Editor’s note: Face coverings (ages 5 and up) are required at all indoor public spaces statewide, regardless of vaccination status. Learn more here.
When white flurries enter the forecast, they are often accompanied by daydreams of wintry adventures: sparkly white landscapes, fresh tracks and ear-to-ear grins from bundled-up snow bunnies. If you’re new to the scene or just need a refresher, you can take a guided snow tour designed for beginners. Many tour operators provide instruction, rental gear and transportation — all with COVID safety protocols in place. All you have to do is reserve your spot and show up. Here are a few to check out this season.
Mt. Hood Snowshoeing
Options for snowshoeing getaways around Oregon’s tallest mountain abound, so choose wisely. Mt. Hood Outfitters offers two daytime tours, both of which include two hours of exploration with a focus on proper technique. These tours, as well as sleigh rides and guided cross-country ski tours for all ages and skill levels, meet at the Mt. Hood Outfitters headquarters in Government Camp’s historic village (Saturday and Sundays).
For the 2021-22 winter season, all Mt. Hood Outfitters tours will be private, with a maximum of nine people. Guests are asked to bring face coverings for moments when maintaining social distance isn’t possible. Health screenings will be completed upon arrival, and cancellations will be required if guests have any COVID symptoms in the 7 days prior to the tour. (In such instances, guests will receive a full credit for the tour.) All rental gear will be disinfected.
REI also offers a range of snowshoeing and cross-country skiing programs for both public and private groups. Tours have been redesigned to work for smaller groups, and all participants, guides and instructors must undergo health screenings. Transportation vehicles are sanitized between each use, rows are left empty to maximize space between guests, and face coverings are required while in transit. More details of REI’s health and safety protocols can be found here.
Mt. Hood Snowmobiling
If snowshoes just aren’t fast enough, snowmobiling satisfies the need for speed. Mt. Hood Outfitters holds the only permit for guided snowmobile tours in the Mt. Hood National Forest. The company is offering tours for groups of up to eight. Health screenings will be conducted upon arrival, and guests are asked to bring face coverings for moments when social distance can’t be maintained. The two tour options last 1.5 hours and 3 hours, and are open to visitors with a valid driver’s license (no snowmobile experience necessary). You can hop on a single or double snowmobile, pop on your helmet and be zipping around in no time. Tours meet at Frog Lake Sno-Park or Skyline Road Sno-Park, both off Highway 26. The company disinfects its rental snowmobile gear using the same protocol as its snowshoeing tours.
Snowshoeing Mt. Bachelor and the Cascades
Snowshoeing tours near Mt. Bachelor are also an option and can be done for everyone’s favorite price: free! These 90-minute interpretive tours are offered at 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. from mid-December to late March. Tours will be limited to 20 people with advanced reservations required. (Call 541-383-4771 to reserve.) Participants must be at least 8 years old. Naturalists from Discover Your Forest lead the tours, and donations to the nonprofit are happily accepted.
Children ages 8 and up are welcome on the Wanderlust Tours trek, led by naturalists in the wilderness around Mt. Bachelor and the surrounding Cascade mountain range. Tours are customized for whatever adventure level you’re seeking, whether it’s flat strolling or getting air on the lava flows.
Wanderlust offers two nighttime tours. The Moonlight & Starlight Snowshoe Tour takes you out under the light of a full moon to enjoy constellations and shooting stars, nocturnal animals and hot chocolate (offered through April, weather dependent). The Bonfire on the Snow tour leads participants to a hand-carved snow amphitheater where they enjoy dessert, spirits and hot cocoa around a fire. Wanderlust also hosts the family-friendly afternoon Shoes, Brews & Views tour, with suds from Bend’s Cascade Lakes Brewing Co. and handcrafted root beer for the kids (ages 8 and up welcome). For each tour, Wanderlust organizers have implemented a series of safety protocols to keep guides and patrons safe, including health checks, physical-distancing guidelines and face-covering requirements in all indoor facilities and transportation vehicles. (Guests can also choose to drive themselves to the meeting point.)
Shuttles and Stays on the Mountain
It’s easy in Oregon to avoid the worry of driving and parking in the snow to get to your adventure destination. Visitors have numerous ways to get to Mt. Hood without a car from the Portland region, Willamette Valley and Gorge towns. Columbia Area Transit Park and Ride is now serving visitors to Mt. Hood Meadows as well as to Government Camp, to connect with the Timberline Resort Shuttle and Mt. Hood Express.
Visitors to Mt. Ashland Ski Area can ride to the mountain in style via the free shuttle bus from the Ashland Hills Hotel & Suites, while Mt. Bachelor snow bunnies can skip parking hassles with shuttle service from town. Check the website for fares, pickup locations, dates and other important info. When in doubt, book lodging nearby the mountain, wherever you go — like the Wallowa Alpine Huts in the Eagle Cap Wilderness — and you’ll be getting fresh tracks every day.
If You Go:
Winter in Oregon can be chilly and wet or crystal clear and sunny — so wear waterproof layers and appropriate snow boots, and don’t forget your sunglasses. Remember that face coverings are required for all of Oregon’s public indoor spaces. Make sure to Take Care Out There by carrying your Ten Essentials, sharing the trails and leaving sites cleaner than you found them. Brush up on more tips on how to winter like an Oregonian. Know that cell service may be spotty, so download maps and trail directions. If you are traveling by car, be sure to check road and weather conditions before heading out, and carry snow chains or traction tires when advised.