A ski resort with terrain for all levels and closeby lodging, lots of apres ski activities and a good ski school make for great vacations on snow.
Skiing and riding in the Pacific Northwest often can be a terrific experience because of the volcanoes and glaciers that sometimes offer almost year-round access to snow. Moisture-filled snow sticks to steeper faces and the entire region can receive hundreds of inches of snow annually. Still there can be plenty of powder when conditions are right.
You’ll have plenty of choices in Oregon, particularly if you live in the cities of Portland or Bend, but you can pick and choose the type of resort for you and your family. The only true destination resort in Oregon is Mt. Bachelor. The others are either iconic (think Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood, open almost all year) and more a bit smaller, though usually including a terrain park or two, but well worth a look.
Mt. Bachelor ski resort, perhaps the best-known destination resort in Oregon, is just under half an hour from Bend, but is about 100 miles from Portland in Central Oregon. All winter travel routes to Bachelor go through either Bend or Sunriver. Make no mistake: This is big mountain skiing (6th largest ski resort in U.S.) with a 3,365-foot vertical drop and skiing and riding over 4,300 ski able acres. There are 101 runs, served by 12 lifts. Mt. Bachelor also has 35 miles of nordic skiing trails with runs for all abilities. It sits on the east bank of the Cascade Mountain Range so the snow is generally light and dry – an exception to the Pacific NW rule of thumb. There’s lots of it, too: 462 inches. Lodging is plentiful in Bend and Sunriver.
Mt. Hood Meadows sits about 90 miles from Portland and offers a good variety of high-alpine terrain for all skill levels, though intermediate skiers and boarders can claim 50 percent of the terrain. It’s a big mountain sporting 2,150 skiable acres and a long vertical drop of 4,477 feet. There are 11 lifts. Mt. Hood Meadows is one of Oregon's largest ski resorts and the largest ski resort on Mt. Hood. Storm cycles often bring weather patterns that will inspire a break to the base lodge. Mount Hood Meadows was built as a ski area, not as a destination resort, so there is no lodging on site. The amount of upper terrain available is weather-dependent.
Mt. Hood Skibowl in Government Camp is the largest night skiing area in the United States and the closest ski and snowboard area to Portland. With 300 inches of annual snowfall and a vertical drop of 1,500 feet, it’s a close-by playground for skiers and boarders of all levels. There are multiple terrain parks and a snowtubing area. There are 69 runs over 960 skiable acres, served by 4 double chairs and 6 surface lifts at Mt. Hood Ski Bowl.
Timberline Lodge is a truly iconic experience. This is the only ski area open at least ten months of the year, offering the longest ski season in the U.S. There are 4,540 vertical feet and the ski mountain is located near the top of an 11,245-foot volcano: Mt. Hood, the tallest mountain in Oregon. The Palmer Express high-speed quad operates in the Spring and Summer seasons only usually June 1 through beginning of September (snow dependent). Mt. Hood elevation is 11,245 feet and Timberline Lodge sits at 6,000 feet. Silcox Hut is at 7,000 feet. There are 9 lifts, including 6 high-speed quads and 2 snowcats. The summit ski area maintains several terrain parks throughout the year. Timberline Lodge offers night skiing on 121 ha of its varied terrain. Historic Timberline Lodge was built in 1937 and staying there completes your experience.
Anthony Lakes Mountain Resort is in Eastern Oregon near La Grande and Baker City. There’s a 900-foot vertical accessed by a triple chair and 2 surface lifts over 1,100 skiable acres. The 21 runs are suited for all abilities. The atmosphere is relaxed and friendly and with a base elevation over 7,000 feet, the snow is generally powdery. Lodging is in Baker City.
Hoodoo has been a favorite of families from the Willamette Valley and Central Oregon for many years. The area sits atop Santiam Pass and is accessible from either side of the Cascade Range. There are 34 runs on 800 acres of skiable terrain accessed via 5 lifts. The vertical is 1,035 feet. There’s plenty of lodging nearby, but an excellent choice is Black Butte Ranch.
Mt. Ashland is just north of the California border, 8 miles off Interstate 5. The runs and lifts are named after Shakespeare plays and characters, with Balcony and Upper Balcony (at 7,500 feet) overlooking them all. The Oregon Shakespeare Festival is a popular year-round draw. The day lodge is Elizabethan in style. Mt. Ashland's specialty is a cirque, a giant glacial bowl that is corniced, steep, and demanding. Double-black in fact. There are 4 chairlifts, 2 of which serve the higher elevations, and vertical drop of 1,150 feet.
