Timberline has been parked out each of the past three weekends.

Timberline will no longer run free Fusion Shuttle buses up from the Skibowl West parking lot now that Skibowl is finally operating all of its lifts.

The free rides up Timberline Road have been heavily used this season because the lack of low-elevation snow and skiable terrain at Skibowl have sent Fusion Pass holders up to higher elevations to make turns.

Seats on the shuttle buses have been in especially high demand during the last three weekends, as Timberline was parked out to capacity early and often, sometimes before 10 am. Timberline only has capacity for about 1,000 vehicles, and skiers and snowboarders share the lots with climbers, sightseers and snowshoers.

Timberline spokesman Jon Tullis says free shuttles were never in the plan or the budget this season, since the renamed and newly expanded Mt. Hood Express public bus line was supposed to handle the non-traffic. But they had to do something to handle the crowds of potential customers and pass holders being turned away on parked-out days.

"It was pretty clear that the Mt. Hood Express was not enough," says Tullis. "It was just filling up and leaving people behind."

Timberline and Skibowl responded with a free shuttle as a temporary solution. Now that Skibowl has gotten enough snow to run its chairlifts, the free shuttle will end.

The Mt. Hood Express costs $2 one-way and picks up riders at various points between Sandy and Timberline, including a stop in front of the Collins Lake condominiums on Government Camp Loop Road. It does not have racks so riders need to carry their gear onto the bus. For details about the MHE including schedules and stop locations, check their website.

Another option for late arrivals is for drivers to drop off passengers at the lodge and then drive back down the road to park elsewhere. Here's what Timberline recently posted on their news page about drop-offs: "We ALWAYS allow cars to drop off passengers – even if our lots are full. Just let the attendant know that you need to drop people off, and will return to park somewhere in Government Camp. Please do not try to get past the attendant just to find a spot in the lot – we park cars very efficiently and if we say the lot is full, it really is."

The lack of lower-elevation snow has boosted visitor numbers at Timberline this winter, and Tullis says "it's been almost overwhelming at times because of the lack of parking."

The resort has tried for decades to build more parking on the mountain, without success. A recent change in strategy involves multi-modal solutions starting with the expanded Mt. Hood Express, with plans for a new Mount Hood transportation authority, a sizable park-and-ride lot in the area of Govy and a gondola connecting Govy to Timberline. But any development in Mount Hood National Forest is certain to involve a long and potentially adversarial public process.

What do you think? More parking spaces at Timberline? Bigger lot at Skibowl West? Double-decker park-and-ride in Govy and a gondola heading up the mountain? Or leave it as is?