Skiers hope for Mount Ashland snow by Friday

A dusting wouldn't do it, but another 10 to 12 inches of snow would be the frosting on the Mount Ashland cake for ski hounds waiting for the resort to open.

"Another foot would do us really good, especially if it is good, wet snow to continue to make the base," said Kim Clark, Mount Ashland general manager. "But the mountain is looking the best for this time of year than it has in many, many years."

There are now about 2 feet of snow — give or take a few inches — at the lodge, not quite enough to open by Thanksgiving Day, Clark said. The average opening date for the ski area is the second week in December.

But the local weather forecast calls for precipitation beginning on Thursday.

"The mountain is on 48-hour standby," Clark said. "Within 48 hours of receiving enough snow, we can be open. If we got enough snow on Thursday and Friday, we would be ready to open on Saturday."

The ski area is managed by the Mount Ashland Association, a nonprofit corporation.

The National Weather Service office at the Medford airport is calling for rain on the valley floors on Thanksgiving Day, followed by showers on Friday and Saturday.

"It will be a fairly high snow level to start out with, but it will be dropping to around 3,500 feet on Friday," said Chuck Glaser, data program manager at the local NWS office.

Mount Ashland, the highest point in the Siskiyou Mountains at 7,531 feet, can expect snow, according to the forecast. However, weather prognosticators weren't hazarding a guess of how much will fall.

The good news is that the weather shouldn't be too hazardous for holiday travelers.

"At this point, it shouldn't cause a lot of problems for most people — it's too hit and miss," Glaser said, noting that many people travel on the day before Thanksgiving and the day after. The exception could be high elevations, including the Siskiyou Pass, which at some 5,000 feet above sea level is the highest point on Interstate 5 between Canada and Mexico, he said.

Statewide, most Oregon ski areas will be open by Thanksgiving, including Mt. Hood Meadows, Timberline and

Mt. Bachelor, making it the earliest opening in 15 years for many ski resorts.

On Mount Ashland, the roads are plowed and sanded. All told, 41 inches of snow has fallen since the snowstorms began, although it has compacted. During a "good year," the mountain's cumulative snowfall is about 300 inches. Last season, it received about 204 inches of snow, down from 298 inches in 2007-08.

The 2008 ski season started off slowly, followed by too little snow in January to keep the longest ski runs open, although Mother Nature dumped adequate snow on the mountain in February.

But an El NiÃ3/8o weather pattern is expected this year, which generally means average precipitation and temperatures for the region.

"It looks like it could be a good winter, not exceptional, but a good one," Clark said. "The mountain is ready. We've got our people ready to go."

All they need is a foot of snow to put them in business.

For the latest ski information, check the Mount Ashland Web site at

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at

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