PO Box 220 / 693 Washington St.
Ashland OR 97520
Mt. AshlandAshland, Oregon
Nonprofit ski area focused on community
Built in 1963, the Mt. Ashland Ski Area started with one chairlift, a T-bar, and a rope tow thanks to a grassroots effort by a group of passionate local skiers. After various private owners and amenity upgrades, the community banded together and created the Mt. Ashland Association to own and operate the ski area when it was on the verge of permanently closing in 1992.
The Tudor-style lodge along with the ski trails and chairlifts named after Shakespearean characters are an ode to the City of Ashland’s famous Oregon Shakespeare Festival. These and other idiosyncrasies subtly resemble characteristics of Ashland’s unique culture and bustling outdoor and arts community just 30 minutes down the hill. Southern Oregon University’s proximity to Mt. Ashland not only means students can sneak turns between classes, but they also use the ski area as a lab for their environmental restoration studies, hospitality management marketing projects, and environmental interpretation programs.
Nestled on the edge of one of the most biodiverse regions in the world, with views of Mt. Shasta to the south and Crater Lake to the north, Mt. Ashland is a jewel in the Siskiyou Crest. Known for having the best terrain for ‘steep and deep’ days, Ashland’s summit elevation of 7,533 feet gives the ski area a vertical drop of 1,150 vertical feet with 200 acres of varied skiing and riding terrain. Four chairlifts provide access to twenty-three trails, open bowl skiing, and forty acres of trails for night skiing. With discounted “Carload Mondays” and the “Ski Hopper” bus, local skiers and snowboarders have plenty of carpool incentives to get up to the mountain and enjoy not only the POW, but also the weekly concert series featuring local artists and Oregon craft beers on tap.
If you live in the Rogue Valley and would like to learn more about the ski area’s new initiatives or get involved, Mt. Ashland’s monthly board meetings are open to the public! Please email email@example.com for more information.
Sustainability ManagementSection Performance - 77%
Mt. Ashland’s management team utilized the STOKE Sustainability Management System Template to create their own comprehensive set of policies and procedures for their sustainability initiatives. The Mt. Ashland Association Board is reviewing their long-term sustainability goals and will release these publicly before the 2017/18 winter. The SMS is the sustainability equivalent of your trail map, barometer, master plan, and avy beacon all rolled into one. It guides all management practices, staff training, policies and procedures, goals and implementation strategies. This is their go-to document and your guarantee for an epic day on the hill for many winters.View Criteria
Maintaining strong communication lines with the public and various community stakeholders about the ski area’s plans for the future is second nature to Mt. Ashland. As a nonprofit ski area, the Mt. Ashland Association holds monthly Board meetings that are open to the public in order to discuss key issues affecting the ski area and the local community in order to inform future decision making and community development goals. Management is finalizing a comprehensive communications strategy that adheres to the STOKE template for ensuring transparent, honest, and consistent messaging across all departments to mitigate the risk of greenwashing. This way, you stay informed and can get stoked on authentic sustainability programs that your tickets and passes support.View Criteria
The Mt. Ashland terrain park may be small, but it’s designed to for you to progress responsibly and stay stoked with creative lines and features that incorporate best practices in terrain park design. Mt. Ashland sends their Terrain Park Director to Cutter’s Camp to learn all of the new tricks of the trade and apply them on the hill while using upcycled materials to craft new features each season. SMART Style signage keeps everyone within their skill set so you can shred safely and be prepared to slash and launch off all the wind lips when a powder day beckons you to leave the park.View Criteria
If you live in the Rogue Valley, the ski patrol, ski school, and mountain hosts are most likely one of your neighbors. Not only are they stoked to be on the job and share their passion, they take their responsibility to provide a fun and safe day on the hill very seriously. Ski Patrol’s “Go With the Flow” approach to enforcing mountain etiquette illustrates this perfectly. They trust skiers and snowboarders to go with the speed of traffic and since the runs are rarely congested—it’s a no brainer and the public doesn’t view the patrol as the police. They’re more like their friends and neighbors so everyone treats each other with respect and shares the POW. Besides on-hill safety, Mt. Ashland added a Beacon Park next to the lodge this winter and partnered with the Mt. Shasta Avalanche Center and the local Ashland Outdoor Store to offer an Avalanche Awareness and Training Clinic since the ski area sits on the edge of some incredible backcountry skiing. Know before you go!View Criteria
