Mount Ashland Ski Area

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Mt. Ashland Ski Area
Mt. Ashland Ski Area Logo.jpg
Location Mount Ashland, Oregon
Nearest city Ashland, Oregon
Coordinates 42°5′0″N 122°43′0″W / 42.08333°N 122.71667°W / 42.08333; -122.71667 (Mt. Ashland Ski Area)
Top elevation 7,500 feet (2,300 m)
Base elevation 6,350 feet (1,940 m)
Skiable area 200 acres (81 ha)
Runs 23 plus open bowl skiing
Longest run 1 mile (1.6 km)
Lift system 4 chairlifts

Mount Ashland ski area is located on 7,532-foot (2,296 m) Mount Ashland and features 23 trails on 200 acres (0.81 km2) served by four lifts, in addition to chute skiing in a glacial cirque called The Bowl. The mountain receives over 300 inches (7,620.0 mm) of snow annually with a season from early December until mid-April. Half of the terrain is rated as advanced, and 15% is rated beginner.

Mount Ashland's "Bowl"

A Non-Profit Ski Area[edit]

Mt. Ashland is a community-focused ski area that is owned and operated by the non-profit Mt. Ashland Association. Mt. Ashland is dedicated to providing an outstanding alpine recreation experience for people of all ages and skill levels.[1] To help meet its mission, Mt. Ashland offers the popular After School Youth Program which offers low-cost and free instruction to local youth.[2] The 7,500' Crew Internship program also offers young people an opportunity to grow and develop at the ski area.

History[edit]

Mount Ashland's Lodge

During the 1950s, the mountain was a popular destination for local back country ski enthusiasts, some of whom built the lodge and one lift in 1963. In the 1970s, the area was managed by the Southern Oregon College Foundation (now Southern Oregon University) until it was purchased by Dick Hicks, a local businessman, in 1977. In 1983, the ski area was sold to Harbor Properties of Seattle, the owners of Stevens Pass Ski Area. Two new lifts were built during their ownership and night skiing lights were installed. In 1991, the City of Ashland purchased the ski resort through a community fundraising campaign and a grant from the Oregon Economic Development Fund. The slogan of the community fundraising campaign was "Save Mount Ashland."

In 1929 the City of Ashland got the Forest Service to agree that the city would participate in any forest management that might impact water quality of the 15,000-acre (61 km2) Ashland Creek watershed, the city's main municipal water supply.

Throughout the 1940s and 1950s backcountry skiing on Mount Ashland grew in popularity among local residents, prompting some to envision a developed ski area.

Mount Ashland chairlift in summer

During 1961 to 1963, the Mount Ashland Corporation raised money to clear trees, grade terrain, build roads, and develop a ski area. It includes a ski lodge, the Ariel chairlift, a T-bar lift, and a rope tow on the north face of the mountain. Medford businessman Glenn Jackson provided more than half of the $120,000 that financed construction of the lodge.

In 1970, after three consecutive years of winter drought deprived the mountain of adequate snowfall to continue operations, the Mount Ashland Corporation folded. The Southern Oregon College Foundation took over management the ski area after the people of Jackson County financed the purchase of ski area resources in the first of two public bailouts in the operation's history.

In 1975, the City of Ashland signed a new Memorandum of Understanding with USFS in which the city agreed to hire consultants to monitor conditions in the Ashland Creek watershed and USFS agreed to implement any measures necessary to maintain watershed quality.

In 1977, Dick Hicks purchased the ski area from Jackson County and incorporated it as Ski Ashland, Inc.

In 1978, Ski Ashland installed the Windsor chairlift. The monitoring effort led by USFS Ashland district ranger, Glendon Jefferies, observed the East Fork of Ashland Creek flowing "a solid reddish brown" below the ski area. Jefferies wrote to Ski Ashland in 1978, "The Mount Ashland Ski Area is a major source of sediment pollution in the East Fork of Ashland Creek." A 1979 report by James Montgomery to the city administrator made a similar finding.

In 1983, Harbor Properties of Seattle purchased Ski Ashland from Hicks. Over the next four years, Harbor developed on-slope lighting, a vehicle shop, and the Sonnet and Comer chair lifts.

Drought struck again in 1988–1991 and skier use declined. In 1991 a grassroots effort raised two million dollars to save Mount Ashland from bankruptcy. Money for the purchase came from donor restricted contributions and a grant from the Oregon Economic Development Fund channeled through the City of Ashland. The city accepted donated funds and purchased Ski Ashland from Harbor Properties. The city then hired Mount Ashland Association (MAA), a newly formed non-profit corporation, to maintain and operate the ski area.

In 1992, the City of Ashland entered a lease agreement with MAA. The lease expires on June 30, 2017, with an option to be renewed or terminated.

