The timing could not have been better for this ambitious bid to ski and snowboard three Mt. Hood ski areas — Timberline Lodge & Ski Area, Mt. Hood Meadows and Mt. Hood Skibowl — over three days. We booked two midweek nights at Collins Lake Resort in Government Camp during mid-February. While we hoped for great conditions, there are never any guarantees. The only thing that’s for sure, to more or less paraphrase Wayne Gretzky, is that you miss 100 percent of the powder days you don’t show up for. So we planned on showing up, and we scored big time. Mt. Hood received over 4 feet of snow in a week-long storm cycle. The conditions were perfect, and we intended to take full advantage of our good fortune.
Day 1: Timberline & Skibowl
I made the two-hour drive up from Bend during a break in the storm on a Tuesday morning, meeting up with some Portland-based friends who are longtime season-pass holders at Mt. Hood Meadows. Scheduling this trip as a midweek staycation was intentional. We were looking forward to the opportunity to enjoy the Mt. Hood resorts during the quiet of a weekday and to take advantage of discounted midweek rates as well as ski-and-stay midweek deals offered through Collins Lake Resort.
First stop was Timberline Lodge & Ski Area. The resort had received about 5 inches of snow overnight, and there was still plenty of powder to be found on the slopes at our midday arrival. The resort had five lifts running, with upper Magic Mile on hold due to the storm.
Our group had plenty of experience riding Timberline during the summer, when most of the action happens high up on the Palmer Glacier. (Yes, Timberline is known for summertime snow.) A midwinter powder day was a completely different experience as we dropped down from Timberline Lodge to the slopes below. We found powder-covered groomers and a network of fun gullies and tree runs to dip in and out of. The mountain also maintains a series of terrain parks for all levels — this is where the resort really shines for some visitors. There was a full range of features from beginner park features to a massive jump line that would not have been out of place at the X Games.
With high-speed chairs and no lift lines, we were clocking some serious vert. Just as we were starting to feel fatigue set in, a friendly lift operator suggested we stop in at Phlox Point Cabin for tacos and beer, which was definitely the local’s tip of the day. We rode towards the Pucci lift and found the little cabin hidden just off the side of the run. A smattering of skis and boards were leaning outside and a fire burned in the outdoor pit. The small cabin was originally built in 1930 to serve as an overnight shelter for Boy Scouts. It was renovated in 2017 and now offers a simple menu with five different gourmet street-style tacos. We sat by the warm fire inside, downed our tacos and considered the warming benefits of the jalapeno-tequila margaritas featured on the specials board.
Afterwards, we hit the slopes and tracked down more powder as the snow continued to fall outside. As the afternoon went on it felt like we had our own private resort, occasionally catching glimpses fellow skiers and snowboarders, but finding plenty of private powder.
We capped off our time at Timberline with a self-guided tour through the historic Timberline Lodge. The public areas of the lodge offer a glimpse into the history of this National Historic Landmark built in 1937 as part of Roosevelt’s New Deal. Displays tell the history of the daring early skiers and ski patrolers. A looping movie tells the story of the lodge’s construction and use of local materials and artisans. Anyone is welcome to stroll around the lodge, which draws nearly 2 million visitors a year. But on this midweek late afternoon with snow swirling around, we were among just a handful of visitors.
It was time to check into our lodging back down in Government Camp at Collins Lake Resort. Collins Lake is a great option not only for its prime location, but also for the VIP Rewards Program that includes dining discounts as well as a ski-free midweek promo to Mt. Hood Skibowl and Timberline Ski Area.
The lifts had just closed at Summit Ski Area on the east end of town, and Government Camp was draped in a heavy coating of winter white. We were tempted to call it a day, lounge in our condo and hit the hot tub and heated pool, but the lifts had just opened for night skiing at Mt. Hood Skibowl just across Highway 26, and it was Ladies Night.
We rallied and were once again rewarded with what locals were claiming were the best conditions of the season. We headed straight up the Lower Bowl chair to Upper Bowl where we were greeted by the echoes of hooting and hollering from the snow-caked skiers and snowboarders. Mt. Hood Skibowl is celebrated for having the most night skiing terrain in North America, and it was in prime form. The classic double-chair accommodated the crowd and offered a nice, mellow pace on the way up allowing us time to pick our lines and strap in without a barrage of people flowing off the chair.
Night riding at Skibowl has something for everyone, there are great lower mountain groomers as well as fun terrain parks, while the upper mountain is a big, steep black diamond bowl with open powder fields, tree runs and cliffs. The early evening dusk provided plenty of additional light to navigate the terrain before darkness set in and we made our way through the bowl under the lights. The snow was relentless; it was a classic “free refills” scenario — after what felt like too many runs, the Historic Warming Hut was calling our name. This absolutely cozy A-frame at the base of the bowl, also dates back to the early 1930s, and is packed with charming character including a huge stone fireplace. The place was busy, but we managed to cozy up on the corner of a table and down a round of Pilsners. The atmosphere was celebratory — loud cheers and laughter, frozen beards and fogged-up goggles, beers sloshing, frosted windows and the warmth of the wood fire.