- 1.1 Sustainability Management System
- 1.7 Communications Strategy
- 1.9.5 & 1.9.6 Terrain Park Design and Maintenance
- 1.8 Skilled Guides/Ski Patrol/Ski School
Social and Economic Impacts ManagementSection Performance - 79%
Since the community banded together and took ownership of the mountain in 1992, the nonprofit Mt. Ashland Association has committed to providing a greater impact on the Rogue Valley beyond the stoke of turning and burning. With the support of local donors and sponsors, the longstanding After School Youth Program has taught over 30,000 local elementary and middle school students how to ski and snowboard since the program began over 20 years ago. Southern Oregon University's proximity to Mt. Ashland not only means students can sneak turns between classes, but they also use the ski area as a lab for their environmental restoration studies, hospitality management projects, and interpretation programs. These education initiatives are grooming stewards of the mountain for generations to come.View Criteria
Local communities in the Rogue Valley benefit from several programs Mt. Ashland runs each season that focus on health and wellness in order to get all generations and genders outdoors. The ski area provides an affordable learn to ski program called, My Turn, where graduates of the winter-long course earn free season passes or several lift vouchers and other benefits depending on age. With the support of 578 donors who received free lift tickets in exchange for at least five canned goods, Mt. Ashland collected 3,206 pounds of food for their annual Ski Against Hunger Food Drive in collaboration with the local ACCESS food bank. Mt. Ashland also facilitates the Women of Winter program in partnership with SheJumps, a nonprofit whose mission is to increase the participation of women and girls in outdoor activities. In collaboration with various nonprofits and social services organizations in the Rogue Valley, Mt. Ashland hosted the first Winter Wellness Day this year which taught 120 local underprivileged youth how to ski and snowboard. With all this in mind, you can ski and ride easy knowing your quest for powder has led to a better quality of life for the people who make Mt. Ashland and the surrounding region special.View Criteria
Ashland and the greater Rogue Valley is home to a multitude of artists from various disciplines. Mt. Ashland recognizes the abundance of talent at their doorstep and frequently collaborates with local artists to integrate the creative culture into the skiing experience. After installing a solar PV array in summer 2016, management partnered with a local artist to illustrate a custom design for their season passes and apparel that commemorated the ski area’s transition to renewable energy. Over the course of the winter, local bands are invited to play at the ski area for various fundraisers and other special events so you can jam out while sampling local craft brews and supporting your community ski area. Ashland is also home to the world renowned Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) so Mt. Ashland partnered with OSF to offer the “Snow and a Show” package where skiers can enjoy a discounted night at the theater after a day up on the hill.View Criteria
As expected with a community driven ski area, Mt. Ashland prides itself on hiring all local staff and appointing local stakeholders to their Board. Mt. Ashland currently employs 95% local (within a 30-mile radius of the ski area) while the other 5% live just beyond that 30-mile radius. This translates to a big bump in the local economy—contributing $845,783 to the local workforce for the 2016/17 season alone. Keeping jobs local engenders community involvement and integration with the operation’s sustainability goals and leads to low staff turnover rates. Residents of the Rogue Valley are passionate about their local mountain and when you visit, you’ll know why.View Criteria
- 2.1.2 Community Development - Education
- 2.1.3 Community Development - Health
- 2.1.6 Community Development - Arts
- 2.2 Local Employment
Cultural Heritage Impacts ManagementSection Performance - 70%
Vertical feet, number of lifts, and average annual snowfall are typically what we look for in a ski area, but the terrain should not be your only focus. You can get just as stoked on the culture, heritage, and environment that keeps you coming back for more than fresh turns. Mt. Ashland, who celebrated their 50th year anniversary in 2015, is culturally and environmentally rich with close proximity to Ashland and the Siskiyou Wilderness respectively. In summer 2016, Mt. Ashland hosted a bioblitz day in celebration of the National Geographic’s Every Kid in Park program where fourth graders were invited to find and identify as many species as possible in a specific area over a short period of time. Local scientists, park rangers, schools, and businesses participated in the event to educate the next generation about one of the most biodiverse regions in the world that Mt. Ashland calls home. During the three slope care days Mt. Ashland hosts in the summer, volunteers learn about the ski area’s erosion control and watershed management practices and how they affect wildlife habitat and the City of Ashland’s water source. The Environmental Committee and mountain ops teams are working on a formal interpretation plan in collaboration with the local Forest Service, students from Southern Oregon University, and local nonprofits for on-slope interpretation as well as in the renovated lodge as the ski area transitions to year-round operations.View Criteria
