3 Reasons to Thrill to the Northwest's Extended Ski Season

Midwinter snow should spell fresh tracks well into March.

By Ramona DeNies February 20, 2017 Published in the March 2017 issue of Portland Monthly

Pomo 0317 ski hoodoo kids fxpbse

That Hoodoo that you do; your kids can do, too. (And in snowshoes, skis, and sleds.)

While Portlanders grumbled and stumbled over January snowpack, high up in the mountains the skiers cheered—and geared up for a long, sweet season. That welcome midwinter accumulation should spell fresh tracks for would-be diehards well into March. Here are three nearby options for shredding long after the lowlands thaw out.

Backcountry at Oldman Pass

“Portland skiers tend to overlook the upper Wind River winter recreation area,” writes Mike Bogar in his guide to the region’s Best Groomed Cross-Country Ski Trails. But this gently used trail system deserves your love. Deep in Washington’s Gifford Pinchot National Forest, find miles of cross-country loops fringed by old growth and framed by volcanic views of St. Helens and Mount Adams. Ski season at Wind River—serviced by sno-parks Oldman Pass, Koshko, and McClellan—typically ends by mid-March, so check conditions (and pack your tire chains) before making the trek north from Bridge of the Gods.

  • Distance from Portland: 74 miles; elevation: 3,000 feet; $20 Washington sno-park permit

Snowboard Hood’s Outer Limits

At sprawling Mt Hood Meadows—for Portlanders, just 90 minutes away—boarders rule more than 2,000 snow-blanketed acres on the mountain’s southeast face. From the resort lodge, take high-speed lifts to soaring ridgeline routes like the Texas Trail, Outer Limits, and expert-grade Heather Canyon; easier rides start a bit farther down at 5,400 feet. Early January storms swaddled these slopes in white stuff, including one frosty Wednesday that was, according to resort bloggers, “possibly the best all time powder day in Meadows history.”

  • Distance from Portland: 67 miles; elevation: 5,400–7,000 feet; $62–89 day pass

Snowshoe at Hoodoo

Why make the three-hour drive from Portland southeast through Santiam Pass? Here, in the corridor between needle-peaked Mounts Jefferson and Washington, Hoodoo Butte’s thick forests open into clearings created by fierce burns like 2003’s B&B Complex Fire. Catch those bluebird vistas from well-groomed trail loops just off Highway 126. From Hoodoo ski area, the kiddlers can shoe around easy Hogg Meadow Loop and Hayrick Glade; those with heavier footprints can shuffle to nearby Ray Benson Sno-Park, where a web of rolling ski routes intersect with the Pacific Crest Trail. Chilly? Toast your toes at one of the sno-park’s three warming shelters, each stocked with firewood.

  • Distance from Portland: 135 miles; elevation: around 4,800 feet; Hoodoo: $16–57 day pass (Ray Benson Sno-Park: $4 permit)
Filed under
Show Comments