Mt. Ashland Ski Area has had an exceptionally active first half of the season and is on track to get more business than ever. Most people hitting the slopes aren’t tourists, but skiers living in the region, many of them new to the sport.

The Mt. Ashland ski area in Southern Oregon will not open this season due to a regional drought and a lack of snow. Here's what it looked like in early 2013, when the slopes were open for business.

The Mt. Ashland ski area in Southern Oregon in early 2013.

Devan Schwartz

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Comparatively low prices and small crowds at Mt. Ashland have historically attracted out-of-town visitors. This season, Rogue Valley locals are visiting the mountain in unusually large numbers.

“Mostly, we’re a local ski area,” says Hiram Towle, the general manager at Mt. Ashland. “We’re a drive market, we serve the Rogue Valley primarily. That’s our bread and butter. We have a lot of season pass holders who are locals who have been skiing here for a long time.”

Towle says that this year, they aren’t doing any advertising out-of-state in an effort to preserve the space for locals. Still, he says they are anticipating a record-breaking 100,000 skier visits this year.

Towle thinks that the pandemic has kept people cooped up indoors this winter, and outdoor recreation, like skiing, is a relatively safe way to get out of the house and get exercise.

“We are definitely seeing new people entering the sport,” says Towle. “It is, I think, partly due to COVID and there’s not a lot of other sports. You know, folks who would generally be indoors working out are still looking to stay healthy in body and mind. And skiing and riding and being in this environment does that for them.”

The ski area has put in place a variety of safety measures, such as enforcing social distancing and mask-wearing. They even closed down the lodge, but sales are still skyrocketing.

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