In response to a sluggish economy and a 15 percent decrease in skier visits in the 2008-09 season, Mount Ashland is offering up to a $100 reduction on early purchases of season passes.

In response to a sluggish economy and a 15 percent decrease in skier visits in the 2008-09 season, Mount Ashland is offering up to a $100 reduction on early purchases of season passes.

“We are following the consumer confidence index,” said Rick Saul, marketing and sales director for the ski and snowboarding area.

During Mount Ashland's 2008-09 season, sales of season passes were down 38 percent, as a $100 price increase ran head-on into a sluggish economy.

“I think there was some price shock out there in combination with the weakening economy,” Saul said.

Also contributing to the drop-off was a slow start to the snow year. Most of the mountain's losses occurred in January when there wasn't enough snow to open up Dream and Caliban, the mountain's longest runs. But the crowds returned when the snow base increased in February.

“I think it affected our walk-in ticket sales more than it did our pass holders,” Saul said.

Mount Shasta Ski Park and Hoodoo Mountain Resort also reduced their season pass prices from last year's. Mount Bachelor and Mount Hood Meadows' pre-season pass specials are comparable to last year's.

“I think it was a pretty ubiquitous measure in the ski industry,” Saul said.
During the unlimited season pass sale, which ends Oct. 15, adult passes will be $75 less than last year; junior passes (for teenagers 13-17) will be $50 less; and if three family members, including one adult, purchase season passes, they would each receive an additional $25 off. Mount Ashland also is offering college students a $350 pass throughout the season, a savings of $150 from 2008.

Prices will go up when the sale ends, but post-sale prices will still be less than last year's, as ski area officials try to stem any further declines.

“Leisure services dollars are harder to come by,” Saul said.

In addition to cutting prices, management was reduced by three positions and budgeted labor costs were cut by 20 percent last year. Mount Ashland also went from operating seven days a week to five, closing the mountain on Tuesdays and Wednesdays except during the Christmas holiday season.

“Most ski areas our size operate five days a week,” Saul said. “We were kinda the last hold-outs dropping to that size.”

The average opening for Mount Ashland is the second week of December, depending on snow levels. Saul said this year is expected to bring an El Niņo weather pattern, which generally means average precipitation and temperatures for Southern Oregon.

“Last time we had an El Niņo year, it was a pretty good year,” Saul said.

On average, a good year for Mount Ashland means about 300 inches of cumulative snowfall — the total of the various snowfalls, rather than total snow depth, which is less due to compacting. Last year, the mountain received about 204 inches of cumulative snowfall, while the 2007-08 season totaled 298 inches.

“You can never count on it until it's on the ground,” Saul said.

Passes can be purchased at the Mount Ashland office, 673 Washington St., Ashland, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The office will be closed on Labor Day. Season pass applications are available on the Mount Ashland Web site, www.mtashland.com, and must be submitted by Oct. 15 to receive the discounted prices. Only the college discount will continue past the fall sale.

Reach intern Teresa Thomas at 776-4464 or at intern1@mailtribune.com.