ashland.news
July 24, 2024

Ski pass sales sizzle as Mt. Ashland prepares for 60th anniversary

Mt. Ashland Ski Area's new policy limiting uphill access is opposed by a group of backcountry skiers who argue that it is too restrictive. Bob Palermini photo
November 26, 2023

Opening day set for Dec. 9 — if there’s enough snow

By Tony Boom for the Rogue Valley Times

With more than $1 million in improvements and more night skiing, Mt. Ashland Ski Area is ready to launch its 60th season of winter sports.

More events are also planned at the nonprofit resort. Opening day is Saturday, Dec. 9, if the area receives enough snow.

“Pass sales are going fantastic, exceeding both spring and fall sales last year and above expectations,” said General Manager Andrew Gast. As of Nov. 19, more than 3,500 season passes had been sold. Last season, the area set a record with 128,626 skier and snowboarder visits.

A preseason kickoff party and open house is set from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 2. There will be live music, new snowcats will be on display, a Mercy Flights helicopter will be on site for inspection and SWS Mountain Guides from Mt. Shasta City will be on hand to talk about backcountry skiing.

Saturday evening twilight operations return on a regular basis for the first time in a number of years. The Saturday evening sessions are from 3 to 9 p.m. Jan. 6 through Feb. 17, joining Thursday and Friday night skiing, which runs Jan. 4 through March 8.

“Our ticket sales (last year) back up that night skiing is more popular,” said Gast. The area had heard requests to add Saturdays from those who work during the week and parents.

The demand for afterschool ski programs had limited the area to serving just primary and middle school students for several years. Now, the area will add evening experiences for high school classes on Saturdays.

“We are really kind of capped out on Thursday and Friday nights,” said Gast. The afterschool programs for elementary and middle-school kids have been drawing 300 to 400 students per evening.

With the addition of Saturday evening skiing, a special twilight pass is being offered. It will cost $149 for adults and be useable on 27 evenings. The pass holders will get a 25% discount on purchase of day lift tickets.

Mt. Ashland Ski Area. Mt. Ashland Ski Area photo

“I think that adding the twilight season pass in an option for someone that works or has kids and can only get here in the evenings,” said Abigail Coombs, marketing coordinator. “It’s a pretty good deal if you have a particular schedule. You will be able to utilize that night time item.”

Adult day lift tickets for weekends and holidays are $74, which drops to $67 for Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays. Night adult tickets are $26. Advance on-line ticket orders can receive discounts of 10 or 20%. The area has also added a specially priced pass for college students.

Two new snowcats have been purchased for $780,000 to upgrade grooming on mountain trails. The new cats are next generation machines with computerized controls and use less fuel that the older units.

New snow-fencing has been installed in some areas. A new haul rope, which carries the chairs, was installed on the beginner Sonnet Lift, replacing one that dated to 1989. Other maintenance work includes improvements to the lodge heating system and work on the waste disposal system.

Special events to commemorate the 60th anniversary of area operations will be held on Jan. 11, the day it opened in 1963, and again on Jan. 13, a Saturday, so that more people can celebrate the milestone.

“There will be something going on nearly every weekend for the entire season,” said Gast. The area has hired Tabitha Wheeler for the new position of events coordinator.

Events will include the annual Bavarian Night fundraiser for the Mt. Ashland Ski Patrol, a music series every Saturday, trivia nights, an Easter egg hunt, poker runs and more. There will be more live music overall, Gast said. The Big Mountain Bash will return, likely as an end-of-season celebration on closing weekend.

Mt. Ashland Ski Area General Manager Andrew Gast

On the slopes, events will include a night slalom racing beer league, rail jams and slope-style events in terrain parks. Returning this year will be “skimo,” short for ski mountaineering, in which races will begin and end inside the area’s boundaries but take contestants out on backcountry routes. The participants must both climb and come down on their skis or snowboard.

A $50,000 grant from Travel Oregon to provide more mountain access will allow for establishment of shuttle service to the area. Specifics are being developed, but the service could be provided by partners or the area might secure a mini-bus.

The rental shop will have new helmets and new ski poles. Last year, a large number of new skis, snowboards and boots were purchased. Rentals and lessons can be booked online.

Changes that worked well were made last year to lesson offerings, said Gast, and will be incorporated into this year’s plans. Bill Hernon has been hired to head the learning operation.

“Lessons are a capacity issue for us,” said Gast. For next year the area hopes to add an outside yurt that would allow for more lessons.

The schedule calls for 92 days of operation, with the area open every day from Dec. 14 to Jan. 1 for the holidays. Last day of operations is April 14. More information can be found at mtashland.com.

Reach Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at tboomwriter@gmail.com. This story first appeared in the Rogue Valley Times.

Picture of Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.

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