- Written by Ben Jacklet
- Category: Resorts
- Published: December 10, 2018
- Last Updated: December 14, 2018
Mt. Hood Meadows is gearing up for the peak winter season with fresh snow, increased transportation options, and a variety of operational upgrades.
Mt. Hood's largest ski resort employs more than 1,000 people, and staffers are scrambling to make the most of a relatively slow snow start while also preparing for the annual holiday deluge of visitors. Operations teams are harvesting snow from the parking lot to improve coverage on trails, gear staffers are learning a new rental system that should cut down wait times substantially, and parking staffers are prepping for the usual madness that comes with thousands of drivers vying for precious parking spots.
Long-time resort spokesman Dave Tragethon says lifts are now running seven days a week, with night operations beginning Friday, December 14. On New Year's Eve lifts will run after midnight to help guests welcome the new year from the slopes. Night skiing tickets run $39.
Restaurants, bars, lesson programs, day care centers and shops are fully staffed and gearing up for the holidays. In one particularly welcome development, the popular Portland-based eatery Pok-Pok has agreed to set up a food truck at the Hood River Meadows base.
Most of the upgrades for 2018-19 are fairly minor - a "Vista Experience" trail to get newbies up on Vista Ridge earlier, a pair of new snowcats, an online rental reservation program for rentals, various $25 park-and-ride options, an environmental initiative to eliminate plastic straws - but larger changes are on the horizon. Meadows is considering plans to build a new 23,000-square foot day lodge between the Daisy lift and the main base lodge with completion as soon as Christmas 2020. The resort's leadership team is also strategizing on how to make the most of the newly acquired former Forest Service land in Government Camp that came from the Mt. Hood Land Exchange.
Tragethon says the new day lodge should address the second biggest challenge Meadows has, which is crowding in the main lodges.
The largest challenge, of course, involves parking and transportation. Meadows has ample parking for most of the season, but during peak periods the resort gets overwhelmed by miles-long lines of drivers anxious to get out on the slopes. These drivers are never happy to learn that they have been "parked out" and must return down the mountain to catch a shuttle back up. The extra holiday traffic can bring enormous traffic jams extending from Meadows to Government Camp, and that often icy 8-mile stretch can take hours to navigate on the worst of days.
To address the parking and transportation woes, Meadows has invested in a free shuttle from Hood River up to the resort, a variety of park and ride options, and expanded parking at its Nordic Center near the Hood River Meadow lift. A new "Green Dream" bus line from Portland seeking to replace the much-missed Grease Bus. Meadows should also relieve a bit of pressure on the parking system.
Unfortunately, the Forest Service continues to refuse to allow skiers to park in Snow Park lots such as White River and catch shuttles up to the resort during peak traffic days - even though Meadows is far and away the largest contributor to the Snow Park coffers, meaning Meadows skiers essentially subsidize the entire Oregon snowpark system. Meadows has asked to run shuttles up from White River to the resort on peak days and been steadfastly refused.
Another change at the resort involves dynamic ticket pricing, which seeks to match supply with demand and adjust prices accordingly, as airlines and hotels do. As with Uber and other demand-based service pricing models, the dynamic ticketing system at Meadows has created some grumbling from consumers. But Tragethon points out that savvy guests have figured out how to work the system to save money on lift tickets by planning ahead and rearranging their schedules for lower prices and shorter lift lines.
For all of the resort's work to improve services, the largest success factor - snow - remains out of their control. Meadows has invested in snowmaking, but that only works when there is enough water in the creeks to feed the machines. Similarly, harvesting snow from the parking lots and the forest can only get you so far. It takes a lot of snow to open Heather Canyon and Private Reserve, and Meadows never looks better than when it is blanketed with natural snow.
Fortunately, as Tragethon is quick to point out, Mount Hood is one of the best places in the country for snow accumulation, with an average snowfall of about 430 inches. "On our worst year we get 180 inches of snow," Tragethon says. "There are plenty of resorts out there that never get that much snow in their best years."
For more info on Mt. Hood Meadows services, follow the links below:
See you up there!