Mt. Ashland ski area shuttle bus service cut

The Mount Ashland ski area has scuttled its shuttle service, but there still will be transportation to the slopes for the carless and those who just don't want to drive on snowy mountain roads.

Bill Roussel, who operated a shuttle service called Ashland Mountain Adventures for mountain bikers during the summer and fall, said he will use the same 14-passenger vans to transport skiers and snowboarders. Roussel said he plans to use the same pick-up points the ski bus formerly used. A round trip will cost $15 and a one-way ride will cost $8; 10-ride coupon books will be available for $120.

Ski area managers said costs of operating the shuttle were increasing while ridership was decreasing. They announced in September that they would end bus service unless they sold at least 265 10-ride ticket books by Nov. 9.

Rick Saul, Mount Ashland's marketing director, said only 11 ticket books were sold by the deadline. Those purchases will be refunded.

"We were pretty disappointed," Saul said. "There just wasn't the interest."

Saul said only 1,242 riders used the bus during the 2007-08 season, barely one-fifth as many as during the 1994-95 season, when ridership peaked at 5,592. The number of riders held steady between 4,500 and 5,500 through the 1998-99 season, then dropped precipitously to 2,054 in 1999-2000.

During the past three seasons, ridership averaged just 1,473. Meanwhile, fuel and insurance costs continued to rise. Saul said the ski area was spending about $500 for every round trip the bus made to the mountain.

He said the growing popularity of all-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive vehicles probably has contributed to the loss of bus passengers.

"The drive just isn't as formidable as it used to be," he said.

Saul said Roussel contacted the ski area about offering a shuttle service in the event the advance sales campaign for the bus failed.

Roussel, who divides his time between Salinas, Calif., and Ashland, said, "It will be cheaper to run the vans. It was costing (the ski area) at least twice as much to go up that mountain as it will cost me. It's very expensive to charter a bus."

He started providing shuttle service for mountain bikers last summer, hauling them to the mountain so they could ride downhill without climbing nearly 5,000 feet.

Roussel said he will have racks custom built for the vans to carry skis and snowboards. All riders will have to make reservations and buy tickets in advance.

Roussel said he thinks there is a market for transportation to the mountain, even during a shaky phase of the business cycle.

"People are still going to want to come out and play," he said. "Some may cut back on the number of loaves of bread they buy, but when it comes to playing, people don't want to stop."

For more information about the new van service, see

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