Skiing, Riding In Oregon Means Plenty Of Snow, Lots To Choose From
Blessed with some of the nation's heaviest snowfall, Oregon's 11 ski and snowboard offerings range from volunteer-run quirky to corporate huge -- and a bunch of duct-tape "ski areas," fixed-grip chairlifts and local rope tow bumps in between.
Less than a 100 miles from the Pacific Coast, the volcano-stuffed Cascades produce an "orographic lift" off the ocean whereby air rises quickly and freezes into predominately heavy snow. U.S. record snowfall for a season, 1,140 feet, was set at Washington's Mt. Baker.
The treeline ranges as low as 7,000 feet, meaning tons of wide-open lines. As for conditions, base depths trend above 100 inches. Deep and heavy snowfall prevails -- bring your fatties for legendary "Cascade concrete" -- although light powder can be found on the highest slopes. Expect high winds and frequent trail closures.
Extinct volcanoes Mt. Hood and Mt. Bachelor rise to the top of Cascade Range skiing and snowboard. Mt. Hood has four resorts on its flanks. Mt. Hood Meadows dwarfs them all with 2,150 acres and 2,777 vertical feet. Mt. Hood SkiBowl (weekends and weekday nights only), Cooper Spur and the recently joined Timberline Lodge and Summit round out the Mt. Hood roster.
About 150 miles to the south, Mt. Bachelor is even bigger: 4,600 acres, 3,365-foot vertical. So big that it wraps around the 9,600-foot-high peak. An angle of repose consistent with volcanic cones produces about 75% similarly pitched blue runs on the mountain. Snow conditions vary widely because of 360-degree aspect.
Across the southern tier of the Oregon Cascades, you can check out four smaller, community mountains that are close enough to be road trip material: mellow Hoodoo Ski Area (800 acres); newly purchased Willamette Pass (555 acres inbounds,1,300 sidecountry); classic Mt. Ashland (240) -- what skibum.net calls the "Mad River Glen of the Pacific Northwest"; and, county-owned Warner Canyon (300), which opened in 1938.
Moving up to the northeast corner of Oregon you will find the westernmost outlier of Rocky Mountains in the glacier-carved Wallowa Mountains, and a pair of outlier ski and snowboard hills nestle among peaks that poke above treeline.
Surprisingly big, Anthony Lakes has 1,100 acres, 900 vertical feet, one triple chair -- and no black-rated runs. It operates Thursday-Sunday, and has snowcat tours.
You want quirky? Volunteer-run Ferguson Ridge, aka Fergi, operates Friday-Sunday, doesn't take credit cards, and has neither food service nor running water at the hill. A T-bar ticket costs $20, and rope tow is free. Volunteer four days and get $50 season pass. Trail map doesn't rate its runs.