On schedule for the holidays, snow is pounding the Cascades, allowing Mount Hood Meadows and Mount Bachelor to open today and Timberline Lodge to expand operations.
Dave Tragethon of Mount Hood Meadows said on Wednesday the ski area has a 33-inch snowpack at the base. Four chairlifts — Mount Hood Express, Daisy, Easy Rider and Buttercup — will operate from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“On-mountain preparation is under way as the snowpack is deep enough to run snowcats on,’’ Tragethon said.
Full services including rentals, food, ski school, children’s ski school and day care will be offered, he added.
At Timberline Lodge, the trails on the lower mountain opened Wednesday. Bruno’s, Pucci, and Molly’s chairlifts operated.
“The slopes are groomed up, we are ready to go,’’’ said Jon Tullis, a Timberline spokesman. “Mother Nature has once again blessed us with a lower mountain opening in time for Thanksgiving.’’
Ten inches of snow fell on Tuesday night. The base total on Wednesday was 41 inches.
Mount Hood Skibowl remains closed.
Mount Bachelor in central Oregon is operating three chairlifts today plus the nordic center is open. There are 38 inches at mid-mountain.
Skiers will find a variety of improvements once they reach the mountain this winter. Among the changes:
Mount Hood Skibowl — The closest ski area to Portland has added five new light poles to increase the lighting at the bottom of the Upper Bowl and top of the Lower Bowl.
Also new will be online ticket sales.
Ski Bowl West’s new Outback Grill has been built in the base area with a heated patio and fire pit, allowing skiers to take a food and beverage break without taking off their gear.
Next to Outback Grill, the A-frame lodge is being converted into a tribal heritage center featuring the Warm Springs.
At Skibowl East, Multorpor Lodge has been renovated with historic photos, a new bar and grill and an expanded outdoor party deck. New lights and a better audio system will improve night tubing at the Snow Tube & Adventure Park.
Skibowl East’s 800 feet of ziplines will operate during the winter this year.
Mount Hood Meadows — The resort has installed Radio Frequency Identification gates at every chairlift.
The traditional lift ticket will no longer be used. Skiers will carry a RFID card or pass in their jacket or arm band. An embedded chip triggers the gate to open for valid passes, eliminating the need for a skier to present their pass or ticket for hand scanning.
“Showing a ticket or season pass for scanning every time a lift is boarded is the No. 1 guest complaint at Mt. Hood Meadows,’’ said Tragethon.
“The RFID access gates will allow instant and consistent verification, with the card or pass tucked securely in a guests’ pocket. Guests will no longer need to fumble for their ticket, holding up others, for scanning. This will improve lift line flow and the overall experience.’’
There will be access gates at every chairlift, including the upper lifts where the resort did not scan passes regularly.
It will be possible for skiers to track their vertical footage online every chairlift ride.
Meadows also upgraded Shooting Star quad chairlift by adding 20 chairs, increasing uphill lift capacity by 30 percent.
Timberline Lodge — It’s a status quo year at the highest resort on Mount Hood.
“It’s one of those years you won’t find anything new,’’ said Tullis. “You’ll find that for the entire Oregon ski industry this year.’’
Some years, several Oregon resorts have chairlifts or other large capital expenditures coming on line, he said. This year happens not to be one of those.
Timberline is waiting for a decision from the Forest Service on a mountain bike park, he added.