The Mt. Ashland Ski Bus, whose ridership consisted mainly of teenagers and young adults whose parents either didn’t ski or didn’t have a winterized vehicle, has been transporting skiers and riders from the Medford area to southern Oregon’s favorite winter playground on a regular basis for the past 25 years.

But now the rising cost of the ski bus and a trend in declining ridership has combined to create a crossroads for the program – and the creation of the Ski Bus Challenge.

“We will need to sell 256 Ski Bus 10 Pak booklets by Nov. 9 if the bus is going to run this season,” says ski bus manager Rick Saul. “If we don’t meet our goal...the ski bus service will cease to exist.”

The ski bus transported between 4,000 and 5,500 riders to the ski area per season in the early 1990s. That figure dropped to 2,054 in 2000 and then hovered between 2,000 and 2,500 through the 2004-05 season. During the last three seasons bus ridership has averaged 1,473 per year. In the meantime, the the cost to the ski area per round trip for the ski bus service has increased by more than 400 percent since 1993.

“We think this is a very valuable service,” Saul says. “It’s both cost effective and an environmentally friendly way to get to the mountain. The charter buses feature under carriage storage, luxury seats, and they show movies on the way to the mountain. It’s a very comfortable experience.”

The Ski Bus 10 Paks cost $96 each and are available at the Mt. Ashland resort, at various local ski shops and on Mt. Ashland's Ski Bus page.