Oregon is all about the great outdoors and, as you'd expect, this North West corner of the USA is home to some of the best skiing on the continent.
I fly into Portland, the state capital, and am soon on the way up the Historic Colombia River Highway to the small town of Hood River. After a breath-taking view of Mount Hood, we enter a deep gorge and pass numerous waterfalls including the Multnomah Falls, the 2nd highest in the USA. I'm thinking this would make excellent hiking country and vow to return in the summer.
Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Resort
It's a steep half hour drive up to the resort which opened in 1968. Its position on Mt. Hood's southeast flank means it gets maximum sun and is protected from most of the wind. It's the variety of terrain that makes it so unique and popular. If you're up there with the best, you can try the Cascade Express which offers incredible panoramic views half-way across Oregon from its 2225 m elevation. From there you can drop in to the seemingly endless pitch of powder-filled Heather Canyon. And, if you're feeling really brave, then explore the double black slopes, gladed tree runs and cliffs through access gates into the Private Reserve and S&R Cliffs.
As almost a complete beginner, I avoid all these and take lessons on the gentle slopes of the Buttercup Beginner Area. The last time I went skiing was also my first and I vowed it would be my last. It's snowing but not too cold so I spend all day taking the Magic Carpet and gaining confidence all the time. Soon I'm standing up straight, holding my poles in the centre and looking straight ahead. When I think I've mastered it, I ski back to the lodge and have my first fall of the day.
Timberline Lodge and Ski Area
Next day it's almost a white out as we climb to Timberline Lodge, situated on the other side of Mt.Hood, at 1816 m. The hotel was built in the 1930's by local artisans as part of President Roosevelt's New Deal policy and its exteriors were featured in the movie, The Shining. It certainly looks the part in the heavy snow but inside there are 70 comfortable rooms. You can stay here, have your breakfast and ski straight out of the front door.
The resort offers more than 560 Hectares of skiing and is the only ski area in North America to open all year round. It also has the largest vertical drop in the USA of 3372 m from the top of the Palmer Lift to the bottom of the Jeff Flood Express. There are 41 trails, 25% beginner, 50% intermediate and 25% advanced and also freestyle terrain. My friends rave about the morning's adventures, but I decide the weather is too inclement and am content to nurse a cup of hot chocolate by the roaring log fire.
Mt. Bachelor Ski Area
Leaving Mount Hood, I head south for 3 hours to the high desert of Central Oregon and Mt Bachelor. Mercifully the sun comes out and I stop by Smith Rock State Park to get splendid views of the mountains and canyons. The charming town of Bend makes a good base and has the sort of après ski facilities you might find in Europe, including a number of local craft breweries.
It's a crisp sunny day and the 2763 m summit of Mt. Bachelor is clear of cloud. What's great about this resort is that you can take a lift right to the top and ski down 1737 m. That's if you have nerves of steel, which I certainly don't. There are 71 runs in total and again I'm taking lessons on the lower slopes. This time I learn to negotiate the chair lift of the Sunshine Accelerator and make my way down both the Homerun and the Milky Way. In the brilliant sunshine the views of the Three Sisters mountains are splendid and I begin to enjoy myself. At lunch I meet my friends and they tell me this is one of their best skiing experiences ever. I can't really comment, as it's only my second time skiing, but I vow that it certainly won't be the last.
Travel Oregon has tourist information.
In the UK, email Oregon UK for more information and guides.
The Oregon Trail Ski Safari offers 11 nights from £1,449pp including 3 nights in Timberline Lodge. Prices are based on 2 people travelling in January and include flights, accommodation and SUV hire.
Delta has flights daily from London Heathrow to Portland, via Amsterdam.
All pictures copyright Rupert Parker.
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