Heavy snowfall this past winter made for a successful season at Mt. Ashland, which is keeping its lifts open an additional weekend due to the remaining snow pack and devoted patrons. This past Sunday the mountain hosted over 1,100 skiers and snowboarders, allowing for the operation of all 5 chair lifts.
“With this snow pack we could stay open probably until the end of May,” said Mt. Ashland’s General Manager Hiram Towle as he pointed to the statistics on his computer screen. Unfortunately, the 10 feet of remaining snow pack at the top of the mountain may not be enough to overcome the financial burden of staying open into late spring. “We continue operating until it just doesn’t make business sense anymore,” he said.
This late in the season the mountain must host at least 1,000 skiers and make the equivalent of $8600 every day they are open in order to break even with costs of utilities, wages, and insurance. As of now they plan to keep the lifts running until April 10th unless they have the same guest turnout as they did the past weekend. ”If people prove that they do want to be up here and ski then we’ll stay open for that one more weekend,” said Towle.
This past winter the mountain boasted 271 inches of total snowfall, a huge increase from last year’s mere 87 inches, which granted guests a short lived season of 38 days. The high levels of snowfall allowed the resort to extend its season to 82 days as of Sunday, more than tripling the number of skier visits from 18,000 last season to over 66,000.
“This year Mother Nature was on our side,” stated Towle. “We only lost a handful of days to weather, which in this business is just an inevitability.” The East Coast native and veteran of the ski industry was more than pleased with the outcome of the season noting how important it was to be able to provide stable jobs for those in the Ashland community during the winter months.
“It’s really nice to see Mt. Ashland back […] to come back and see the same terrain and the same runs that we grew up on,” said Bondan Spann a long time resident of the Rogue Valley who has been riding the same slopes for 20 years.
“It’s literally the most amazing place,” said Charlie Howarth a Southern Oregon University student and first year snowboard instructor at Mt. Ashland. “From the people that work up there to the people that ride up there, there’s just such great vibes.”
Mt. Ashland has always been a community-oriented business, relying heavily on fundraising and dedicated volunteers to keep it running. As ski season comes to a close, guests and employees alike are hopeful that this year’s success will be carried on into next winter.