In 2013, the Mount Ashland Ski Area in Oregon was faced with a problem: Because of a drought, there was not enough snow to open for the season. The area had gotten less than half as much snow as normal, and much of what did fall came early in the season, then melted away.

Mt. Ashland
Mt. Ashland. (Photo courtesy of Hiram Towle)

It’s a problem that’s likely to happen more often as the climate changes, putting ski areas into jeopardy. So Mount Ashland is exploring ways to make its business less dependent on the weather. One option? Become a year-round attraction.

Towle: “Some of the things we want to put on the ground would be disc golf, zip lines, a lot of family fun games and things that can be done to keep a family busy for an entire day.”

That’s Manager Hiram Towle. He says the summer activities won’t replace the income Mount Ashland generates from skiing, but he hopes staying open year-round will help the ski area survive winters with too little snow.

Hiram Towle
Hiram Towle

Towle: “It’s just good business.”

In addition to adapting, the ski area is doing what it can to be part of the solution – for example, installing solar panels to offset about 12 percent of their power.

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Towle: “We want to make sure that this place is here for future generations, so we are concerned about it and definitely taking action now.”

Reporting credit: Analeah Rosen/ChavoBart Digital Media.

A regular contributor to Yale Climate Connections since 2012, David Appell, Ph.D., is a freelance writer living in Salem, Oregon, specializing in the physical sciences, technology, and the environment. His...