Breaking Camp: Mt. Hood Unrefined
By: Jason Tross
Most of the thousands of skiers flocking to Oregonâ€™s Mt. Hood every summer are with Windellâ€™s, Mt. Hood Sumer Ski Camps and National Alpine Ski Camp (NASC) – or any of the other world-famous camps.
Thereâ€™s an entirely different, and more mellow, ski scene outside the confines of these glamorized summer camps. Just below the Palmer Snowfield, Timberlineâ€™s terrain park crew maintains the best jump and rail lines in the Northern Hemisphere. The resort pumps hundreds of man hours and thousands of dollars into the diesel-powered snow cats to maintain the public park, where everyone else rides. A $45 day lift ticket pays for the park to stay open till about 1:30 p.m. every day and provides marginal profit to keep it going till the snow flies again. Find Timberline Terrain Park Director Steve Wallker(heâ€™s got dark hair, usually wearing a snowboard and long-sleeved shirt with a Timberline nametag) and thank him for his hard work. He runs the park all summer.
With lifts stopping shortly after noon, thereâ€™s still a ton of daylight to burn and countless ways to burn it. Here are some of the finer points of a late-summer Mt. Hood trip:
Hike if youâ€™re too cheap for a ticket. Itâ€™s about a mile long and ascends roughly 2,000 vertical feet. The hike takes about 30-40 minutes for a person in decent shape. Use regular shoes with your ski gear in a pack and walk along the trail parallel to the snow path from the lower parking lot. Donâ€™t forget anything at the car! Itâ€™s a long walk back. Hiking is poaching, so beware. Steve and the boys are on the lookout. He understands everyoneâ€™s situation, so understand his. Keep your attitude in check, suck it up and accept the risk you took. Thank the guys for being nice and ski down. Donâ€™t end up getting arrested for being an ass.
After High Cascade
High Cascade Snowboard Camp (HCSC) closes after this week and surrenders its snow lanes. Timberline will almost immediately build terrain park features on much of this area. Ticket prices will at least remain the same price, if not lower, after HCSC leaves. This means more bang for the buck. This also means crowds are thinner and overall costs on most items and services start to decline. Itâ€™s a great time to be in town.
Nice Try Slick
Bring enough money to pay cash. No one wants your weed or beer. It never hurts to bargain resort prices, but beware. Ticket prices arenâ€™t cheap – they arenâ€™t outrageous either. Out-of-towners have graced Timberline employees for more than 30 years with stories of poverty and suffering to ski for the summer. No one is sympathetic. Theyâ€™re working to afford riding all summer. Bet your ass theyâ€™re sick of dirty, cheap and rude kids looking for free hand-outs. This just pisses everyone off. A little respect goes a long way around Timberline â€“ especially if you decide to hike.
Say Hi to Smokey
Living in the great outdoors is about the best way to lodge on a budget at Mt. Hood â€“ when done right. If not, be ready to shell out almost 20 bucks each night for a National Forest campsite. Itâ€™s not cheap and you get to have your aged-to-perfection camp host promptly remove you for partying without a refund. Most local sites donâ€™t even have showers. Do yourself a favor and camp on public lands. Visit the ranger station in the nearby town of Welches, Ore. Get an unlimited camping permit there while finding out some cool swim spots and begin to realize just how incredibly awesome the big volcano is.
If youâ€™ve done it before, you should do it again. If you havenâ€™t done it, you should. You donâ€™t need snow to ride a sled down the mountain. Mt. Hood Ski Bowl has one of the sickest alpine slides ever known to man. Itâ€™s not cheap, but itâ€™s pretty tough to pass up. Ten bucks gets you one ride. If you decide to spend the money, make sure you skip the crowds. They slow you down. Always be racing the person next to you. No one checks for beer breath â€“ but donâ€™t say we told you to do it. Also remember, using the brake is for sissies!
You donâ€™t need to spend a lot of money to drink beer and slap a golf ball around either. There are a couple local golf courses. The Resort at the Mountain was the easiest to find at ten minutes from the Timberline turn-off. Donâ€™t be afraid to bargain for a quick few twilight holes. You might be surprised how a long day in the sun at high elevation will wear you down. Nine holes is plenty â€“ just drink more and take your time. It is vacation after all.
No summer mountain adventure is complete without jumping some kind of cliff into a natural body of water. Depends who you ask, but most locals agree the cliffs in the town of Dee are about 30 to 60 feet high â€“ give or take a few inches. If lakes are more your style, build a rope swing at Trillium Lake. The view doesnâ€™t suck either. Itâ€™s the closest thing youâ€™ll see to a bath, so you should really consider making a swim part of your trip.
Summer skiing is a lot different than winter skiing. Thereâ€™s more to it than just skiing. Mt. Hood is not a place someone can reasonably explore in just one day or even one week. Thatâ€™s all the more reason to make the trip again next year.