I have yet to meet a kid who doesn’t enjoy the novelty of sleeping anywhere that’s not home — a hotel, motel, camper, yurt or tent, you name it. My two kids aren’t any different, and when we arrived at Cooper Spur Mountain Resort, the first thing I heard from them was: “We’re staying in a Lincoln Log cabin!”
With exposed timber logs and beams, our cabin had a Henry David Thoreau, escape-civilization-to-the-woods vibe. But it also had the added luxuries of a spiral staircase, a full kitchen and plenty of room for everyone, including our family dog and my mom, who had never been to Mt. Hood in winter despite having lived in Oregon for more than 40 years.
My mom, who came to live with us in New York City after the children were born, was happier than anyone when we decided to relocate the family to Portland (my hometown). For the kids, my mom is and has always been the fifth member of our family. The idea of taking a vacation — even a weekend getaway — without her just feels wrong. We can leave the cat at home, but never Grandma Woo!
For me this easy trip to the north side of Mt. Hood was a chance to let my mom enjoy the kids without babysitting responsibilities, and for the kids to share new experiences with their No. 1 fan.
Cooper Spur, a quaint mountain resort and ski area located in the Mt. Hood National Forest, is less than a two-hour drive from Portland. In comparison to nearby Mt. Hood Meadows or Mt. Bachelor to the south, the place is tiny. But what it lacks in vertical, it more than makes up for in accessibility and simplicity. As my husband, Gregor, puts it, “You spend more time having fun and less time awkwardly clomping around in ski boots.” He’s right. For families with beginner and intermediate skiers, the place is more than plenty big and just so easy to navigate. During our stay, a restroom or snack was never far away. We were able to get the kids geared up with rentals and on the slope in less time than it took me to get them loaded up in the truck.
The start of ski season is dependent upon snow conditions, but you can generally count on a mid-December opening with lifts operating through the end of March. The resort offers complimentary group instruction several times a day, but we opted for a private lesson, hoping to make the kids’ first time on snowboards a success. (By success, I mean no meltdowns.) The instruction was great, the kids had a blast and I even managed to get on a board myself. After a morning of snowboarding, we had an easy lunch of pizza at their Alpine Lodge, followed by hot chocolate and then several runs on their unintimidating but fun tubing hill.
Dinner that night was at the cozy Crooked Tree Restaurant & Tavern, located just steps away from our cabin. Their menu features farm-fresh ingredients and local wines and beers, with several options on the kids’ menu. Don’t miss the fork-tender pot roast — quintessential comfort food. Order a side of french fries cooked in rosemary oil, which come with three dipping sauces. After dinner we borrowed a few board games from the pantry for the night’s entertainment.
Cooper Spur offers continental breakfast for all guests, but we stayed in our pajamas and cooked a big pancake and bacon breakfast using supplies we brought from home. Afterward we picked up snowshoes from the resort’s Nordic Center and took a scenic nature walk that was easy enough for my 70-year-old mom and exciting enough for my 5- and 6-year-old to enjoy together. Later that day, we went back to the ski resort up the road and let the kids try on their first downhill skis. Their dad, who had spent many winters as a ski instructor in Colorado, had them making pie slices down the easy runs in no time at all.
What I liked most was the relaxed pace of all of it. There was no rush, no long lines; everything at Cooper Spur is within close proximity and easy to access. They also have amazing rates, which takes the pressure off having to pack it all in. An adult lift ticket is just $36 (a mere $12 for night skiing), and kids under 6 are $10 — or $5 if they’re just doing the rope tow. An unlimited season pass for a whole family of four, including rentals, is a mere $425. Now that’s something to write home about.