Mountain of Opportunities: Climate Change Spurs Mt. Ashland’s Success
Survival of a ski resort when summers are smoky and winters iffy calls for more than packed snow; it calls for being ahead of the pack. Environmentally aware and STOKES certified, Mt. Ashland, the once struggling ski area, has evolved into an industry pacesetter.
“It’s been a real game changer,” says Mt. Ashland General Manager, Hiram Towle. “Being sustainability certified guides us through a lot of these efforts.”
While Towle and other Mt. Ashland advocates have been busy focusing on the mountain’s ecology and recreational stability, visitors have been busy enjoying the changes.
“The season’s going great!” Towle shares. “We’re having good attendance with more families coming up and new skiers and snowboarders doing lots lessons and rentals.”
The 2017 remodel of the lodge created better flow, more seating and panoramic views while increased low-snow operations allowed for an earlier opening. Closure for high winds rallied a network to help keep people on snow.
“We referred our skiers and riders to Mount Shasta during that time,” says Towle. “Shasta returned the recommendation when they went down without power. We don’t look at them as competition, but more as a complementary ski area. We have a reciprocal $25 exchange and we partner with a couple of other ski areas in this as well.”
Promoting the lodge as a unique venue is next in line. “We have a bunch of weekends throughout the summer where the lodge is available. It’s a community space that can be rented out and we’re looking forward to building that business.”
At its 6000 foot elevation, the ski area is often above clouds and smoke and stays 20 degrees cooler than the valley on sweltering summer days.
“People love getting married up here; it’s one of the most beautiful views in the great state of Jefferson,” says Towle, hoping to see more event organizers take advantage of the locale.
Future potentials include adding a zip line, bungee trampolines, rock climbing walls, disc golf and scenic lift rides. “There are a lot of ski areas doing it; it’s just a matter of working through the forest service to come up with a master plan, which we’re working on.”
Fresh Pow, a new seasonal IPA from Block 15 Brewery out of Corvallis, has become a favorite at the T-Bar in the lodge’s upper level. The can features an original design by local Flow Factory custom artist, Chris Herbst, with Mt. Ashland prominently displayed together with Mt. Hood and Mt. Bachelor.
Bavarian Nights, the annual fundraising event for the Mt. Ashland Ski Patrol will be February 16, with live music by Danielle Kelly Soul Project, $25 night skiing, a $500 Rogue Ski Shop gift card prize and a giant fireworks display by Sure Shot Fireworks out of Bend.
Another crowd pleaser is the Dummy Downhill Race scheduled for March 16. Participants bring a homemade dummy on skis or a snowboard and launch it off a giant jump. It’s free to enter and prizes go to winners scored on originality, how straight the dummy goes, height achieved and the landing.
The adult Race Leagues have returned this season and Towle encourages interested speedsters to visit their website to learn more and get signed up for upcoming races in February and March.
Five live webcams, an email newsletter, text alerts and daily Facebook live reports keep snow enthusiasts updated round the clock.
“Our free snow bus was such an amazing success story over the holidays,” he adds.
The complimentary shuttle, which starts at Ashland Hills Hotel, transported over 1800 people during winter break. “Right now, Mt. Ashland pays the lion’s share making it unsustainable long-term and we’re looking for sponsors and donors who’d like to support this important community service.”
Mt. Ashland Ski Area
9 am – 4 pm, Thursday – Monday
11 Mt. Ashland Ski Road, Ashland
Check weather conditions and Twilight Skiing schedule at mtashland.com
Upcoming special events: Bavarian Nights, Saturday, February 16; Downhill Dummy Race, Saturday, March 16