With heavy snows and a recovering economy, the Mt. Ashland Ski Area racked up the best December in the four seasons since it went to five-day weeks, says General Manager Kim Clark.
"It's very definitely helping us dig out of our financial hole," Clark said.
"Mount A" took a beating from last winter's snow drought which in April triggered a $350,000 fund-raising campaign that is now three-quarters of the way to its goal, said Clark.
Although the season is only one-fourth over, it is on track for a record year, he noted, "especially with us coming out of the recession, although some people could argue with that."
"The industry in the Northwest is having an incredible year so far," Clark said. "We're seeing the end of the tunnel ... and we're very happy."
Mount Ashland is "debt free" except for a few small notes, he said, and fundraising is expected to make up for last year's shortfall and build up reserves, which were exhausted.
From the $350,000 fundraising target, $150,000 would go to cover last year's shortfall on operating costs and $250,000 will go to replenish reserves and fund future projects, he said.
Reserves were at $2.4 million in the 1990s but $1 million was spent on a wastewater treatment facility and $250,000 on legal costs for the proposed expansion, with the rest going to consultants, research and permits.
The fundraising campaign has four more months to run.
"I don't know if we can do this in one year," Clark said, "but it would be awesome if we can."
Mount Ashland recently received two large gifts from local contributors, for $50,000 and $10,000, though Clark declined to name the donors now.
The mountain was open 21 days in December, starting on Dec. 6, which was 66 percent above the five-year average for the month in total operating days. It was also up 44 percent in guest visits and the snowfall was up 57 percent, said marketing director Rick Saul. The ski area was closed one day in December for high winds.
Mount Ashland reported snow depths of 76 to 105 inches on Monday, in the most recently posted totals on its website. It snowed heavily there Wednesday and forecasts call for new snow every day through Sunday.
The ski area is open Thursdays through Mondays and offers night skiing on Thursdays and Fridays.
John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.