Free rides on the 40-passenger Ski Hopper shuttle to Mt. Ashland Ski Area will be offered on weekends and holidays, but service from Medford won't be included because paid ridership last year was low.
“It was a real commitment to go up for the entire day,” said Michael Stringer, Mt. Ashland development director. “Now we have several options in the morning and afternoon.”
Southern Oregon University’s Outdoor Leadership Program donated $5,000 to support the shuttles, and Neuman Hotel Group is contributing $1,500.
“The reason for us partnering with Mt. Ashland is to create a winter destination so that people have an opportunity to come to us and have a wonderful skiing experience and not have to worry about the travel,” said Don Anway, general manager of Neuman Hotel Group, which operates Ashland Hills Hotel.
Skiing is just one winter attraction in the area, which also offers theater, restaurants and wineries for visitors, said Anway.
“I look at it as an amenity to the hotel and Ashland,” said Anway. “It will give them an additional reason to come here for the weekend.”
Last year the shuttle operated just one trip per day Fridays through Sundays, with a $10 charge for roundtrips from Ashland and $15 for Medford.
“We want people to carpool and use public transit, because it lowers their carbon footprint and also our carbon footprint,” said Stringer. “We also have the issue of a relatively small parking lot."
On days when the ski area’s parking lot fills up, the shuttle will circulate continuously between Mt. Ashland and the Callahan’s Lodge overflow parking area. Last season the ski area’s parking lots filled at least five times, despite the addition in 2013 of 100 parking spaces.
A new text-alert program by Mt. Ashland will let people headed to the mountain know when the lots are full so they can park at Callahan’s and ride the shuttle. The bus offers reclining seats, three video screens and ski and snowboard storage.
Shuttles will begin Saturday, Dec. 17, and continue Saturdays and Sundays through Feb. 26. It also will operate Monday through Friday, Dec. 26-30, as well as Jan. 2, Jan. 16 and Feb. 20.
Shuttles will leave Ashland from SOU at 8 and 10 a.m., with stops at Ashland Hills Hotel and Callahan’s. Return times will be 3 and 4:30 p.m., with stops at the same locations. Riders can reserve seats on the shuttle by emailing @bit.ly/skihopper.
Proceeds from sale of beverages, food and raffle tickets during the Snow Stomp Party Saturday, Nov. 19, at the ski area lodge will help to support the shuttle. The Frankie Hernandez Band will entertain, and there is no admission charge. Drawings will be held for a $500 Rogue Ski Shop certificate and other prizes. Reduced ski pass prices will also be offered at the event. For information, see www.mtashland.com.
— Tony Boom is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at email@example.com.