There’s no doubt the 2020-21 ski season on Mount Hood will be different.
Skiers might even notice a difference once they step out of their cars.
“I’ve never seen so many outdoor toilets lined up outside of a ski lodge than what I saw this morning at Mt. Hood Meadows,” said Dave Tragethon, vice president of marketing at Meadows. “There’s your greeting. Welcome to a COVID season.”
All kidding aside, ski area operators have been working overtime to get protocols in place to make the transition into COVID-19 protocols seamless for skiers.
“Skiing and snowboard are already kind of built for social distancing,” said John Burton, director of marketing at Timberline Lodge. “The equipment on your feet creates that a bubble naturally.”
Of course, face coverings will be required everywhere, except on the slopes.
“Once you’re on the slopes and away from other people, the face covering is not required,” Tragethon said. “But as it turns out people who ski and snowboard a lot have a face covering on just normally to protect themselves from the wind or the cold. … So we don’t expect that we’re going to have people who won’t be able to comply with that.”
Food services will remain open, but only with grab-and-go offerings — no sit-down meals.
“We’re asking our skiers to be a little self-sufficient by using their cars as their base camp for the day,” Burton said.
The biggest recommendation to skiers this year is to check each resort’s policies online before heading up to the mountain.
At Timberline and Mt. Hood SkiBowl, all skiers and snowboarders, whether they have a season pass or a day pass, must make a reservation for a time period on the slopes prior to arriving on the mountain.
Meadows is not requiring season-pass holders to make reservations. Day-pass tickets will be sold for specific time periods.
“We’ll have 9 a.m. tickets, noon tickets, 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.,” Tragethon said. “And they’ll be dynamically priced. … That’s how we plan to spread people out throughout the day. On some days, there might not be a 9 a.m. ticket available.”
Reservations will also be needed for services such as equipment rentals and ski lessons.
Rentals may be more important this year as buying ski equipment could be a challenge.
“Talking to our suppliers, they are starting to sell out of skis and snowshoes similar to the way bikes were selling out last summer,” Burton said. “I think that’s an indication that people are eager to get outside and stay outside.”
Tragethon said he expects more people to try cross-country skiing this winter.
“And showshoeing will be really big this year,” he said. “This will be the year when a lot of people who like to hike in the summer will discover snowshoeing in the winter.”
While the pandemic ended the ski season early last spring for resorts like SkiBowl and Meadows, Timberline was able to reopen for some late-season skiing in May and also offered summer skiing on the Palmer Glacier.
“We learned a ton about how to operate ski area with COVID protocols,” Burton said. “And this season, we are building off that. We’re very grateful that we are not starting cold out of gate.”
Heavier-than-normal snowfall this month has created a 40-inch base at both Timberline and Meadows. That would have allowed those resorts to have opened already in a normal year.
But this year, they are taking a more cautious approach. Timberline opened on Wednesday. Meadows is scheduled to open on Monday, but only for season-pass holders for at least the first five days.
“That gives us five days of midweek operation — less popular days — to give us time to implement our COVID plans and make any adjustments we need to get confident and comfortable with the way we are operating,” Tragethon said.
SkiBowl has a tentative opening date of Dec. 7. Cooper Spur Ski Area on the north face of the mountain is slated to open Dec. 19.
Above all, the resorts want their customers to remain flexible and informed this winter.
“Expect things to change this year,” Burton said. “We all have to be nimble so we can all stay happy and healthy. Stay tuned to our social-media channels and website. And we tell people it’s no-joke winter driving up the mountain, so leave your house a little earlier. And finally, just be kind to your fellow humans.”
Location: Mt. Hood above Government Camp.
Elevation: 4,850-8,540 feet.
Terrain: 1,415 skiable acres; 41 total runs, 12 night runs.
Lifts: 8 chairs, 1 passenger snowcat.
Scheduled season opening: Nov. 25.
Hours of operation: Daily 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Night skiing start TBA.
Daily lift tickets: Adult, anytime (regular/peak) $89/$104; noon-4 p.m. $69/$74; 4-9 p.m. $40/43; teen (15-17), anytime $79/$89; noon-4 p.m. $59/$69; 4-9 p.m. $40/43; Juniors/seniors (65+), anytime $59/$62; 4-9 p.m. $40/$43.
Season passes: Window has closed for season passes.
More information: timberlinelodge.com
Mt. Hood Meadows
Location: East side of Mt. Hood.
Elevation: 4,528-7,300 feet.
Terrain: 2,150 skiable acres, 140 for night skiing; 85 total runs.
Lifts: 11 chairs.
Scheduled season opening: Nov. 30. Night skiing schedule for Dec. 19.
Hours of operation: Daily 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Dec. 21, then 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Daily lift tickets: TBA
Season passes: $509 (ages 25-64), $419 (65-74), $409 (15-24), $329 (7-14), $159 (night).
More information: skihood.com
Mt. Hood SkiBowl
Location: Mt. Hood, near Government Camp.
Elevation: 3,600-5,100 feet.
Terrain: 960 skiable acres; 69 runs, 36 lighted runs.
Lifts: Four chairs, two tows.
Scheduled season opening: Dec. 7.
Hours of operation: TBA
Daily lift tickets: TBA
Season passes: Preseason sale ends today (Nov. 26). $543 adults (25-64), $395 young adults (15-24), $299 juniors (7-14) and seniors (65+), $239 night pass (all ages).
More information: skibowl.com
Cooper Spur Mountain Resort
Location: North face of Mt. Hood.
Elevation: 4,000-4,350 feet.
Terrain: 50 skiable acres, 10 runs.
Lifts: One chair, rope tow.
Scheduled season opening: Dec. 19.
Hours of operation: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday-Sunday (open daily Dec. 19-Jan. 3, plus Jan. 18 and Feb. 15); 4-8 p.m. Friday (starting Jan. 8).
Daily lift tickets: $42 adults, $29 juniors (7-14), free for kids and seniors (70+)
Season passes: $199 adults, $169 juniors.
More information: cooperspur.com
Other ski areas in region
Crystal Mountain (near Mt. Rainier): Opened Nov. 19. crystalmountainresort.com
White Pass (near Mt. Rainier): Nov. 27 estimated opening. skiwhitepass.com