First day on the job isn't all new for Mt. Ashland general manager

Dec. 21—Andrew Gast reported for duty Wednesday at his new digs atop Mount Ashland and found himself in his old haunts.

The new general manager of the Mt. Ashland Ski Area officially came aboard Wednesday, strolling into the lodge with his brain already preset to guide a nonprofit ski area like the one he left five years ago in Wyoming.

"The first thing I did was turn my radio on and check the weather," Gast said atop Mt. Ashland Wednesday. "Those old routines came back pretty quickly.

"It's exciting," he said. "It's where my passion always has been. It's nice to get back to where my love always has been."

Gast, 41, started his tenure 11 days after the 2022-23 season started at Southern Oregon's only public downhill ski area. The delay, he said, was to button up his old job as Southern Oregon University's director of admission and finance.

One of his first duties was taking a few turns down the slopes on the company dime with ski area board President Curt Burrill and other members of the nonprofit ski area's governing board.

They are the same slopes Gast has skied with his family the past five years, including where his two children learned this snowy obsession.

"There's not that learning curve of where the different trails and ski lifts are and all that," Gast said. "I'm comfortable with the mountain."

Gast, a veteran of the ski industry who helped resurrect a mothballed Wyoming ski area before moving to Ashland in 2017, was named general manager in mid-November.

He replaced Hiram Towle, who left after seven years to become general manager of the nonprofit Bridger Bowl Ski Area, a 2,000-acre area with eight chairlifts and four lodges outside of Bozeman, Montana.

A Georgia native, Gast studied ski-area management at Colorado State University and worked at a range of both large and small, public and private ski areas in the Southeast and West, according to the ski area. He also has a master's degree in tourism business administration and an undergraduate degree in outdoor recreation.

Gast said he hopes to continue Towle's routine of trying to ride every chair lift and ski every run at the ski area each day.

"It's important to lay eyes on things," Gast said.

Mark Freeman covers the outdoors for the Mail Tribune. Reach him at 541-776-4470 or by email at mfreeman@rosebudmedia.com.