Built in 1964, Mt. Ashland has embraced its heritage and local culture since day one. Known for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) in Ashland, the ski area named every trail after Shakespearean characters while the Tudor-style architecture of the lodge represents the era of the famous playwright as well. Many photos, signs, and other miscellaneous artifacts of the ski area’s past can be found throughout the lodge. As the ski area prepares for renovations of their lodge this summer, management has gone through the process of identifying all of the historically significant traits of the building with a historian who is setting guidelines for renovations in order to preserve the ski area’s rich heritage. Take one step in this place, and you’ll know why it’s special... It was one of the sites considered for the shooting of The Shining before Timberline Lodge was chosen, but don’t worry, Jack Nicholson and the twins are nowhere to be found—just good vibes.View Criteria
Sacred cultural, historical, and archaeological sites provide unique characteristics to each ski area by framing the history and culture that defines the region. Maintaining these sites and respecting the cultures who value them most, is something Mt. Ashland embraces as part of their distinct skiing culture. Local indigenous cultures are represented at Mt. Ashland with their biannual Snow Blessing Ceremonies, which hosts various Native American and religious groups to pray at the top of the ski area each fall and spring. Leaders of these groups in the ceremony work with Mt. Ashland to establish a code of conduct for all visitors to ensure respectful behavior between visitors and the spiritual leaders and performers.View Criteria
- 3.4 Interpretation
- 3.5.2-.3 Incorporation of Culture - Design & Decor
- 3.1 Cultural Code of Conduct | 3.3 Protected Sites
Environmental Impacts ManagementSection Performance - 78%
Transitioning to renewables is vital to the future of the skiing industry (and the world of course). Mt. Ashland was the first Early Adopter of the STOKE Snow program when they were benchmarked by STOKE and provided with a Roadmap to Sustainability Report in March 2015. One of the major outcomes of their Roadmap Report was a $65,552 grant and nearly $27,000 in incentives for an 85-panel rooftop solar system that was installed in July 2016. The solar PV system produced 15,356 kWh for energy used on site and 10,514 kWh that was exported back to the grid for a total CO2 emissions savings of 18.2 tons for the 2016/17 winter season. Live performance and historical data from Mt. Ashland’s solar PV system are available on their website.View Criteria
Climate change threatens our entire way of life, but ski areas and mountain communities are one of the many canaries in the coal mine who will feel the impacts first, which is why STOKE members measure their greenhouse gas emissions and take every effort to reduce their footprint. Mt. Ashland established a GHG baseline in 2016 of 425.78 tons of CO2 after a normal winter and will be creating reduction goals after the 2017/18 season due to their lodge renovations this summer which will affect energy usage data and skew the viability of attaining long-term reduction goals. In the meantime, Mt. Ashland will continue to increase participation in their two alternative transportation initiatives like they did this past season to reduce secondary emissions sources. The Ski Hopper shuttle bus was offered free of charge for the 2016/17 winter which increased ridership from 250 to 1560 passengers and resulted in a net reduction of 21.4 tons of CO2 emissions compared to 1.7 tons of emissions reductions the previous year. Carload Mondays, the ski area’s other carpool incentive that allows up to eight passengers to split the cost of a lift ticket, had 58 cars with a total of 272 participants which saved 6.65 tons of CO2 emissions over the winter. Mt. Ashland’s solar panels also reduced their net emissions by 18.2 tons in its first winter and will remain critical to their GHG management plan as they transition to year-round operations.View Criteria
The way that ski areas purchase the ‘stuff’ they need to operate can be a powerful tool for encouraging and supporting locally produced sustainable goods and services while reducing wasteful byproducts. Mt. Ashland’s management team is going through process of cataloguing all of their purchasing needs and categorizing each item as disposable, recyclable, refillable, or compostable. The ski area’s recycling program now averages a 30% diversion rate from the landfill and they hope to increase this rate to 40% by 2020 through revised purchasing practices that favor recyclable, refillable, and compostable items. One of their first supply chain initiatives tackled plastic water bottles. Mt. Ashland encourages guests to drink their own mountain spring water taken directly from the source instead of purchasing single-use plastic water bottles by offering refilling stations and branded refillable bottles for those who haven’t made the switch yet. Started in the winter of 2015/16, this initiative has removed the need for 21,326 plastic water bottles so far.View Criteria