We found the strength for a few more runs and then headed down to the Beer Stube to get in on the fun of the Ladies Night raffle. You could imagine the party here going late into the night, but we were ready to get our boots and off. Also, we weren’t done — there was still Charlie’s Mountain View, known as the place to unwind after a day on the hill. We had the good fortune of staying within walking distance of Charlie’s, so we headed back to our condo, changed into dry clothes and walked a couple blocks through the snow-covered streets.
Charlie’s is one of those classic ski town establishments that nurture the ski and snowboard culture. The crowd was clearly celebrating the epic powder day. Charlie’s menu includes the famous Gator Tators, burgers, brats, reubens, prime rib, ribeye, and of course a full bar… no one’s going hungry or thirsty at Charlie’s. We reluctantly left around 10 p.m., and it seemed like the party was just getting going here as well. There was nothing sleepy about Government Camp tonight.
Day 2: Meadows & Skibowl
The second morning had us up and out of bed early — it was a powder day with fresh snow overnight at Mt. Hood Meadows. And it was a Wednesday. Even though the resort is a short 25-minute drive east around the mountain, we decided to leave plenty of time leaving at 7:30 a.m. We booted up and had a leisurely breakfast at Higher Grounds, which opens in the main lodge at 8 a.m. We then made a bee line to queue up for the Mt. Hood Express lift opening at 9 a.m. We could hear the ski patrol finishing their avalanche work as bombs echoed off the canyon walls. The line had already started forming, but we would definitely be getting fresh turns.
There was hooting and hollering as fresh tracks were laid right down the face. It was a glorious morning of riding fresh snow. We spun some laps on Mt. Hood Express, then moved over to Shooting Star Express and Hood River Express. We were hoping to dip into Heather Canyon, but the patrol had lots of work to do before it would open. Terrain continued to open throughout the day, with the gated Private Reserve Area opening, and then around noon the Vista Lift opened. We took a midday break at the Alpenstube and fueled up on a Yachae Bowl (rice noodles with a rainbow of veggies and tofu in an Asian broth…yum!), the Fish & Chips and White River Salmon Tacos also made the rounds at our table.
Our rubbery legs confirmed it was time to go. Once back down in Government Camp, I walked over to High Mountain Café for a latte, then passed the historic Cascade Ski Club Lodge to the Govy General Store for snacks. Government Camp has undergone some great improvements since the time I spent here working at the summer snowboard camps in the late ’90s. The village added a network of sidewalks and streetlights, and the Govy General Store is another great addition. The store is stocked with ready-made food, drinks and all the basic groceries, as well as beer, wine and liquor. I thought about ducking into the Huckleberry Inn next door for a nostalgic slice of their famous Huckleberry pie, but the clock was ticking and the lifts at Mt. Hood Skibowl would be opening soon.
Mt. Hood Skibowl was a bit quieter from the day before, and the weather was clear at the 3 p.m. opening. The new snow had settled a bit, but we still found great riding up in the bowl. We also explored the trails heading over to Skibowl East, which brought us around to the freestyle park features.
Once dusk turned to darkness, I was done. It was hot tub time back at Collins Lake Resort and we had the place to ourselves. This was everything. I resisted crawling right into bed — I had one more spot I wanted to check out down the road at Mt. Hood Brewing Company. It was quiet on this Wednesday night. I ordered a Tilikum pizza with butternut squash and goat cheese, and a fresh Highland Meadow Blond ale. I finished the whole pizza. My past experiences were that Mt. Hood Brewing Company has my favorite food in Government Camp, and this meal confirmed that long-held impression.
Day 3: Meadows
The next morning a quick check of the conditions report confirmed that Mt. Hood Meadows had already received about 2 inches of snow, with the storm expected to build throughout the day. I fueled up at the High Mountain Cafe with a hearty veggie slider bagel sandwich to go. I headed back around the mountain to find a much smaller crowd waiting for the lifts to open. I opted to go straight up Mt. Hood Meadows Express to Shooting Star Express and found some of the best groomers ever — perfectly soft corduroy with a layer of new snow on top with snowflakes gently falling all around — the ultimate snow-globe scenario. The snowfall turned heavy through the morning as predicted, and the groomer day transformed into a powder day. Around noon, I made my way over to The Mazot, a cozy little on mountain cabin café at 6,000 feet. I sipped an espresso and recognized that it was time to go; the snow was starting to pile up and I had to get back to Bend.
Three days, three ski resorts, an embarrassing richness of powder and vert all to ourselves midweek — it just doesn’t get better than this. Beyond the great riding, one of the unexpected bonuses of this outing was discovering all the quaint historic huts and cabins on the mountains dating back to the mid-1930s when skiing was just getting a foothold in North America. These historic warming stations instilled our otherwise self-indulgent ski and snowboard trip with a cool historical perspective that acknowledges the incredible skiing, mountaineering and winter recreation history on Mt. Hood.