In 2005, the City of Ashland requested that MAA cooperate with it to create a quality assurance panel to assure proper implementation of watershed mitigation, as well as provide a business plan showing capital expenditure and operating projections for the planned expansion.

In August 2006, MAA responded to the city's request with an abbreviated business plan. MAA declined to release many financial details publicly, citing obligations to stakeholders.

In September 2006, the City of Ashland hired an attorney to represent public interests to MAA, which in turn vowed to sue the city for violating the lease agreement that allows MAA to operate the city-owned ski area.

In October 2006, the city revoked MAA authority to deal directly with USFS on matters related to the approved expansion and MAA was informed that no construction or logging will be allowed until a proper business plan is submitted.

In September 2007, the Ashland City Council voted to empower the City Administrator to negotiate a transfer of the Special-use permit authorizing ski area operation on national forest land to MAA in return for unspecified concessions.

Mt. Ashland hosted the Oregon Interscholastic Racing Association high school state championships in 2007 and 2016.[3]

The Mt. Ashland Association continues to manage the ski area for the benefit for the entire community. Numerous programs benefiting the community include the 7,500' Crew teen internship program, the deeply-discounted After School Youth Program, the ACCESS Ski & Ride for Hunger day, and the Women of Winter program.[4]

Looking north from near the summit

Expansion[edit]

In 1998, the Mount Ashland Association (MAA) proposed an expansion located generally west and downslope of the existing ski area, in the Middle Branch watershed of the East Fork of Ashland Creek. The proposal included construction of a second lodge near the base of the glacial moraine known as The Bowl, a new chairlift in the Middle Branch watershed serving 72 acres (290,000 m2) of new intermediate and advanced terrain, and 200 additional parking spaces.

Leading local conservation groups objected to the expansion plan, citing concerns about soil erosion effects on streams and wetlands in the City of Ashland's municipal watershed as well as concerns for old-growth forest, the McDonald Peak Inventoried Roadless Area, and sensitive wildlife including Pacific fisher.

In 2000, the United States Forest Service issued its first draft environmental impact statement (EIS) considering the MAA expansion proposal. The EIS drew over 6,000 public comments, about half of which supported the MAA plan and half opposed.

In 2001, Jack Williams, supervisor of the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, announced preparation of another draft EIS to address public comment regarding a lack of alternatives to the MAA proposal.

In 2003, the Forest Service issued its second draft EIS on expansion, this one with a broader range of alternatives. Alternative 2 was the MAA's original ski area expansion proposal. Alternative 3 would develop half of the MAA proposal on the east side of the Middle Branch watershed and avoid development on the west side of that creek, thereby reducing impacts to the McDonald Peak Roadless Area. Alternative 4 would develop additional ski facilities east of the existing ski area on The Knoll. Alternative 5 advanced a community proposal to develop the ski area largely within its existing footprint. Alternative 6 slightly modified the MAA proposal with different ski run placement and a wetland crossing design introduced by the Forest Service. The second draft EIS drew a similar level of public comment as the first one, with about 50 percent favoring the MAA plan and half opposed.

In December 2004, Scott Conroy, supervisor of the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, issued a Record of Decision that approved a blend of Alternatives 2 and 6 in the Final EIS. The Forest Service received 28 notices of appeal and denied all of them.

In January 2005, three organizations—Oregon Natural Resources Council, Headwaters and Sierra Club—and an individual, Eric Navickas, filed suit in the U.S. District Court of Oregon alleging that the Record of Decision violated the National Forest Management Act (NFMA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). In February 2007, District Judge Owen Panner granted summary judgment to the Forest Service stating, "You cannot make an omelet without breaking a few eggs."

ONRC, Headwaters and Sierra Club, but not Navickas, appealed Panner's judgment to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. A motions panel of the appellate court issued an injunction that prevented implementation of the expansion while the conservation groups' appeal was under review. The motions panel, which included appointees of Presidents Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, cited a likelihood of irreparable harm to Pacific fisher, a rare forest carnivore known to hunt at the exact location where the ski area would expand.

In September 2007, the Court of Appeals issued an opinion written by Judge Milan Smith, an appointee of President George W. Bush, holding that the Forest Service violated federal law in four ways when it approved the ski area expansion. Specifically, the court held that the 2004 Record of Decision:

(1) Violated the Rogue River National Forest Plan and the NFMA by failing to designate and manage geologically unstable landslide terrain as Riparian Reserve.

(2) Violated the Rogue River National Forest Plan and the NFMA by failing to recognize and observe mandatory soil disturbance limits on Restricted Watershed lands.

(3) Violated the Rogue River National Forest Plan and the NFMA with an arbitrary and capricious biological evaluation of effects to Pacific fisher.

(4) Violated the NEPA by failing to disclose significant cumulative effects to the Siskiyou Crest biological corridor used by Pacific fisher.

