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Drought Closes Oregon Resort Before The Season Even Opens

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Severe drought in the West forced the Mount Ashland Ski Area in Oregon to do what it hasn't for 50 years: It closed for the season this week due to lack of snow.


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Jacki Lyden. This was supposed to be a special year for the Mount Ashland ski area in Southern Oregon as it celebrated its 50th anniversary. But after a long drought this summer, Mount Ashland had to call it a season early. Yesterday, it declared slope season was over due to a lack of snow. NPR's Tom Goldman reports.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: A post on the Mount Ashland website dated January 22nd exhorted skiers and snowboarders to, quote, "hang in there with us." In our 50 years," general manager Kim Clark wrote, "Mount Ashland has never, ever not opened for a season and we are determined to see you on the slopes in the next few months. Thanks for understanding and please, think snow."

KIM CLARK: Unfortunately, sooner or later, as they say, you've got to draw the line in the sand somewhere.

GOLDMAN: Sand is pretty much what Clark's been dealing with. The average snowfall on Mount Ashland is 280 inches a year. This year: 85. There's currently less than a foot on the ground and today's forecast on the mountain is 65 degrees.

CLARK: What little bit we have is just melting away as fast as we get it.

GOLDMAN: Clark says the closure has forced 130 Mount Ashland employees out of work and the lost season has cost local communities millions of dollars. Drought has hit some areas in the West hard over the last few years, although officials say nationally the ski industry is not in trouble. Kim Clark says Mount Ashland will survive and reopen next season. Tom Goldman, NPR News.

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