The "Future of Mt. Ashland" campaign has raised more than $500,000, with many more donations expected to come in now that the ski and snowboard resort is open for the 2007-08 season.

The campaign, being conducted by the Mount Ashland Association, began nearly two months ago. Donations and pledges are expected to continue through at least the month of January, according to MAA president Bill Little.

"We have raised over $510,000 to date and there is more to come," Little said. "We've raised the funds necessary for meeting operations and business expenses this year. We have experienced a tremendous response from the entire region, especially Ashland.".

MAA hoped to raise $1 million by the end of the year for operational costs, legal fees and banking funds for the first step of expansion should the project win legal approval.

"The first goal was to fund operations and put some money back in the bank to help out with things as we've been slowly depleting the funds," Little said this morning. "We also wanted to fund this year's legal fees. We've met both those goals."

Little said efforts would continue to try to raise the money needed for expansion.

"The third goal is to have the money to start logging when we get the approval to move ahead. We haven't gotten that yet, but we'll keep pushing toward it," Little said. "I just received $5,500 in donations on Monday, Christmas Eve," Little said. "Toward the end of the year, funds have continued to come in."

Individuals and businesses from Jackson, Josephine, Klamath and Siskiyou counties have contributed thus far, with approximately one-third of the total coming from Ashland residents. The percentage of Ashland donations is about equal to what city residents donated in the 1992 campaign to "Save Mt. Ashland," according to Little.

Little said MAA is now ready to begin the process of strategic planning for its capital campaign for the improvement project.

"This campaign was, yes, about raising money," Little said, "but it was also about gauging where we would be when we finally launch the capital campaign for expansion. On that note, I'm encouraged."

Little said the feedback he received was about expected, with some enthusiastic support, and some determined opposition. But he said many are also taking a wait-and-see attitude.

"I've had many conversations with people who don't want to necessarily fund the legal process, but have pledged their support when we start expansion," Little said.

He also believes the process affirmed continued interest in seeing the long-sought expansion process get underway.

"Our conversations with donors to this campaign proved there is strong support for our goal of providing balanced terrain for skiers and boarders, as well as economic stability and a continued emphasis on environmental stewardship," said Little.

MAA suffered a legal setback in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which issued an injunction against construction or logging on the mountain until the forest service addresses legal challenges from environmental groups including the local chapter of the Sierra Club who have opposed expansion into the roadless area that is where MAA wants to build new runs.

Little said steady, light snow has made for a great opening week for MAA during the holiday season.

"It's really been nice this week," Little said. "Our skier count every day since we've open has almost been exactly the same within a 100 of each other. We're getting a little fresh each day. This is nearly ideal as far we are concerned."