Barreling down the slope, remember to stop and smell the wildflowers.
In summer you can still ski on the upper slopes of Mount Hood or step off the snowfield and hike the Pacific Crest Trail.
Dressed in Gore-Tex pants and a T-shirt, I stood in skis and peered down the Palmer snowfield in fear. I'm an intermediate skier at best, and the run that makes Mount Hood's Timberline Lodge the only place for year-round skiing in North America is a challenging black diamond trail. Had I come to Oregon's highest peak in early summer, the lower trails would have been open—gentler terrain to match my measured nerve.
"You can parallel turn and slide stop, right?" the lift operator inquired. I nodded. "You'll be fine. The pitch really isn't that steep."
It looked steep to me, but I pushed off and was relieved to find that the 70-degree heat had turned the morning's icy layer into soft, manageable snow with a texture made slightly grainy by a nightly salt treatment. I skied into a clear view of snow-streaked Mount Jefferson and the rolling green of the Cascade Range while other skiers and boarders whisked by, gloveless, getting in a final run before the lifts shut down at 1:30 p.m.
On the remainder of the snowfield, Olympians and aspiring Olympians from American, Japanese, and Canadian ski teams carved up the groomed lanes reserved for training. Summer schussing keeps athletes competitive and diehards satiated. For the rest of us, summer skiing is about options, a chance to explore Mount Hood well into the long, warm days of summer.
Halfway down the mountainside, I dropped over a small ledge and made wide, sweeping switchbacks down a canyon as hikers made their way up. I could see families pouring out of the Magic Mile chairlift to a prime picnic spot at 7,000 feet and guests at the 1937 Timberline Lodge lounging by the swimming pool.
Within the Mount Hood National Forest's 1 million acres of wilderness, visitors can hike hundreds of miles of trails, including the adventurous route to Hood's 11,240-foot summit. You can also angle from the shore of clear blue lakes or shoot down the Clackamas or Salmon rivers by kayak or raft. At Mt. Hood Skibowl, the other local winter resort that's open during the summer, you can rent mountain bikes, go bungee jumping, zip down an alpine slide, or scurry up the climbing wall.
After I finished my final run, instead of sipping a mug of hot chocolate, I changed from skis to hiking boots and stepped off the Palmer snowfield and onto the Pacific Crest Trail. I had plenty of daylight left for an afternoon trek among the lupine.
Timberline Lodge is a historic landmark inn. But if it's booked, check out Mt. Hood Inn in tiny Government Camp, just 15 minutes from the lifts: (800) 443-7777, www.mthoodinn.com . To stay at a nearby camground, call the Mount hood Information Center at (888) 622-4822.
Photography by Larry Geddis
This article was first published in May 2004. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.
For information and reservations, call Timberline Lodge and Ski Area at (800) 547-1406 or visit www.timberlinelodge.com .
THINGS TO SEE AND DO
Mt. Hood Information Center provides information on camping, hiking, biking, fishing. 65000 E. Highway 26, Welches (15 miles west of Mount Hood). (888) 622-4822, www.mthood.info . The Forest Service also has an information desk at Timberline Lodge.
Mt. Hood Skibowl is the other winter resort open in the summer—rent mountain bikes, go bungee jumping, zip down an alpine slide, and let the kids drive miniature Jeeps or scurry up the climbing wall. 87000 East Hwy 26, Government Camp. (503) 222-2695, www.skibowl.com .
All Star Rafting and Kayaking offers half-day to five-day guided trips down numerous rivers including the Clackamas, Deschutes, and White Salmon, all within an hour's drive of Mount Hood. Transportation to the river and meals included. 405 Deschutes Ave., Maupin, (800) 909-7238, www.asrk.com .
Timberline Lodge $85-$240. Classic 1930s lodge. The Cascadian décor includes hand-crafted wooden furniture. (800) 547-1406, www.timberlinelodge.com .
Mt. Hood Inn $149-$169. Complimentary continental breakfast and a copy of The Oregonian. 87450 E. Government Camp Loop, Government Camp. (503) 272-3205, (800) 443-7777, www.mthoodinn.com .