mike-annett

Mike Annett by the entrance to the main lodge of Mt. Hood Summer Ski & Snowboard Camps.

Mike Annett was a young ski coach from Canada by way of Upstate New York the first time he traveled out West to sample the summer snow on Mt. Hood, in 1978.

He recognized the potential immediately. "We were up here for 10 days and all it did was snow," he recalled during a recent interview. "We never saw the top of the mountain."

While he was up on the mountain training young racers, Annett noticed some giant holes dug in the snow. It turns out that crews were building the Palmer Chairlift to bring lift access up to 8500 feet over a snowfield perfectly placed to collect drifting snows from Mt. Hood's prevailing westerly winds. The Palmer Chair was ready by October, and when Annett came back to check it out, there was snow everywhere.

'I could see it was going to be big'

Annett knew that if there was that much snow in October, summer was going to be great. And hardly anyone in the ski community seemed to know the place existed. So he came out with a team the following June and set up a summer ski racing camp on Palmer Snowfield, training young athletes to run downhill courses through the upper reaches of Zigzag Canyon. "We only got 23 kids out the first year, but I could see it was going to be big," he says.

Nearly four decades later, the 73-year-old Annett and his team at Mt. Hood Summer Ski & Snowboard Camps have trained thousands of skiers and snowboarders on Mount Hood in summer, including top racers such as Ted Ligety, Julia Mancuso, Daron Rahlves and snowboarding double-gold-medalist Vic Wild. They don't teach downhill racing any more, but they do train young athletes from around the world in slalom, giant slalom, freeskiing, snowboarding and mogul skiing.

'Chances are Palmer will fill in'

The camp was based at the rustic Snow Bunny Lodge until 1991, and then bounced around various condos in Government Camp for a while looking for a good home base. Then in 1998 Annett bought a 12-acre piece of property east of Govy on Hwy 26, adjacent to the Chevron gas station, and built it up from scratch, adding bunk bed lodging, a large kitchen, a soccer field and a trampoline, a zip line and a log walk. The camp have 110 beds in all and has hosted as many as 1400 campers per season, employing more than 25 people at peak times while running one of the largest and most established of the 20 or so summer snow camps operating on the Palmer Snowfield at Timberline.

Annett and his campers have had enough snow on the mountain to ski up to Labor Day every year except 2005 and last year, 2015. Climate change concerns are growing throughout the ski industry as glaciers melt and snowpack decreases, but Annett has confidence that the natural snow-collecting features of Palmer will provide a decent snowpack on Mt. Hood well into the future.

"It looks a little scary—outside of Palmer," he says. "Other places don't recover like Palmer does. Palmer recovers because it's a giant hole in the ground. If we get enough snow, the winds will come along and they will fill it in. We can have a bad winter up here, but if it's wet enough chances are Palmer will fill in and we'll have good skiing up to the end of August."

Hip Replacement Surgery changes the Routine

After nearly four decades of spending his summers on Palmer, Annett is well entrenched in the routines of camp life on and off the mountain. The only change for this coming summer is that for the first time in years Annett probably won't be skiing. He went through hip replacement surgery on May 4th.

As for future summers, Annett says he is getting ready to step back from the successful enterprise he and his team have built on the mountain.

"The business will keep going, but at some point I will step back," he says. "When somebody with deep pockets comes along."

He grins. "Know anybody?"

Here are a few images from the Mt. Hood Summer Ski & Snowboard Camp lanes on Mt. Hood, shot in July of 2014:

Seven-year-old Tucker Smith shreds some soft bumps at Mt. Hood Summer Ski Camp. Photo by Robin Cressy.