Skiing at its Best at Mt. Hood Meadows
by Nick Anis
United Shuttle's low-cost, 7-day and 21-day advance purchase fares from
Los Angeles $72/86 each way or Ontario $79/99 each way to Portland, $20 discount lift
tickets and inexpensive lodging (from a dozen participating hotels) averaging $40 a night
turn a visit to nearby Mount Hood into a real vacation bargain. The Alpine and Nordic
skiing there is quite good, but that's not all the area offers. Located about an hour and
a half drive from Portland Oregon, the Mt. Hood surroundings are equally known to outdoors
enthusiasts for scenic beauty, local folklore, and year-round outdoor recreational
Mt. Hood itself is a dormant volcano rising 11,235 feet, in the Cascade
Mountain Range. According to Native American legend, Mount Hood was a brave warrior named
Wy'east who fell in love with another mountain -- Mount St. Helens, a beautiful Indian
maiden. (Until it blew its top in May 1980 Mount St. Helens was one of the world's most
symmetrically beautiful mountains, in a league with Japan's Mt. Fuji.)
In the legend, Wy'east vied with nearby Mount Adams for the maiden's
attentions. Unable to decide between the two braves, Mount St. Helens indulged in
occasional venting of steam out of pure frustration. No one would blame either brave for
not courting her after really showing her temper in the 1980 eruption.
Today, the Mount Hood is known for ski resorts such as SkiBowl,
Timberline, and Mount Hood Meadows. SkiBowl is best known for its expansive night skiing.
Timberline serves as a summer Olympic ski training site, and from 1978 until recently had
the distinction of being one of the few places in North America to offer summer skiing.
Mt. Hood Meadows is Mt. Hood's largest ski area, with the most varied and advanced
Last year, for the first time and to the delight of die hards and
beginners in bathing suits, Mt. Hood Meadows offered summer skiing.
People are now flocking to Mt. Hood during the summer months in record
numbers, according to the locals. They report that summer skiing has given rise to summer
ski race and snowboard camps that have turned an otherwise sleepy place nearby Mt. Hood
called Government Camp that ordinarily attracts mostly serious skiers into a bustling
summer recreation area.
Hood River, is a somewhat more diverse village is 35 miles away from Mt.
Hood Meadows. Hood River has more restaurants and its inns attract a greater variety of
people, including families and tourists. Hood River has been germinating a bustling summer
season because of the growing interest in the world-class wind surfing on the Columbia
River. It has long been popular for hiking, climbing, hunting, golfing, horse-backing
riding, mountain biking, rafting, and fishing. Now it can also add summer skiing to its
repartee. Nearby, the Canada-to-Mexico Pacific Crest Trail runs through the Mount Hood
Forest and is very popular for hiking and camping. Lost Lake and Crystal Lake are also
nearby, beckoning campers and fishermen.
Opened in 1968 on the mountain's eastern slope, Mt. Hood Meadows has a
top elevation of 7,700 and features varied runs for all levels of skiers. It's the
mountain's largest ski area, and is the second largest in Oregon (Bachelor is the
largest). While Bachelor seems to have a lock on the "destination" market for
now, but recent upgrades of three lifts to high speed quads gives Meadows to ability to
move more skiers -- up to 14,950 per hour. Meadows also offers a wider variety of terrain
with more advanced runs.
The Portland area is well known for rain. At Hood's higher elevation,
average snowfall is 430-inches. Its season, like California's Mammoth, normally through
November April but is known to extend into July. The Meadows entire area boasts 82 marked
ski trails, of which 15% are rated for beginners, 50% are intermediate, 20% advanced and
15% are for experts. There are 2,150 skiable acres including 142 acres of night skiing,
serviced by 3 high speed quads, 1 quad, 5 doubles, 1 pony tow, and 1 rope tow. Six of the
chairlifts are lighted. Complimenting all these trails and lifts are eight slopeside
restaurants and bars, two brown bag areas, two base area lodges, and a ski school with
over 150 qualified instructors and video analysis. It's a skier's delight.
