The Ski Mountain
Like most Oregon Ski Resorts, Mt. Hood Meadows’ 2,150 skiable acres are situated entirely on National Forest land and receives heavy snowfall, an average of 430 inches each year. The resort is located on the southeast side of Mount Hood, which is typically sunny and protected from the gusty winds that can often blow there.
Mt. Hood Meadows’ 85 different runs, from steep bowls to long cruisers are accessed from 11 lifts, five of which are high speed quads. Backcountry access gates flank in-bounds terrain and provide easy access to gladed and cliff skiing in the Private Reserve and S&R Cliffs areas. As the tallest mountain (and volcano) in Oregon, from its highest lift-served point at 7,300 feet, skiers can also hike to the 9,000 feet resort summit (the mountain’s true summit is 11,249 feet) and ski into the backcountry terrain from there as well.
The Mountain Experience
The majority of the skiable in-bounds terrain lies below timberline, which means lots of tree skiing available for those who prefer it. Offering big mountain skiing a short 90 minutes from downtown Portland, Mt. Hood Meadows’ proximity attracts lots of locals so don’t be surprised if a ride on the chairlift gets you a dinner recommendation, or into a conversation about a concert in the city. If you’re coming in from out of state you can easily visit Portland and ski there. Mt. Hood Meadows is also very family friendly with two base lodges and nine separate eating establishments.
Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Terrain
• Advanced: At Mt. Hood Meadows, single black diamonds are found in bounds while doubles are accessed through the backcountry gates. Thirty-five percent of the terrain is for experts. For single diamonds, hit one of the five bowls underneath the Mount Hood Express, especially after a recent storm. The terrain has a significant pitch, natural bumps and steeps so you can show off if you have the skills for those riding the lift above.
For powder chasers keen on double blacks, ride the Cascade Express (the lift is sometimes closed due to high wind or poor visibility) and traverse to the backcountry gate to ski the wide-open Heather Canyon. Still not ready to head back to the lifts? Follow Shooting Star Ridge down to Private Reserve. Protected from the terrain above, the ski patrol is likely to open Private Reserve before Heather Canyon on big pow days. You can also hike up to Mount Hood’s summit at 9,000 feet and ski into Heather Canyon.
Current Snow Conditions
• Intermediate: Intermediates will enjoy the fact that 50% of the trails at Hood are marked as blue squares. An intermediate haven can be found off Cascade Express. Head looker’s left to ski Texas Trails or Boulevard. Both offer a mixture of wide-open groomed turns with options to take a few powder plunges. If there hasn’t been much accumulation for a while, head to Jack’s Wood for gladed terrain. If the temperature remains cold enough, the snow will hold its consistency and you’ll likely still find powder even if it’s been a few days since the last storm rolled through. Meadows also grooms 70 percent of its trails, so corduroy abounds.
• Beginner: Take the Easy Rider lift to Mitchell Creek after you’ve mastered the beginner area off Butterfly. The run is wide, long and has a subtle yet sustained pitch, not to mention it offers a spectacular view of Mount Hood. Roughly fifteen percent of Mt Hood Terrain is beginner friendly.
• Terrain Park: With six terrain parks from the family-friendly Zoo to the big features at Columbia, there are park options for everyone. Find the Zoo parallel to Mitchell Creek where beginners can practice on small scale features and work their way down to the Shipyard, a rail park right at the base area with its own rope tow. Then, there’s Fireweed off Easy Rider, which has a combination of small and medium features. Also off Easy Rider is a mini pipe and a super pipe, an 18-foot in-ground pipe that’s almost 500 feet long. The most popular, Forest Park, is a long park under the Hood River Express. It boasts a natural feel, but also an urban riding vibe with lots of metal jibs. Finally there’s Shooting Star, along the backcountry gate to Heather Canyon, which is a long park good for taking laps.
Visitors to Mt. Hood Meadows must purchase a Sno-Park Permit to park in any of the three lots. A daily ($5) or seasonal ($30) permit can be picked up in many locations around Portland or at one of the mountain lodges. Hood Meadows tends to have a long season (thanks to late season snowstorms), so expect April skiing that feels more like January and dress accordingly.
Know your options: There are multiple resorts on Mount Hood, but Meadows is the largest and most popular. To the north is Cooper Spur, a small ski area with one lift and ten runs that’s owned and operated by Meadows, though you’ll need a different ticket. On the mountain’s south side is Timberline, at 1,415 skiable acres it’s about one third of the size of Meadows, but its 3,690 feet of vertical (2,616 in the summer) are open year round to skiers and boarders. Ski Bowl, near to Government Camp, is very well-known for its night skiing where 34 lit runs are open from 3 pm to as late as 11 pm.
With five different restaurants and the Fresh Tracks Deli, there’s no worry of an on-mountain dining and drinking drought. The Schuss is known for its fast grill service, but if you want to eat something of a higher caliber, sit down and try a dish from Executive Chef David Mahler at Alpenstube. The Vertical Restaurant is a good place for families with big views of Mount Hood. On the way back to Portland, stop in the Skyway Bar and Grill on Highway 26. The bar has live music, a fun outdoor patio and excellent infused liquors.
Hood Meadows is close to Cooper Spur, which is 12 miles north toward Hood River. Hood River, a destination town, is about 45 minutes away. And Government Camp, on the road back toward Portland, is 30 minutes away.
Mount Hood doesn’t have any on-mountain lodging, but you can find everything from hotels to cabins to B&Bs along Hood River. In the opposite direction is Cooper Spur, a small ski resort on 50 acres. It has an authentic rustic lodge, log cabins, and offers apres ski dinner options and lodging packages.
Skiing With Kids
Hood Meadows offers a 3-day package for first timers to learn to ski or board that includes beginner lift access , a daily 2-hour lesson, and equipment rentals. The mountain provides day care services for adults looking to ski without the kids.
Hood Meadows is only 67 miles from Portland, which takes about an hour and a half to drive. There’s also a bus from the city.
By Anna Callaghan