The non-profit Mt. Ashland is born
In 1992-93 thousands of citizens from Southern Oregon and Northern California joined forces to “Save Mt. Ashland” ski area from the cutting torches and wrecking bars of Harbor Properties. Monies donated by individuals and civic groups during fund raising drive reached a whopping 1.6 million dollars. A $500,000 grant of state lottery funds (Oregon Economic Development Fund) capped the incredible effort.
Harbor Properties (a residential, commercial and resort developer based out of Seattle) had purchased the ski area from Dick Hicks in 1983. During their 8 years as owner/operator they completed a USFS Master Plan for Mt. Ashland. This plan conceptually approved five new lifts and an enlarged ski area boundary dedicated specifically for recreational use.
As owner of four other ski areas, Harbor Properties saw the difficulties and limitations of Mt. Ashland’s steep, short runs, and recognized the important link between terrain balance and long term viability. Seeking additional capital for a business project in Washington state, Harbor Properties put the Mt. Ashland ski area back on the market in 1991—announcing plans to dismantle the chairlifts and move them to Stevens Pass if a buyer could not be quickly found.
That’s when the community stepped in, and the groundswell of support was tremendous. Skiers and non skiers alike understood that Mt. Ashland touches their lives and improves southern Oregon. To save this local treasure, kids went door to door--local Rotary Clubs met the challenge of raising $500,000 to secure matching lottery monies--there were T-shirt sales--and the local media provided free ad space to help fuel the campaign.
As the donations poured in, a plan was drafted utilizing the City of Ashland to receive the contributions, allowing them to be tax deductible. Because the Mt. Ashland Association was not yet fully formed, the City’s name was placed on the USFS Special Use Permit and a lease agreement between the City and the Mt. Ashland Association, as business operators was executed.
What did the community buy?
The community purchased a 28 year old ski area facility (buildings, lifts, grooming machines, etc.) along with a plan for its improvement. The community placed faith in the Mt. Ashland Association to frugally run and maintain the ski area to provide immediate financial success—and also make the future improvements needed to help insure long term success and viability.
Mt. Ashland Association took this mandate seriously. For the first eight years the ski area put aside 2 million dollars by operating on a shoestring budget and deferring capital improvements and facility maintenance. They kept the ski area running, and kept their eye on the future.