Mount Hood Downhill
Where I grew up — a town in north-central Ohio called Mansfield — we never had to look far for a sledding hill. When the first snows would hit in November, we’d pull our rolled-up sleds out of the garage and grab a few runs right out in the backyard. Then it was a few blocks up the snowy road to the bigger, three-tiered hill next to our school. And if the snow really piled on and stuck around, which it almost always did back then, someone’s mom or dad would take us all over to a golf course called Possum Run. There, we’d huff and puff our way up what seemed like a real mountain of snow, throw down the sleds, hop on, and let it fly all the way back down — over and over and over again.
Here in the Portland area, sledding hills are a little harder to come by. Not necessarily so much for lack of topography as for lack of snow. But if you’re willing to load up the kids and head east for about an hour or so, there’s some fine sledding on Mount Hood to be found.
- White River Sno-Park — About 4 miles north of US 26 on Oregon 35 just south of Mt. Hood Meadows, the White River Sno-Park is great for easy, fun sledding with little ones. The closest hill is just a five-minute walk up the snowy road from the parking lot; bigger and better hills are just a little farther along. Because it’s also a popular skiing and snowshoeing spot, White River can be a touch crowded, but it’s expansive enough that there’s room enough for everyone. And with an incredible view of the mountain as backdrop, there’s little to complain about. (It doesn’t cost anything to sled here other than a Sno-Park permit. If you buy a permit from a DMV, they’re $3; most vendors that sell them jack them up to $5.)
- Little John Sno-Park — At 3,700 feet just 30 miles south of Hood River on Oregon 35, this free Sno-Park (free except for the Sno-Park permit) is fairly low in elevation, so if it’s a low snow year, like this year, the pickings can be slim. But when there is snow, the sledding looks like good fun. There’s also an old log warming hut.
- Summit Ski Area — Mount Hood’s oldest ski area is also home to a tubing area. You can’t bring your own sled, but for $20, you get a tube and four hours on the hill; for $25, you can go all day long. Summit is just east of Government Camp. Summit also operates Snow Bunny, a little Sno-Park next door, where you can tube (not sled) for $20 all day; toddlers under five are $10.
- Cooper Spur Mountain Resort — A sleepy but quaint little resort on the beautiful north side of Mount Hood, Cooper Spur is home to a tubing park with a rope tow. Ten bucks for the morning or afternoon, which includes some great views of the north side of Mount Hood on the drive up from Hood River.