Taylor Russell, who works with the park’s marketing team.

Along with daily and season lift tickets that are less expensive than at many ski areas — adult day passes range from $65 during the holidays through Jan. 21 and $59 on other Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, with reduced rates for seniors 65 and older and youth 12 and younger — efforts are being made to create a new generation of skiers and boarders through partnerships with youth groups.

“The idea is to hook them at that age,” Russell says of programs with Boys and Girls Club that essentially offer free and very low-cost skiing. “We’re not replenishing skiers and boarders the way we used to.”

Other efforts include luring people who want to mix skiing and boarding with music and beverages.

“We’re really planning to have more of a nightlife scene,” explains Russell, noting the area has offered and is planning live music performances at its Sliders Bar. A New Year’s Eve bash will feature World’s Finest and other bands.

“We’re trying to bring that energy to the park.”

Energy of another sort is planned by a still developing “Beyond the Boundaries” program that will offer rustic cabins for backcountry skiers wanting to stay overnight. At an elevation of 7,400 feet, the cabins offer panoramic views and access to a mix of intermediate to advanced terrain with open-glade powder runs and steep chute lines, Russell says. The cook cabin will have such basic amenities as water, a two-burner cook stove with firewood, lights, outside fire pit, tableware, pots and pans. The bunk cabin will sleep six and have a wood stove, propane/solar light and bunks with mattresses. Overnighters will need to bring food, beverages, person items, backcountry gear, extra clothing and sleeping bags. The fee, $175 per person per night, includes gear shuttle service.

While Russell and others prepare for overnight backcountry skiers, New Year’s partiers and young beginning skiers and boarders, our focus was making turns, getting our legs tuned for ski outings to come and touring the mountain.

The choices are plentiful. The 425-acre ski park’s 32 trails are accessed by three chairlifts, including Marmot for mostly beginner terrain. Even though it was a relatively short ski day, we cruised uncrowded blue and black runs from the Douglas and Coyote chairs. And even if the weather wasn’t perfect, we were perfectly delighted.

For information about the Mt. Shasta Ski Park, including weather conditions, prices, special events, lessons and services, see its website at www.skipark.com, Facebook at @skipark, or call 530-926-8610.

Reach freelance writer Lee Juillerat at 337lee337@charter.net or 541-880-4139.

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