Ski season is upon us!
Skibowl will open for skiing and snowboarding this week after picking up an extremely welcome 21 inches of fresh snow over 48 hours.
The Lower Bowl is scheduled to open at 3 pm Wednesday and run under the lights until 10 pm, and the Upper Bowl Chair is set to operate Thursday during the same evening hours. Skibowl bills itself as “America’s Largest Night Ski Area,” and its Portland fan base is definitely ready to get out and shred it up under the lights like in the good old days, after two years with limited snow. This photo from March of this year shows mostly bare slopes at a time of the year when Skibowl usually has a decent base:
Skibowl is the closest Mount Hood ski area to Portland and arguably the steepest, but it is also situated at the lowest elevation, more than a thousand feet below Timberline and Mt. Hood Meadows. That thousand feet has made the difference between snow and rain far too often over the past two years, and Skibowl has struggled to remain open in winter other than the tubing hill operation at Multorpor. The resort was unable to operate chairlifts through the Christmas holidays in 2013-14 and did not open for chairlift-served skiing and snowboarding until January 17 that season. Then in 2014-15 they opened for New Year’s Eve, and two serious skiing accidents occurred on Reynolds Run on the same night. The Upper Bowl never opened last season, and Hope on the Slopes, the Red Bull Schlittentag and the King and Queen of the Mountain competition were all canceled, along with too many races and freestyle competitions to list.
What a difference a few degrees of temperature can make. Last week’s dramatic weather shift from city-flooding monsoon to gully-filling Cascade powder storm convinced Skibowl to staff up and prepare for upper-mountain operations while conditions are good. “This is the biggest storm we have seen in two years, and everyone is excited to get the ski area open this Wednesday,” said Skibowl Mountain Manager John Vermaas. “The grooming crew is out compacting the snow on the ski runs so we have a good base to carry us through the entire season.”
Along with the chairlifts, Skibowl’s Parking Lot Conveyor lift will be open for beginners and Ski School lessons, as will the tubing hill and the 70 Meters Bar and Grill. Skibowl is also planning firework displays at Skibowl East for every third Saturday of the month starting on December 19th.
But for the diehard Skibowl enthusiast, the highlight will be the long-overdue re-opening of the Upper Bowl, with its forty-degree plus pitches, intoxicating tree lines and cliff-drop shows. Not to mention the Historic Warming Hut.
Here are a few shots I took two and a half years ago at the King and Queen of the Mountain event, a Skibowl tradition that has been missed these past two seasons. I'm definitely not the greatest photographer on the mountain or even close, but these somewhat blurry pics do kind of capture that fun and free feeling you get when fresh snow blankets the Bowl.
That's Tommy Ellingson above, shredding it up with Josh Larkin. This last shot shows Kristin Beavert and Corey Caswell, who were crowned King and Queen of the Mountain in April of 2013 after a top-to-bottom competition involving cliffs, rails and radar guns.
If you happen to make it up for the Upper Bowl opening Thursday, by all means, enjoy.