Ski Preview: Mount Hood’s higher areas open, but more snow needed at others

By Terry Otto, Columbian staff writer

Published:

 

It’s winter and skiers have snow-covered slopes and fresh powder on their minds. However, it’s a mixed bag up on Mount Hood this December with most resorts reporting limited operations.

The start to this ski season has not been as great as last year, when most resorts had good snows around Thanksgiving and were in full operation by early December. There was a couple good snows through the Thanksgiving weekend, but clear skies are predicted for another week at least.

The good news is that it is cold on the mountain so the existing snow should stay put for a while.

As of Wednesday, the Timberline Resort is reporting a base of 33 inches. This is the highest elevation resort on the mountain and ski conditions are pretty good. Currently four of the six lifts are operating.

Farther down the mountain, Mt. Hood Meadows is reporting a 24-inch base, with 6 of 11 lifts operating.

Skibowl is reporting a 17″ base and while parts of the resort is open only a few areas have enough snow.

The current dry spell notwithstanding, it is still expected to be a good winter for skiers.

Here is a quick look at what’s new on Mount Hood this year, with an eye on expectations for the coming season.

Timberline Lodge

Timberline Lodge is celebrating its 80th anniversary, and is expecting another solid season this year while hoping for a repeat of last year’s great snow.

“Last year we were at capacity for 19 straight weekends,” said John Burton, the director of marketing for Timberline Lodge and Ski Resort. “The indications are good. It’s supposed to be another La Nina winter, which means more snow and cold weather.”

Since September the resort has had 179 inches of snow.

Parts of the Timberline resort are open 12 months of the year. Palmer Snowfield opened for advanced skiers and riders on weekends starting Oct. 8th. The lifts are running each weekend from 9 am to 3 pm.

Timberline is offering a beginner season pass this year to encourage guests that anyone can learn to ski. The Discover Pass will cost $149.00, and includes unlimited rides on Bruno’s Chair, which serves easy terrain, and unlimited beginner rentals for the 2017/2018 season.

Discover Pass holders also get a discount on Discover Program and Kids Club lessons.

The Discover Pass can be upgraded to a regular Timberline season pass at any time by paying the difference at Tier 2 pricing. This equates to $400 for adults 25-64, $170 for teens/young adults 15-24, and $50 for kids and seniors. The unlimited beginner rental benefit does expire with the upgrade.

The Timberline parks crew is currently building a rail trailer. The trailer will be loaded with features destined for Conway’s Terrain Park. Among the new features being created is a “waterfall” rail.

Timberline is also sporting a new website with features to make it easier for skiers to check out snow conditions, lift operations, and resort features.

Two new Piston Bully Park Pro snow cats will add to the current fleet of five snow cats.

Five new Traeger grills will add to the offerings at the resort’s seven eateries. The Wy’east Cafe has also been remodeled and sports new kitchen equipment.

Burton implores skiers to stay within the ski are boundaries. Skiers that stray beyond the area risk getting lost.

“It’s no fun getting lost,” he adds.

Mt. Hood Meadows

Mt. Hood Meadows is celebrating its 50th season. Its golden anniversary kickoff was helped by November snows and the resort opened on the 24th. All three express lifts were open earlier than usual, the first time since preview days were offered.

The most important new feature at the resort is the new Buttercup Ski Lift, which began operations on Nov. 30.

Two new Piston Bully snow cats will enhance the resorts grooming fleet.

Skibowl

This popular resort needs a little help from Mother Nature to open all its lifts.

“We need more snow,” said Sam White, the Marketing Director for Skibowl. “We had a false start with some snow early. We are still expecting another great year.”

While a few areas are open they hope to have everything else rolling by Dec.16.

The resort has added a new snow making machine, a Sampson Snoflake snow maker which can produce snow at higher temperatures. It will be dedicated to the tubing hill.

A Prinoth Bison X Snowcat has been added to improve grooming in steep terrain.

Also added is a second conveyor on the tubing hill to increase capacity.

The resort will benefit from the new parking lot being built at the Mirror Lake trailhead that pulls parking off of Highway 26. It will add another 50 parking spaces that can be used as a home base with skiers using the trolley to get to the resort.

Tuesday nights are ladies night, and ladies can ski from 2 to 10 p.m. for $24.

The mountain’s largest night skiing resort will once again hold a New Year’s celebration with fireworks and skiing open until 2 a.m.

With all this fun in mind, Burton reminds skiers to take it easy driving in.

“It’s going to be serious winter driving so slow down and give yourself extra time to get here,” he said.