The appellate court specifically noted that the Aquatic Conservation Strategy of the Northwest Forest Plan "prohibits the Forest Service from 'us[ing] mitigation or planned restoration as a substitute for preventing habitat degradation' within Riparian Reserves, and explains that '[p]riority must be given to protecting existing high quality habitat' rather than compensating 'or management actions that degrade existing habitat' through mitigation and restoration.” It remanded the case to the district court and instructed the lower court to enjoin the ski area expansion "until the Forest Service has corrected the NFMA and NEPA violations we find in this opinion."

In October 2007, Linda Duffy, ranger of the Siskiyou Mountains Ranger District, announced that the Forest Service would produce a supplemental EIS to address the legal violations identified by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and move the ski area expansion forward.

In April 2011, the Forest Service issued a Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement regarding the Mt. Ashland Ski Area Expansion. It described approximately 67 acres of Riparian Reserve on geologically unstable lands that were overlooked in the 2004 Final EIS, as well as numerous locations where the expansion project would disturb hazardous landslide terrain. It further disclosed that the ski area expansion would render approximately 500 acres of roadless, old-growth forest habitat unusable to Pacific fisher.

Concurrent with the supplemental EIS, forest supervisor Conroy issued a Supplemental Record of Decision approving the original expansion plan without modification. Subsequently, Judge Panner lifted the injunction on the expansion.

In 2013, the ski area successfully undertook several projects identified in its expansion plans, including a 20% increase to its parking lot and the widening the Sonnet beginner ski run, in addition to several other ski runs.

As of 2016, a complaint of Oregon Wild, Sierra Club and Center for Biological Diversity alleging need for additional supplementation of environmental analysis is pending in the Ninth Circuit.

Other activities[edit]

Mount Ashland is a popular destination in summer for hiking, mountain biking, and sightseeing. The southernmost stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail in Oregon skirts the south and east sides of the mountain. The Spring Thaw mountain bike festival, the largest cycling event in Southern Oregon, is a series of races and events held each year in early March, starting from the town of Ashland and including the lower slopes of Mount Ashland. The Jean Chinn Memorial Mount Ashland Hill Climb Race is a hill climb, and a combination road and mountain bike race, starting from the town of Ashland and ending at the Mount Ashland ski area parking lot, with a different route for road and mountain bikes. The Siskiyou Out Back is a 50 kilometre (31 mi) ultramarathon trail run, starting and ending at the Mount Ashland ski area parking lot.

The peak is also the site of the transmitter and antenna for KTVL Channel 10 television, based in Medford, Oregon, approximately 15 miles (24 km) to the north.

Climate[edit]

Mount Ashland Ski Area has an oceanic subalpine climate (Köppen climate classification Dsc). The record high temperature at the Mount Ashland Ski Area is 95 °F (35 °C), while the record low is −18 °F (−28 °C). Yearly rainfall averages over 60 inches (1,500 mm), while snowfall averages over 300 inches (7,600 mm). The high elevation results in heavy precipitation, despite being located at the end of the Rogue Valley, which is located in a rain shadow.

Climate data for Mt. Ashland Ski Area Lodge (6,400 ft.)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 61
(16)
63
(17)
68
(20)
79
(26)
86
(30)
92
(33)
94
(34)
95
(35)
91
(33)
82
(28)
65
(18)
58
(14)
95
(35)
Average high °F (°C) 29
(−2)
31
(−1)
37
(3)
42
(6)
54
(12)
66
(19)
72
(22)
71
(22)
66
(19)
55
(13)
38
(3)
28
(−2)
49
(9)
Average low °F (°C) 15
(−9)
18
(−8)
21
(−6)
26
(−3)
29
(−2)
36
(2)
42
(6)
39
(4)
34
(1)
30
(−1)
22
(−6)
13
(−11)
27
(−3)
Record low °F (°C) −14
(−26)
−12
(−24)
−3
(−19)
2
(−17)
12
(−11)
14
(−10)
18
(−8)
17
(−8)
12
(−11)
0
(−18)
−6
(−21)
−18
(−28)
−18
(−28)
Average precipitation inches (mm) 9.52
(241.8)
7.66
(194.6)
7.02
(178.3)
4.80
(121.9)
2.67
(67.8)
1.19
(30.2)
0.78
(19.8)
0.95
(24.1)
1.34
(34)
5.14
(130.6)
10.73
(272.5)
11.88
(301.8)
63.68
(1,617.4)
Average snowfall inches (cm) 66
(168)
59
(150)
52
(132)
16
(41)
2.6
(6.6)
0.8
(2)
0.2
(0.5)
0.3
(0.8)
0.8
(2)
8
(20)
79
(201)
84
(213)
368.7
(936.9)
Source: Weather.com:[5]

References[edit]

External links[edit]