Noting the variety of the terrain, the beauty of the alpine meadows and the wide-open spaces above the treeline in the 1960s, Franklin Drake saw the vision for Mt. Hood Meadows before anyone else.
The Oregon businessman secured the U.S. Forest Service permits and went on to build what is now the largest ski area on Mt. Hood, with the largest permit area, the most terrain, the most lifts and the most visits. It’s the second largest in Oregon, behind Mt. Bachelor.
Back then with only two chairlifts, a T-bar and two tow ropes, the property opened on Jan. 27, 1968, a day after a crowd of about 200 dignitaries attended grand opening ceremonies. Drake took the inaugural run on the 1,061-foot vertical drop, along with his director of skiing, Dick Ewald, and Olympic gold medalist Gretchen Fraser.
Fifty years later, Meadows has much to celebrate. This beloved hot spot hosts half a million visitors each year, with 430 inches of annual snowfall and 2,150 acres accessed by a dozen lifts, six of them high-speed quads.
It’s been the go-to spot for generations of weekend warriors and visitors who come for their exhaustive range of lessons, clinics, camps, leagues, adaptive lessons, freestyle coaching, terrain parks, a nordic center and snowshoe rentals.
Here are five things you might not have known about Meadows:
It’s still privately owned by the same family. Drake, the resort’s founder, served as board chairman through 2006, and then passed the torch on to his son Matthew Drake, the current chief executive officer.
It’s been a leader in innovation. In 1995, the high-speed quad installed at Mt. Hood Meadows was the fastest chairlift in the world at that time, transporting skiers and snowboarders more than a mile in less than six minutes.
It’s served ski bunnies to Olympians. Mt. Hood Meadows has one of the longest vertical drops in the country, at 4,477 feet.
It’s group-friendly. One in seven visitors to Mt. Hood Meadows arrives by bus — either for a school group, group ski trip or other organized trip.
It’s been a green pioneer. Meadows has been recognized for its sustainable practices, including LEED gold-certified buildings, an annual native wildflower revegetation effort and chair lifts that run on wind energy.
Also for its golden anniversary in 2018, Meadows has gotten a facelift. The resort has replaced its beginner chairlift with a feature that makes it easier to hop on and carry four riders rather than two. Beginners also have some new terrain-learning features to help with their runs. The park has added two snowcats for more grooming capacity, and the lodge and High Performance Center took on a recent remodel for expanded space and quicker access to demo equipment.
Visitors are invited to join the festivities on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2018 as Meadows celebrates is 50th anniversary with a full lineup of events. There will be a day of family snow play, with activities like snowman building and relay races; live entertainment with local acts; a vendor village; a golden ticket drawing (grand prize is a 50-year season pass to Mt. Hood Meadows) and a fireworks display at 5:30 p.m.