This is probably the only Pacific entry in the survey renowned first and foremost for its accommodations. An architectural masterpiece hand-hewn by Depression-era WPA craftsmen, Timberline Lodge features massive log beams, a multi-story stone central fireplace and masterful woodwork: "Touring Timberline Lodge alone is worth the trip," gushes one reader. "Staying there is magical!" coos another. And it starred in The Shining, to boot. Amazingly, the handsome, rustic rooms here-the only slopeside lodging in the state-aren't too steep, considering the Historic Landmark setting. (Prices start as low as $75 for a "chalet" room, and there are midweek and online pricing specials). But then, outdoorsy Oregonians don't value a value so much when they are bored by the "limited terrain." "Not an expert area," grumbles one reader. "Upper slopes lack interest," adds another. Intermediate skiers would disagree, citing the expanse of snow superhighway: "nice long runs that don't surprise." For this, they have head groomer Jeff Flood to thank: An expert in his field, he grooms for the X Games and trains grooming staffs at other resorts. And, of course, no matter how boring those upper slopes might be, no one can complain about the fact that Palmer Snowfield is open all summer long. The glacier, just under Mt. Hood's peak, attracts Olympic trainees. (Some Portlanders on their summer days off have had the pleasure of riding the chairlift with Picabo Street.) Indeed, more than half our survey respondents mentioned summer skiing as Timberline's strongest selling point. "Taking this summer trip to the Hood area was the best vacation I've ever had," says one wowed reader.
WHAT'S NEW Last year saw two new quads; this year sees the capacity of the Stormin' Norman lift upgraded by 25 percent. Also, the Lodge is plush with new carpeting, new lighting, new guest-room amenities and a refurbished pool and spa.
A GOOD DEAL The Flex Pass ($150), which offers the flexibility to ski when you want for the price you want. Ski five weekend- or holiday-period days, 10 midweek days, or any combination thereof, for savings of $40 to $230.
HIGH/LOW PACIFIC RANK Lodging (2), Dining (3), On-Mountain Food (6); Weather (31), Challenge (36), Value (38).
DON'T MISS A Cloudcap Amber Ale, brewed just down the road at Mt. Hood Brewing Company (owned by Timberline). This is best enjoyed at the Ram's Head Bar on the lodge's balcony-style third floor, where one can take in panoramic mountain views.
READER REMARKS (+) "One of the best romantic ski destinations in North America." "Being open year-round is an unbelievable strength."
(-) "Terrain is intermediate at best." "Severe weather."