Mt. A to open this Thursday

Sunday's snowstorm and the promise of more snow through the week will allow the Mount Ashland ski area to open Thursday.

Ski area managers made the call Monday, after 10 inches of fresh snow fell on the 7,500-foot mountain over the weekend. Ski area managers will wait until Wednesday to see whether there's enough snow to open all the chairlifts and trails, said Rick Saul, marketing director.

"We'll fill in the blanks at noon Wednesday," Saul said.

The ski area had 26 inches of snow at a measuring stake near the lodge Monday morning and 29 inches on a stake near the summit. Snow depth varies considerably early in the season because some areas are more exposed to wind.

Forecasters were predicting cold temperatures and snow through the week and perhaps even into the weekend. Meteorologist Mike Stavish said a new storm was expected to arrive today and another one was projected to reach the Siskiyou Mountains on Wednesday.

Colder air will move into the region behind Wednesday's storm, Stavish said, and snow levels could drop to around 2,000 feet Thursday.

On average, Mount Ashland has opened on Dec. 10 over 40-plus seasons, but the actual day varies considerably from year to year. In the drought year of 1977, for example, the ski area did not open until Feb. 17.

Over the past seven years the season began Dec. 15, 2006; Dec. 9, 2005; Dec. 10, 2004; Dec. 12, 2003; Dec. 19, 2002; Nov. 30, 2001; and Dec. 17, 2000.

Workers will spend the next two days preparing the ski area for a safe opening. Boundary ropes must be strung, foam pads must be installed on lift towers and obstacles such as exposed rocks and brush must be marked with hazard stakes.

The storm brought ample snow to Oregon ski areas just in time for the holidays, a two-week period in which ski areas may draw as much as 25 percent of their visitors for the season.

Mount Hood Meadows had 63 inches Monday at mid-mountain and Timberline had 44 inches at the lodge. Mount Bachelor near Bend had 27 inches at mid-mountain Monday, but weather forecasts called for as much as 2 feet of new snow by this evening.

The Mount Shasta Board Ski Park announced plans to open Wednesday, and Hoodoo, east of Eugene, plans to open Thursday.

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