As snow fell on the Cascade Mountains on Friday morning, the ski resorts on Oregon’s tallest mountain were analyzing whether it would be enough to reopen chairlifts over the weekend.
Greg Pack, president and general manager of Mt. Hood Meadows, went out to inspect the hills Friday morning and came back with a confident answer: “We’re opening.”
Ski season is off to a slow, halting start on Mount Hood, as Meadows and Timberline both announced partial reopenings for Saturday, while Skibowl took a step backward and Cooper Spur continued to wait for more snow.
The decisions come on the heels of a powerful atmospheric river that tore through the region this week, bringing record rainfall that caused flooding and melted much of the early snowpack in Oregon’s north Cascade Mountains. However, the new snow is expected to be adequate enough to get limited operations started on some parts of the mountain.
“We’ve been piling up snow and making it through the rain,” Pack said. “Definitely some good areas for skiing and riding.”
Timberline technically kicked off the season last weekend, when the high-altitude resort was able to open for skiing and riding Sunday. But as the rain rolled in, the resort was forced to shut back down Monday, remaining closed through the week. Timberline said Friday that it planned to reopen lifts Saturday, with more snow in the forecast through the weekend.
“We’re going to try again,” said John Burton, Timberline’s director of marketing and public affairs.
Timberline received 10 inches of snow in the last 24 hours, Burton said, bringing its base depth to 27 inches at Timberline Lodge. That will be enough to reopen the Pucci and Bruno’s lifts beside the lodge, which will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
This year’s opening dates are a bit later than last year, when Timberline opened early on Nov. 11, but about on par with 2021, when Mount Hood ski areas opened Dec. 11.
While current forecasts on Mount Hood call for snow on Friday and Saturday, there is also more rain expected Sunday and Monday. Unlike the atmospheric rivers that just tore through the region, this rain isn’t expected to make a huge dent in the snowpack, leaving ski areas hopeful they’ll be able to remain open.
“We’re optimistic,” Burton said. “It’s our intention to open and stay open, but that’s kind of up to mother nature.”
At Mt. Hood Meadows, Pack said he wasn’t too concerned about the forecast.
“We can weather a little bit of rain. If it’s a downpour like we saw earlier in the week, that could halt operations,” he said, though he added the plan is to keep things running once Meadows is open. “We owe a lot of people to stay open and keep going.”
Meadows will open its Buttercup, Daisy and Easy Rider lifts Saturday, as well as its Ballroom Carpet, all which take people to beginner and intermediate areas. More advanced areas on higher points of the mountain will require additional snow, Pack said.
The good news did not quite extend to the mountain’s two other ski areas.
On Thursday, Mt. Hood Skibowl announced it was suspending operations over the weekend. The ski area initially opened its tubing hill Nov. 24 with the help of some all-weather snow making technology, but shut back down Dec. 2 as rain began to fall. While its neighbors planned to reopen Saturday, Skibowl said it would spend the weekend rebuilding snowpack on the tubing hill and would offer another update the following week.
Cooper Spur Mountain Resort said Thursday that it was planning to reopen Dec. 16, as it began to open its schedule for skiing and snowboarding lessons this season.
Off the slopes of Mount Hood, other Oregon ski areas also struggled to open for the season, though there was some good news in Bend.
Mt. Bachelor reopened its slopes Friday morning after briefly shutting down operations due to rain earlier in the week. The Bend ski area became Oregon’s first to reopen for the season when it invited guests back Dec. 2.
On Friday, Mt. Bachelor said it received 14 inches of snow over the last 48 hours, bringing its base depth to 32 inches. That was enough to open its Sunrise, Little Pine, Pine Marten and Rainbow lifts, as well as the Chipmunk Carpet. More lifts are expected to open within the next week.
The nearby Hoodoo and Willamette Pass ski areas, however, have not seen enough snow to reopen. As of Friday, neither had made any announcements about reopening, with both asking people for patience as more precipitation was forecast over the weekend.
Mt. Ashland, which had planned to reopen to skiers Saturday, said it would have to delay that reopening indefinitely. In an update Thursday, the ski area said it was still far from its 24 to 30 inches needed to reopen, with only 10 inches on the ground at the time. The decision to reopen will be a day-to-day decision, with snow and rain forecast over the weekend.
Anthony Lakes in northeast Oregon reported a base depth of 15 inches Friday, but had no updates about its plans to reopen for the season.
— Jamie Hale
Our journalism needs your support. Please become a subscriber today at OregonLive.com/subscribe