Sitting at the top of the Ashland watershed and at the edge of the Siskiyou Wilderness, the ski area recognizes its responsibility to protect the environment, which is why the Board’s Environmental Committee, which is made up of various local stakeholders (professors, scientists, local recycling agency, nonprofits, etc), created a Soil and Water Conservation Plan to outline the ski area’s future erosion control and biodiversity conservation projects. Integrated Environmental Restoration Services (IERS Tahoe) conducted a two-day seminar on ski area watershed management practices in the summer of 2015 and Mt. Ashland has been conducting test plots all over the mountain to research the best methodologies for slope stabilization, revegetation, and erosion control. After the initial findings are analyzed in summer 2017, the Environmental Committee will choose the best practice for all of the designated risk areas on the mountain. Lastly, Mt. Ashland incentivizes volunteers to participate in their annual road cleanup day and three slope care days each offseason with free food and beverages from local vendors.View Criteria
After the lifts stop spinning, the grooming crews go to work. While you’re resting and dreaming about your epic day on the hill and what you want explore the next day, snowcat operators are hard at work making sure you wake up to fresh corduroy, safe trail mergers, fun terrain park features, and ample snow coverage. Unfortunately, snowcats are inherently very impactful on the environment, which is why Mt. Ashland uses the most environmentally friendly and EPA approved hydraulic fluid (Ecoterra) in their snowcats. In case of a spill, crews shovel the affected snow immediately, put it in a bag, and bring it down to the shop where the snow melts over a grate into an oil-water separator where the hydraulic fluid and other motor oils can be safely removed at the end of the season. Furthermore, management will be assessing the viability of using biodiesel in their fleets over the next year since there is a local supplier in the Rogue Valley.View Criteria
- 4.2.3 Renewable Energy
- 4.4.1 GHG Emissions | 4.4.2 Alternative Transportation Plan | 4.4.5 Ticketing
- 4.1 Supply Chain Management | 4.3.11 Reusable Water Bottles
- 4.5.11 Alpine Recreational Resource Conservation | 220.127.116.11-.4 Runoff/Erosion Control
- 4.4.8 Snowcats
Commitment to a Sustainable Future
Mt. Ashland celebrated our 50th anniversary during the 2013/14 season and due to lack of snow, did not open for a single day. The following year happened to be the second lowest snowfall in 35 years and my first season as GM. That same winter, we were the first ski area to join the STOKE Snow program. It was clear to me that if Mt. Ashland was to survive, drastic changes were needed in how we view sustainability.
STOKE’s tools and templates and unique perspective on sustainable ski area management empowered our team to embrace sustainability and create a plan for the future and we haven’t looked back since. In the winters to come, and as we transition to summer operations, we would like to establish Mt. Ashland as a sustainability leader in the skiing industry. That said, even with our recognition from STOKE, we’re striving to make progress in the following areas as we look forward to recertification in two years:
- Develop and implement an interpretive tour and signage gallery that educates our guests about the ski area’s sustainability initiatives as well as the mountain’s history and local flora and fauna.
- Increase the energy efficiency of our lodge and rental shop facilities to reduce our carbon footprint and enhance the guest experience.
- Transition our fleet of snowmobiles to four-stroke engines (one of four is currently 4-stroke) and test the use of locally produced biodiesel in our snowcat fleets.
- Install and monitor all of the watershed restoration and erosion control projects identified in our Soil and Water Conservation Plan.
- Increase our diversion rates to 40% through revised purchasing practices after we complete our supply chain audit.
- Work with more local vendors to include their products in services into our F&B operations.
- Add more sustainability training programs for seasonal and full-time staff.
As a community driven ski area committed to providing unforgettable alpine experiences for generations to come, I am immensely proud of my team for becoming the first STOKE Certified ski area and we are eager to improve from here.
Thank you for learning more about our home mountain and we hope to see you at Mt. Ashland—a certified sustainable ski area—this winter,
Hiram Towle – General Manager