Portland, Ore., is an underrated urban gateway to skiing and snowboarding. This area deserves attention in light of its snow-capped, 11,240-foot dormant volcano on its horizon. About 60 miles from downtown Portland, Mount Hood has more than 4,500 skiable acres on or near its slopes. If you’re not a local, here are some things you should know:
1. You can drive to Oregon ski resorts relatively carefree without any treacherous high-elevation mountain passes.
Unlike Colorado where peaks surround visitors, most of Oregon’s topography features smaller mountains or high desert, punctuated by occasional towering volcanoes that can be seen for hundreds of miles. Mount Hood is the tallest of the Cascade volcanoes in Oregon. The state’s other major ski destination, Mt. Bachelor, is another prominent volcano, located 150 miles south.
And even better news? You can drive up to the mountain without pumping your own gas. Oregon is one of two states (along with New Jersey) where drivers are not allowed to pump their own gas. Enjoy the service because, even with a friendly station attendant, your gas tab will probably still be lower than in neighboring states like Washington.
2. Mt. Hood has five separate ski areas on or right around it.
At 2,150 skiable acres, Mt. Hood Meadows is by far the largest ski area on Mount Hood. For experts, the layout features gate-accessed terrain in Heather Canyon and the S&R Cliffs. On the other hand, the runs at Timberline Lodge are suited to beginners and intermediates. The area is also known for its year-round skiing and summer race camps on the Palmer Snowfield. Or, if you like to shred when the sun goes down, the country’s largest night-skiing operation is at Mt. Hood Skibowl seven days a week. Each resort offers unique terrain and mountain features.
As of the 2013-14 ski season, the new Mt. Hood Express Bus Service lets you get around the mountain via public transportation. Timberline Lodge, Mt. Hood Skibowl and Summit Ski Area are all on the route.
3. Wind down with some après ski at Government Camp.
Government Camp, or “Govy” to the locals, is Mount Hood’s “mountain town.” While Govy will never compare to Aspen or Park City for nightlife, the quaint settlement does have a few lively restaurants and bars to go along with a general store and ski shops.
4. It’s possible to ski and golf in the same day.
“Snow level” (the elevation point that divides where it will snow or rain during a storm) is often a point of discussion around the area. Colder storms mean lower snow levels and, likewise, warmer storms mean higher snow levels.
In milder winters, a lack of snow at lower elevations has a bright side: the ability to ski and golf in the same day. After this year’s relatively warm winter, John Erickson, the general manager of The Resort at the Mountain (located near the base of Mount Hood), said the resort’s golf courses saw more rounds in January than in the previous May.
5. Scenes from Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” were filmed at Timberline Lodge.
The 1980 movie “The Shining” used aerial shots of Timberline Lodge’s exterior in some of the opening scenes. The interior was not used in the film, but this National Historic Landmark does house a wealth of original art and furnishings. The ski lodge was constructed during the Depression as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration (WPA) program and is still functioning as originally intended.
6. Mt. Hood’s ski season never ends.
Skiing at Mt. Hood typically extends later into the spring (and even summer) than at most North American resorts. For those that refuse to store away their skis, Timberline Lodge has the only year-round ski season in North America, closing for only a few weeks in September. To locals, winter is actually considered to be the off-season, with lodging rates up to 30 percent less than summer rates.