Though it may be a touch early still, it is getting to be that time again on Mount Hood: skiing, snowboarding and, of course, sledding. The big hill’s got some nice sledding options, free and otherwise. Down below this picture of my own little sledder are a few of the best places to sled on Mount Hood:
- 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 and free sledding on Mount Hood 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 sledding on Mount Hood except for the Sno-Park permit) is fairly low in elevation, so if it’s a low snow 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, adults get a tube from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. M-F; kids 48″ and under are $10. Weekend and holiday prices for the kids are the same, but for adults it’s $25. 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; kids under 48″ 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.
- Mt. Hood Skibowl — The closest ski area to Portland is also home to a snow tubing area. Cost is $25 for adults for three hours, $20 for juniors; an all-day tube ticket is $50. The area includes a tube conveyor for heading back up the hill. In addition to regular tubing, Skibowl also offers Cosmic Tubing on weekend nights with laser lights, black lights, music and more.
- Other Sno Parks and Areas — The Forest Service also lists Sledding and Tubing as activities at these other Mount Hood Sno Parks: Government Camp Summit Sno Park and Multorpor Sno Park. I’ve also seen reports of sledding opportunities at Trillium Lake, near the Hemlock Trail in Government Camp and elsewhere.
Last Sunday, Mother’s Day, was a great day for spring skiing: two feet of new snow, warm temps and, up high anyway, blue, sunny skies. I took the above picture just after I got off the chairlift at the top of the Magic Mile. It was a gorgeous view, the kind that made you stop and soak it in and be grateful for where you were right then. Then I turned around, pointed my skis down the mountain and skied right into this: No complaints, by the way. Just a big difference depending on which way you’re looking…
Sonia Buist invited me to give a little real-world look at the Timberline Trail at a Mazamas presentation for her book, “Around & About Mount Hood: Exploring the Timberline Trail, Access Trails, and Day Hikes.” I’d say about 70 people or so, including quite a few folks interested in taking on the 41-mile trail themselves, turned out for the event at the Mazamas Mountaineering Center in southeast Portland.
This weekend, I’ll be back with the Mazamas, but not in Portland. This time, it’ll actually be up on Mount Hood at Mazama Lodge, the club’s rustic abode up in the trees above Government Camp and on the way up to Timberline.
The presentation starts at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 12, and will hopefully be preceded and followed by some stellar spring skiing like we enjoyed earlier this week.
We’ve tried this winter to ski, we have. But conditions have not been all that conducive, at least not for us and the time we can commit. Rain soaked us out the day after a book event in Hood River and, earlier, the morning after a fun night at Timberline Lodge after we’d gotten in some good runs at Summit.
But finally this past Sunday, the mountain shined on us in full.
And it worked out. The day was an incredible one on Mount Hood: absolute bluebird sky, nice spring conditions at Timberline, and just a sense of gratitude for being up there on the beautiful mountain.
Madeline — and Amy and I too —skied the Magic Mile for the very first time. Pretty impressive for a seven-year-old who just started skiing last year.
On top of all that, Spence, who’s been dying to get on a chairlift and skim down a slope, had his wishes granted, too.
UPDATE: Because it’s spring break, and because today was another gorgeous day, Amy and Madeline headed back to the mountain for another session. Deadlines kept me and Spence at home working, but the ladies enjoyed a day on the hill. And though I was super impressed by Madeline’s skiing yesterday on Hood, today she apparently cranked it up another level — to the 8,500-foot level on Hood to be exact, otherwise known as the Palmer.
Twice in the past two weeks now, we’ve had grand plans to spend the day skiing on Mount Hood, only to have those plans flooded out by unending rain. It’s been a pretty bad snow year so far, but still, we never counted on two outings to be so thoroughly saturated that we wouldn’t even be able to set foot or ski on the slopes. (Nor did we find any humor in the fact that the days immediately after each of our rainouts were sunny, bluebird days on the mountain.)
While those days may have taken an unexpected course, we still made what we could of them, which was hardly anything to complain about.
Their lodge right in the heart of Government Camp is undeniably centered around one primary focus: skiing. Historic pictures of ski jumping competitions on the Multorpor hill. Old-school wooden skis from Mount Hood giants like Hjalmar Hvam. Ruddy-cheeked skiers lounging around the fireplace after a day on the mountain. Spartan wooden bunks mostly filled by 9 p.m., emptied almost entirely by 6 or 7 a.m. because of, well, skiing.
We spent a night with the Cascade Ski Club earlier this month, not only to check out the lodge and the club, but to share a bit of On Mount Hood around the evening fire. Some folks had already read the book, and some members are actually in it. One, Joe Schuberg, had been manager of the Ram’s Head bar at Timberline Lodge when I was interviewing Steve Buchan for the chapter on Silcox Hut. “This guy’s a character,” Schuberg had said. “Bigger than Ben-Hur.” That’s the kind of descriptor you take note of. Schuberg now manages the CSC lodge.
The next morning, we were up early with the rest of the lodge, albeit a touch more slowly than the real early birds. We started the day with our first visit to the Huckleberry Inn for breakfast and one of their storied maple bars.
After that, it was on to another Mount Hood staple, Valian’s Ski Shop, for a quick adjustment from Bud Valian himself, and then it was off for a refresher day on the slopes and some skiing of our own at Summit Ski Area.
Sure, it was Super Bowl Sunday, and I had kind of wanted to see the game. But we were having fun, we were on the mountain, and we were skiing.
(For the record, we ended up catching some of the second half of that terrible football game at a Mount Hood favorite in Welches: El Burro Loco, home to the best IPA list and Mexican food anywhere close to the mountain.)