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Thank FDR. Without the battalion of unemployed craftsmen he put to work building the high-altitude Timberline Lodge back in 1936, we might not have the world’s most convenient summer skiing located right here in the U.S., just 55 miles east of Portland International Airport on 11,245-foot Mount Hood.
Like the Energizer Bunny, the lifts at Timberline just keep going and going. While other resorts fax press releases when they’re open into June, Timberline yawns and asks, “What are you doing on Labor Day?” Except for a few maintenance days in September, you can ski Timberline year-round. (The resort was open 355 days in 1998.) Without its summer season, Timberline would be just another struggling mid-sized ski area. For it is summer when this snow-palace really rocks. This is the training ground for everybody who’s anybody in racing. (In the past few summers, skiers like Picabo Street and Tommy Moe and snowboarders like Shaun Palmer and Ross Powers have trained here.)
Come June, this is a community that eats, drinks and sleeps (but not much) skiing.
Although Mount Hood is one of America’s behemoth hills, in the summer think bowling alley, not backcountry. To accommodate the 100 or so training camps on snow, the high-altitude Palmer Snowfield is sliced into neat sections, with approximately 25 100-foot-wide lanes marked off for training. The public uses one lane under the lift and a pair of outer lanes.
The slopes below the Palmer chair (down to the Timberline Lodge) are also public, but they’re moderate and mush up earlier than the snowfield. When the warm summer sun blazes (temperatures can reach 75 by noon), most skiers are off the slopes before the 1:30 pm closing bell. Many snowboarders, however, remain on the snowfield and hike up late into the afternoon.
While the Government Camp hamlet is nearby, the lodging is more spartan than five-star. If you can’t get a room at the landmark Timberline Lodge and don’t mind a 45-minute drive, it’s better to bunk in Hood River, the summer hub of U.S. windsurfing, thanks to the nearby Columbia River Gorge. But consider your wetsuit as optional¿you’ll want to spend most of your summer day slicing and dicing the hill. ¿Steve Cohen
1998 Closing Date Sept. 7 (Reopened Sept. 18)
Summer Terrain Most of Palmer may be roped off for training, but below on the Magic Mile chair nearly everything is open. In lean snow years, you may have to walk 100 feet to the Lodge. Lift Ticket $26-$34
Don’t Miss Dinner at the Cascade Dining Room in the Timberline Lodge. The dramatic stonework, ornate iron gates and soaring wood beams are as impressive as the award-winning continental cuisine.
Contact (503) 272-3311; www.timberlinelodge.com