Curiouser and curiouser

Recent moves by the Mt. Ashland Association, when lined up in a row side by side, look far more like precarious dominos about to teeter than a coordinated plan for the future of the ski area.

We can't help but wonder about the result of the forthcoming ruling by the Ninth District Court of Appeals &

whether it will cause those dominoes to topple into a big pile of chaos, with the entire fate of the ski area crumbling under the debris.

Too dramatic? Not when you consider the ski area has struggled for survival throughout its history, including going belly up altogether had the local community not rallied to save it as a nonprofit organization. If expansion fails, how longer can it hope to remain viable?

Imagining reaching that point again is not difficult. Imagining the community rallying again with enough support to save the MAA is very difficult. Today, the entire mountain is covered in more controversy than winter snow. Recent decisions by the MAA tend to fuel the discontent and raise questions.

Why would the MAA decide to sue the city just one day after a rough and tumble hearing in court? We are told its just a coincidence of timing. If true, its an unfortunate one, as it looked very much to the casual observer that the MAA lashed out at the city for impeding the expansion project.

The MAA's refusal to provide the city of Ashland a detailed business report that laid out its plans for expansion, financial viability, and contingency plans to provide for restoration funds should it fail, heightened the distrust in those running a nonprofit community organization. Prudence suggests the MAA had nothing to gain from making its plans known and thereby giving its opponents more fuel for their fires of opposition. But the problem with a community-supported nonprofit organization is that it can never ignore the court of public opinion. Proving a clear transparent plan for expansion would have left the city with far less ammo to fire back. Instead, the MAA appeared petty and secretive.

The biggest blow of all came when the MAA, again just days after its district court appearance, announced that it would not be open on Mondays, Tuesdays and Saturday nights this coming season, thereby depriving pass-holders more days to enjoy the mountain for the same cost. While the move may be financially prudent, it came after the pre-season pass sale, where the most loyal users of the mountain paid for what they believed to be a seven-days-a-week operations.

The MAA offered refunds, although most avid skiers and snowboarders have little choice but to keep their passes. But it did bring bad blood, not to mention incentive for area winter enthusiasts to look again at other options, perhaps Mount Shasta, Bachelor or others.

In the grand scheme of things, none of this matters. The votes that matter are those of the three judges in the Ninth District Court of Appeals. Should they deny expansion, MAA must go back to the original drawing board and perhaps try to reconsider alternatives that area environmentalists say they would support, but the MAA dismisses as untenable. If they win the ruling, they will make every effort to fell the trees before winter, and before the Sierra Club and others issue more legal battles to delay and/or block the expansion.

Whatever the court ruling, it seems the aftermath of this protracted, nasty battle will linger for years to come.

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