As It Was: Mount Ashland’s glistening snow

    Skiers of the late 19th century were a hearty bunch. In the days before chair lifts, rope tows and carefully groomed slopes, they hiked up mountain sides to don giant skis upon which they flew down the hill aided only by a single tall wooden staff. This champion of the 1890s is Olaus Jeldness, whose brother Andy owned the Bloomfield Mine near Jacksonville. (Southern Oregon Historical Society photo, image No. 07971)

    Mount Ashland’s glistening snow has served as a beacon to winter sport enthusiasts for many years, but it was not until 1962 that serious thought was given to building a ski facility in Southern Oregon.

    Rogue Valley skiing was pretty primitive at the beginning. In the 1950s, skiers would search for any suitable mountain slope and set up a portable rope tow. The thought of warming up by a roaring fire must have seemed like a pipe dream to those hardy souls clinging to lines strung up steep slopes and skiing back down — only to trudge back up the hills again for another downhill run.

    One popular spot was near the Siskiyou Summit and another was near Crater Lake.

    Through grassroots efforts by local skiing enthusiasts, construction began on the Mount Ashland facilities in the summer of 1963. The lodge cost $120,000 to build.

    On Jan. 5, 1964, Mount Ashland opened to a crowd of 150 anxious skiers. Since then, the ski area has been under community ownership in a unique relationship between the city of Ashland, the Mount Ashland Association and the U.S. Forest Service.

    Source: Medford Mail Tribune Jan. 6, 1964. As It Was is a co-production of Jefferson Public Radio and the Southern Oregon Historical Society. As It Was stories are broadcast weekdays on Jefferson Public Radio and are available online at

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