Making memories at Meadows
It hasn't been the greatest start to ski season in 2018, with subprime conditions on Mount Hood and elsewhere in the state.
As of Jan. 12, there were 41 inches of snow at the mountain base and 71 inches at the summit, with half of the 14 lifts open.
Still, that won't put a damper on celebrations later this month at Mt. Hood Meadows — a favorite local destination for generations — now celebrating its 50th anniversary with several new improvements and a family fun day on Jan. 27.
Visitors will appreciate the new lift, remodeled day lodge and two new sno-cats for better grooming, among other improvements.
"From a new lift for first-timers to the extensive upgrade of our demo center for seasoned skiers, we are taking steps to improve all aspects of the Meadows experience this season," says Jake Bolland, Meadows' chief operating officer.
"This will be noticed with improved grooming on our slopes and in our terrain parks, an improved experience for beginners with a new lift and terrain learning features, and a major remodeling of our Hood River Meadows day lodge."
Meadows enthusiasts may know some of the resort's history, including that winter when Olympian Gretchen Fraser — the first American to win an Olympic gold medal in skiing — took the inaugural run at Meadows in January 1968, skiing with friend and Meadows founder Franklin Drake and director of skiing Dick Ewald. They rode the Blue chairlift up the 1,200 vertical feet and upon completion of their run, Fraser skied through a ribbon to officially open Mt. Hood Meadows.
It was a historic moment for the resort, which continues under the same ownership.
Franklin served as board chairman through 2006, then passed the torch on to son Matthew, who now serves as chief executive officer.
Mt. Hood Meadows is one of only a handful of U.S. ski areas that have operated for 50 years under the same ownership and are still privately owned.
Worried about crowds? The new Buttercup lift increases efficiency, which should reduce crowds and wait times. It now carries four riders, up from two; its speed is faster by 30 percent.
The newly remodeled day lodge — expanded last year with a food truck — allows for more seating and better access to the restrooms, day lockers, ticket sales and cafe.
Guests also have an easier time purchasing or borrowing equipment to try out at the newly remodeled High Performance Center.
And finally, it's easy to see the mountain conditions for yourself before you get there, with the installation of two livestream cameras — at the top of the Blue lift and bottom of the Vista Express lift.
Here are some of the 50th anniversary activities set for 11 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Jan. 27:
• Family snow games and prizes will help get people excited for the upcoming winter Olympics.
• A performance stage will host live music, featuring the local band Counterfeit Hits.
• Local recreation partners will engage with guests at a vendor village.
• A retro skiwear fashion show will happen at noon, when Golden Tickets will be awarded. Drawings for additional Golden Tickets will happen thoughout the afternoon, with 50 winners reduced in number to five people. One lucky winner will be awarded a season pass at a 5:30 p.m. drawing.
• The grand finale will be the fireworks celebration at 5:30 p.m.
If you go:
• Hungry? Fuel up at any of the mountain's restaurants, including Higher Grounds coffee, Schuss quick serve, Fresh Tracks and Alpenstube.
• For lift ticket prices and details on lessons for kids and adults, day care and ski and snowboard equipment rentals, visit www.skihood.com.
• Also check out guided snowshoe tours, held every weekend in January. Tours are $25 per person, or $40 with snowshoe rental.
• Spend the weekend at Cooper Spur Mountain Resort, in Hood River, or anywhere else along the Columbia River Gorge.