It’s a sunny, 90-degree August day on Mount Hood. (Remember those?) The still summit air amplifies the soundtrack of snowboards and skis carving snowpack. The Timberline ski area is overrun by the US ski and snowboarding teams, gracefully grinding rails, contorting their bodies, midair, above an intimidating 22-foot half-pipe, and rocketing off a towering jump into an absurdly large airbag.
From a familiar roster of established medalists including Kelly Clark and Shaun White to thrashing youngbloods like Chris Corning and Chloe Kim, top-notch shredders are a common sight on summertime slopes. Hood’s Palmer snowfield (a glacial survivor of the last ice age) has long served as a haven for snow-fueled thrills in warmer months, and its varying snow conditions can help prepare athletes for unpredictable competition sites. Meanwhile, Timberline’s hot-weather runs—which make the Oregon icon the country's only year-round ski area—welcome the public, too. “For someone to just jump in the car, head to the mountain, and ride the chairlift next to these high-level athletes is something special,” says Mike Jankowski, a longtime Portlander and head coach for the US ski, snowboarding, and freestyle teams.
While Olympians have trained on Hood for years, this past summer Timberline was an official training site for US skiers and snowboarders, as they prepped for the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. That meant working with Timberline and nearby ski and snowboard camps to build half-pipes, jumps, and rails to meet competition specs.
As February’s games draw near, these athletes will carry lessons learned and tricks perfected at Timberline to South Korea. Set in Hood’s shadow, Portland, too, might share a celebratory slice of the podium.