"Oh Romeo, Romeo. Wherefore art thou, Romeo? I've forgotten my goggles and — never mind that it'sApril — the snow is coming down. I can't see Romeo, I can't see Juliet, nor any of the other 21 trails at this southern Oregon resort. A few runs later, wearing goggles borrowed from a gracious liftie, I can see that Mt. Ashland is no dressed-up bunny hill.
Don't let the Shakespearean names — a nod to the nearby Oregon Shakespeare Festival — fool you. Half of Mt. Ashland's terrain is geared toward advanced skiers, and only one run, Sonnet, is agreen. But the 200-acre resort plans an expansion that will add 71 acres ofbeginner and lower-intermediate terrain, a fixed-grip triple chair, a lift-topwarming hut and a new base lodge. For now, the place is austere. There areno fancy hotels or chichi boutiques selling overpriced goggles to forgetfulskiers. The retail hub of Mt. Ashland is basically a counter. Not a lot haschanged since the early '60s, when the phys-ed director of the local college,who used to shuttle students up the mountain via pick-up truck, rallied thecommunity to build a lodge and the first of four lifts.
Today, skiers approach the mountain on an access road that winds its way upfrom Interstate 5. Most of the terrain is on the north face of the mountain. To getthere, head down intermediate Juliet to the Windsor chair, or traverse west onBetwixt toward the Ariel chair and ride up to the 7,533-foot summit. From there youcan ski down several black-diamond runs or barrel down The Bowl, a glacial cirquewith three steep chutes. When conditions permit, ski over the summit to the southside, where wide-open, unpatrolled runsspill onto a cat track leading back to theparking lot. Your legs will beg for anintermission before the curtain closes onyour ski day.
What the ski area itself lacks in amenitiesyou'll find 15 miles away in Ashland.This eclectic town of artists, students,yuppies, hippies and adrenaline junkiesis renowned not only for the ShakespeareFestival, but also for the AshlandIndependent Film Festival, the OregonCabaret Theater and First Friday ArtWalks. Main Street's many boutiques,bookstores, restaurants and galleriesmake this charming town an ideal placeto bed down for a ski weekend. After all,all's well that ends well.
Where to Stay
>Mt. Ashland Inn This log cabin inn,just a few miles from the mountain, isthe only lodging on the access road. Itsfive spacious suites range from $175 to$250 a night and include a hearty breakfast.800-830-8707; mtashlandinn.com
>Ashland Springs Hotel Originallyopened in 1925, this nine-story downtownlandmark underwent a majorrenovation and reopened its 70 guestrooms in 2000. From $89. 888-795-4545; ashlandspringshotel.com
>The Plaza Inn & Suites This downtownboutique hotel has 91 rooms andsuites ranging from $89 to $139. Favoriteperks among guests are the late-nightsnacks of fresh-baked cookies andpeanut butter and jelly sandwiches.888-488-0358; plazainnashland.com
Where to Eat
>Kat Wok Refuel with dishes rangingfrom Korean-style sticky ribs to crispyginger scallops at this pan-Asian restaurantand sushi bar. 541-482-0787;katwok.com
>Geppetto's The kitchen serves itsfamous eggplant burger and other housespecialities from 8 a.m. to midnight everyday of the week, and the restaurantgrows much of its own produce at anearby organic farm. 541-482-1138;geppettosrestaurant.com
>Chateaulin Restaurant FrançaisA top-rated eatery speciaalizing inFrench cuisine and fine Oregon pinotnoir, Chateaulin serves a highlyrecommended three-course menu.But if you don't have that kind of time,be sure to browse the imported delicaciesat the adjacent wine and food shop.541-482-2264; chateaulin.com
Where to Play
>Oregon Shakespeare FestivalFounded in 1935, the festival is amongthe oldest and largest professional nonprofittheaters in the nation. The festivalruns 11 plays on three different stagesduring its eight-month season.541-482-4331; orshakes.org
>Black Sheep Eat, drink and be brainyat this downtown pub, where you canhang out and play chess while sippingregional microbrews. 541-482-6414;theblacksheep.com