Mt. Ashland ski area plans to open Thursday

Mount Ashland will open for the season on Thursday.

Ski area managers said Monday that they will launch the season with at least two lifts, Sonnet and Comer, and that the ski and snowboard area will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily through the holidays.

Evening skiing will be offered from 3 to 9 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays beginning Jan. 7.

"We hope to get more than two lifts open on Thursday, but that will depend on the next storm's performance," said Woodie Tesh, ski area outdoor operations manager.

The National Weather Service in Medford issued a winter weather advisory Monday, forecasting as much as 14 inches of snow in the region's mountains.

This season marks Mount Ashland's 45th year operating as a public ski resort. Recent years have seen the opening date vary, landing between Dec. 10 and Dec. 20.

Eager as the valley's alpine thrillseekers may be for the opening, the mountain's seasonal employees are tracking snow progress with equal parts anticipation and anxiety. Mount Ashland relies heavily on hired seasonal workers, to do everything from the running of ski lifts, to cooking and janitorial services in the mountain's ski lodge.

Pat Fisher cannot do anything but wait until enough snowfall allows the mountain to open.

Fisher is one of 130 workers hired on to assist in the mountain's operations this winter. It will be his second year at the mountain, where he will spend his day's working in the lodge kitchen.

"It's actually some of the hardest work," Fisher said. "You pretty much have to be there before everybody, and leave after."

It's hard work, Fisher says, but steady work, and profitable — terms he will gladly accept amid spiking jobless levels statewide and throughout the country. Last year regularly supplied him 40-hour work weeks — sometimes more — and paychecks reflecting that work.

Fisher is hoping for more of the same this year.

"Everybody's definitely looking forward to getting work," he said. But until the mountain opens, he is resigned to waiting, like everyone else.

Competition for those 130 positions was fierce, Saul said. The most qualified applicants were plucked from an extensive list, and underwent training earlier this month.

"We received over 450 applications for work. From there we hired the 130 seasonal positions," Saul said. Those fortunate enough to be chosen can rest a little easier, knowing a paycheck will be there in the coming months. All that's left is to wait.

"The earlier it opens, the better," said Fisher. "Any time I can work I'm happy."

To track the snowfall on Mount Ashland, call the mountain's Snow Phone hotline, 482-2754.

Elon Glucklich is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Contact him at Staff contributed to this report.

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