Mount Ashland officials are putting the final touches on facilities and ski runs in advance of the mountain's Thursday opening.

Mount Ashland officials are putting the final touches on facilities and ski runs in advance of the mountain's Thursday opening.

Mountain staff on Sunday confirmed the 2009-10 ski season's starting date of Dec. 17. The weekend brought six inches of new snow to most reaches of the mountain, and storms this week could add as much as another foot, covering most areas of the mountain and leaving workers with just a few last-minute preparations before the season gets underway.

"Everybody's in full swing," said Mount Ashland Ticket Manager Emily Parrish. "Right now we're all working to get (the runs) ready for Thursday."

Officials say at least two ski runs, Sonnet and Comer, will be operating Thursday beginning at 9 a.m. Around 130 seasonal workers have been notified to begin this week, while the mountain's business office remains active selling season passes.

Parrish says officials are hopeful a mid-week storm could allow more of the mountain's 23 runs to be open come Thursday.

"It all depends on how much snow the storm produces, and the kind of snow we get, if it's light or heavy," she said. Heavy snow would give greater padding to the areas still too shallow to operate.

Ski patrol crews will spend Wednesday putting boundary ropes into place on each run and equipping emergency stations throughout the mountain. Parrish says the hurried pace to put each phase of operation in place is due in part to the workers' excitement of starting another season.

"The ramps are set up and ready to go. Folks inside the café and retail shop are getting ready as well," she said. "I really think we could be busy."

The mountain will operate daily through Jan 3. After that it will switch to a five-day week, Thursday through Monday.

"This is a special event," Parrish said. "People are chomping at the bit to get up here."

Season passes can be purchased at the Mount Ashland ski lodge. Ski pass applications can also be downloaded online at www.MtAshland.com.

Elon Glucklich is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Contact him at eglucklich@gmail.com.