Willamette Pass is in Klamath Country, West Central Oregon. Its claim to fame is “RTS,” one of the steepest runs in the world, which at its steepest point is 52 degrees. The vertical drop is 1,573 feet and there are 555 acres on which to play. There are 29 trails, with nearly half marked intermediate, served by 6 lifts. Willamette Pass usually picks up 430 inches of snow.
Cooper Spur sits on the north side of Mt. Hood. The combination of affordable pricing, beginner to intermediate level terrain for downhill riding, and small size of the ski area, makes it a spot for families. There are just 50 acres of terrain, 10 runs and a 350-foot vertical. Transportation is via a double chair and a rope tow. The Alpine Lodge has a covered, outdoor deck.
Spout Springs is a historic ski area (dating back to the 1940s) in the Blue Mountains of northeastern Oregon that has been abandoned since the 2017-2018 season. The Umatilla National Forest is reportedly looking for interested parties to revive the historic ski area and bring it back online.
The northern and eastern parts of Oregon have clearly defined seasons where winters are cold and snowy. Oregon, therefore, sees snow from November through April. Snow is predominant in the mountain ranges of the Cascade Mountains, with a massive accumulation ranging between 150 inches (3810 millimeters) and 550 inches (13970 millimeters) of snow being recorded annually.
Typically, you can ski from November-April. Want more? Timberline offers the longest ski season in North America. The Palmer Lift, high on the glaciers of Mt. Hood, allows operation through the summer months. Summer skiing usually lasts through Labor Day.
There are 10 Oregon ski areas covered in OnTheSnow.com offering experiences ranging from big-mountain destination skiing in Oregon to small community mountains (and even the chance to ski and ride year-round). Note that Sprout Springs ski area is closed, but reportedly looking for an operator.
Most ski resorts in Oregon have everything a family will need to have a fun ski and snowboard day. From licensed daycare services that care for young children, trails that cater to all degrees of skill, ski and snowboard schools, and other activities to keep both the parents and the children engaged throughout the day. Try any of these particularly family-friendly areas: Hoodoo Ski Area, Willamette Pass-Crescent, Timberline Lodge, Mt. Hood Meadows, Mt. Hood Skibowl, and Mt. Bachelor.
From Portland, there’s basically two regions where you’ll find all of the ski resorts: Mt. Hood and the surrounding foothills (approx. 1.5 hours’ drive from Portland) and Mt. Bachelor and its surrounding sibling peaks (approx. 3 hours’ drive from Portland). The Mt. Hood region: Mt. Hood Skibowl, 59 mi., 1.5 hours; Mt. Hood Meadows, 63.5 mi., 1.5 hours; Timberline 66 mi., 1.5 hours and Cooper Spur, 84 mi., 1.75 hours. Ski Resorts near Portland in the Mt. Bachelor Region are Hoodoo, 134 mi., 2.33 hours and Mt. Bachelor, 166 mi., 3.15 hours.
Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood has 3,690 feet of vertical spread out over 1,1415 skiable acres.
Temperatures can get very cold, but only occasionally, as the result of Arctic cold waves. The cold season lasts for 3.2 months, from November 30 to March 3, with an average daily high temperature below 38°F. The coldest month of the year in Oregon is January, with an average low of 14°F and high of 28°F. Temperatures range from daytime highs in the 50s, to low 40s. It will get below freezing several times and often into the 20s for a day or two.
Hood River, set along the scenic Columbia River Gorge, is a vibrant small town with a strong outdoor scene. The main attraction is the beauty of the surrounding area. One of the most stunning sights is the “picture-perfect” Multnomah Falls. Sisters, on the eastern flank of the Cascade Mountains, offers 19th-century facades and storefronts, but decidedly modern art galleries and restaurants inside. The town is a short drive from Hoodoo Ski Area at 34 miles; a bit farther to Mt. Bachelor at 45 miles.
Portland International Airport is your best choice – pick up a rental car and drive to several of the ski areas relatively close-by. There are also several regional airports. If trains are your preference, try the Willamette Valley train serviced by Amtrak’s Cascade line. Pick it up at Portland’s Union Station. Then, there’s a bus. The Mt. Hood Express is a bus service for communities along Highway 26, running from the city of Sandy east to Timberline Lodge.