Ski area restores Mondays

Hailing the move as a compromise with area skiers and snowboarders, Mt. Ashland Ski Area officials announced today that they have restored Mondays to the upcoming ski season operational hours.

"Compromise means meeting folks halfway," said Mt. Ashland Ski Area General Manager Kim Clark. "We're trying to do our part by restoring Mondays. Our guests will need to do their part by making use of the restored days or we can't maintain Mondays in future years. I hate to put it this way, but it's either use it or lose it."

Ski area managers announced in July that the ski area would not be open on Mondays, Tuesdays and Saturday nights to reduce costs while avoiding raising lift ticket prices. At the time, officials called the decision a difficult but necessary business move &

one that other ski areas of similar size had adopted. But the move was sharply criticized by many season pass holders, who were most impacted by the decreased availability.

"We listened to the comments and concerns by the people about the closing down," Clark said. "The reason we shut down on those times is a financial concern &

the area has to make money. Those days are the days we have to make money."

Clark said remaining open on Mondays, Tuesdays and Saturday nights cost about $130,000 more than it brought in each season.

"Our staff looked at the figures and concluded that being open on Mondays might be at least a break-even deal if we can get a few more guests up on those days," said Clark. Restoring Tuesdays and Saturday nights to the schedule "just did not look promising at all." Public response to the Monday closure was far more negative than was reaction to either the Tuesday or Saturday night closures, said Clark.

"We knew we couldn't add all three times back," he said.

Skiers respond

According to Rick Saul, director of marketing, sale of season passes have dropped this year. The total number of season passes sold during the Spring and Fall sales in 2006 was 2,766. This year, for the same sale period, netted just 2,080 season passes. The price of the season pass increased by $26, Saul said.

"I don't think it was because of the price increase but the schedule," Saul said of the drop in sales. Saul hoped that the return of Mondays to the schedule and the extension of the fall sale, in which the price of a season pass is discounted $100, would boost sales. "We'd welcome it," he said.

Clark said a decision regarding the 2008-09 season's operating schedule will be made in early March 2008, just prior to the spring pass sale, rather than in July as it was this year, after season passes have been sold. That timing will allow an accurate schedule of operating days to be used in marketing materials for the spring sale.

Clark said that out of 1,920 season pass holders, 45 asked for refunds following July's announcement.

"And we're going to be personally contacting those 45 and offering back their pass at the price they paid for it," Clark said.

In conjunction with today's announcement, the ski area extended its fall season pass discount offer through Nov. 18.

Clark said preparation for the coming season is well underway.

"The forecast right now looks really good for the next to week to 10 days," Clark said. "If we get about 36 inches of light dreamy powder we can't open. But if we get that good wet northwest glop, we'll be in heaven."

Weather permitting, the ski area could open the day before Thanksgiving, on Nov. 21, Clark said.

Clark said essential maintenance and repairs were made over the off-season, including a complete overhaul on the Windsor lift. "Windsor will run at full steam for the first time in years."

But other vital improvements and maintenance on other lifts will have to wait for next season, Clark said, after the ski area has completed it's current push to raise $1 million. As of last week, the ski area had raised about one-third of its goal.

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