Two of Ashland's most beloved institutions are getting fresh starts. The Daily Tidings has a new found independence and look. Hallelujah! We are no longer a clone of the Medford Mail Tribune. That just wasn't right on so many levels.
The Mount Ashland ski area is also embarking on a much-needed makeover. The Mt. Ashland Association let the old general manager go this past spring and is currently searching for a new executive/general manager. The previous management took over in 2007 and made decisions that caused skier visits to drop from around 100,000 annually to under 70,000, reduced the mountain to a five-days-a-week operation, made season ticket sales plummet, drained the rainy-day fund and eroded good will on the mountain and beyond.
It is a new day up on the hill. The MAA is currently surveying the community to see what changes and improvements can be made. I implore the board to make two major changes that will help restore goodwill in the community and insure the future of the mountain for generations to come.
First, return the mountain to a full-time operation. This will stimulate the sale of both season passes and day passes. In a good year, the season is about four months long and must to be open every day to fully capitalize on revenue opportunities. It will also go a long way to heal the animosity created by previous management. When conditions are good , the mountain will be packed with happy skiers and riders on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. We will no longer need to drive down to Mount Shasta on those days, as many of us have the past few years, and Mount A can keep our money.
Second — and this is the big one — give up the reckless and financially irresponsible pursuit of an expansion. Millions of dollars have been thrown away in litigation and environmental studies and the legal challenges will continue.
That money would have keep the mountain free of financial worries for years to come. Instead, that hard-earned money has been obscenely stuffed into the pockets of lawyers.
The argument has been made that the expansion is needed to keep the mountain alive. The opposite is true. In reality, it has been killing the mountain financially and spiritually.
This issue has split Ashland down the middle for decades, and it is time to let it go. Take off your ski boots for a moment in put your feet into the Birkenstocks of a non-skier. Yes, there actually are people who have absolutely no interest in skiing. Why the hell would they potentially want their watershed and water quality messed with so we can have a few longer runs to slide down at a lower altitude? Is bigger really better?
I personally think the expansion could have been done without compromising our water quality, but as long as that perception exists from half of the community, then the ski area has a major problem. I have been against the expansion simply because it would desecrate a unique and pristine wild place. We are not building any more of those.
Why mess with a masterpiece? We already have a splendid little ski area. Why can't we be content with what we have? Let's continue to make improvements within the ample existing boundaries.
You will be told that the expansion is currently on the back burner because of a lack of funds. Don't drink that Kool-Aid. There will be other evasive answers concerning this.
The karma is strong right now and there will be a couple of good snow years, I promise, and the drums for expansion will start beating again. It is time to put this divisive concept to bed. Forever. Say goodnight, Gracie.
If you feel like I do, please go to the Mount A website and take part in the survey. Implore the board to permanently drop the expansion and return the mountain to a full-time operation.
Let's restore harmony and good will to our lovely community and move forward together in a positive manner. We just got our paper back, now let's get our mountain back. Let the snow be deep, the powder be light and the water run pure.
Pete Toogood lives in Ashland.