Meadows has two outstanding three-mile runs. The premier expert terrain,
Heather Canyon which is serviced by the Cascade Express high speed quad descends 2,800
vertical feet. It takes three high speed quads in succession (5 minutes each) to return to
the top but its a thrilling back country deep powder type experience. For expansive wide
open ridgeline type skiing with gladed terrain between developed ski runs try Shooting
Star, on the right side of the mountain which descends 1,100 vertical feet. When
conditions provide the right combination of freeze and thaw, for an extra $12 expert
skiers can ride snow cats up additional 1,020 vertical feet and ski the "experts only
black diamond" Superbowl run.
Meadows snow is said to be amount the driest on the Mountain. According
to self-described "die hard skier" John Harris, during the winter season
conditions at Meadows are "very similar to the Tahoe area." Harris, a computer
aided design lab manager at Portland State University, has skied Meadows for 28 years and
knows the area well. He adds: "You can expect warm and wet or cold and snowy anytime
of the year. Oftentimes spring skiers in April get some awesome power days. Last year it
rained all of January, but this year was Nirvana, with seven to eight feet of powder in 2
The roads to Mt. Hood remain passable most of the year, although snow
chains may be required and there are sometimes road closings once or twice a season,
according to Harris, whose passion for skiing and mountain biking has led him to maintain
the Oregon Ski Areas page at: http://www.eas.pdx.edu/~johnh/orresorts.html.
After a day's skiing at Meadows, a good choice for lodging and dining is
the historic Hood River Hotel, with its fine northern Italian restaurant, Pasquale's -
call 800-386-1859 for reservations. The Hood River Hotel is actually the brick
"annex" of a woodframe hotel, built in 1913 that met the wrecking ball. The
current owner saved the annex from demolition and restored it. As Hood River's oldest
hotel, located in the center of town, it is now listed in the national register of
historic places. Each of its unique 41 rooms (8 of them suites) are individually appointed
with antique reproductions due to the efforts of owner-manager, Pasquale Barone. In his
"other life," Mr. Barone is an area "developer" who belied his
occupation's negative connotation by actually saving and restoring the historic building.
Rooms there range from $49 to $65 for a single and $59 to $75 for
doubles. Suites range from $75 to $130. Guests and dinners are greeted with fresh flowers,
pleasant surroundings, comfortable fireside seating, and a very gracious staff. The food
at Pasquale's is spectacularly good. The head chef, Jim Barbara, has spent the last 2
years perfecting the menu and wine list. You can select from a wide assortment of entrees
including pasta, chicken, pork, veal, beef, lamb, salmon, halibut, prawns, scampi, and
even some wild game. Barbara also comes up with creative holiday specials and surprises,
according to the locals. Appetizers include whole roasted garlic served with extra virgin
olive oil, fresh pacific oysters, chicken and beef pate, calamari, shrimp scampi, and the
bistro's popular and huge Antipasto Misto plate.
Incidentally, their fresh baked Italian bread is the best this side
Newark, and is delicious with the home made soups, fresh mixed salads which are
complemented with home made dressings. The pastas are shipped in freshly made from San
Francisco and New Jersey.
Lunch entrees range from $4.95 to $9.95 and dinner entrees from $9.75 to
15.95. An assortment of wines ranges from $10 to $30 a bottle, and the tempting desert
menu includes Amaretto Flan, Semifreddo cake, sour cream cheese cake, and the house
specialty Chocolate Decadence - a Chocolate tart with a dense mousse center, covered with
Don't worry about the calories. You can always hit the slopes or climb
on the mountain bike and work off a pound or two the next morning.
For more information on Mount Hood and Oregon, call the Oregon Tourism
Division at 800-547-7842 or the Mt. Hood Travel Association at 503-622-4822. For easier
reservations, try Mt. Hood Meadows Lodging Reservation Service, featuring one-call booking
for all Hood River lodging and lift ticket packages. Phone: 800-9292-SKI.
The Mt. Hood Meadows
web site is http://www.aminews.com/mhmeadows.
The reservations line for the Hood Rover Hotel and Pasquale's is 800-386-1859. United
Shuttles reservations number is 800-SHUTTLE.
Mt. Hood Meadows Lodging Reservations Service
Mt. Hood Meadows
P.O. Box 470, Mt. Hood, Oregon 97041
Phone: 503-337-2222, 503-246-SKIS, 503-BUS-LIFT
Snow Phone: 503-227-SNOW
503-337-2222 - Ski Area
800-929-2SKI - Reservations