February 7, 2019 / Comments (394)

Timberline Master Plan Calls for New Parking, Lodge, and Tubing Hill

timberline chart

Timberline Lodge and Ski Resort has released a 100-page Master Plan that calls for 800 new parking spaces, a new day lodge, and a tubing hill and snow play area near Molly’s lift.

The Master Plan makes its case for new development of the 82-year-old resort based on a capacity imbalance that Mount Hood regulars know well. The resort draws about 2 million visits per year and is routinely parked out on most weekends during the peak of the ski season. That means winter guests – including season pass holders – are commonly turned away at the entrance to the Timberline Access Road and sent on their way down Highway 26.

The authors of the report estimate a “comfortable carrying capacity” of 3,990 guests per day at Timberline, limited by parking capacity of about 2,824. 

The PAOT above stands for Persons at one Time, i.e., the number of people Timberline realistically can serve at a given moment. With a goal of boosting that number from 2,869 to 3,990 – a 39% increase – Timberline plans to add 800 new parking spaces and a day lodge at a new area they are calling Molly’s Portal. The “portal” would consist of 120 parking spaces for employees, 680 for guests, a new day lodge with a restaurant and deck, a sanctioned snow play area, and a 500′-by-150′ tubing hill with 4-6 lanes.

Here is a rendering of Molly’s Portal:

molly portal

Timberline will need to go through an environmental review process to gain approval of the new development. The resort operates under a Special Use Permit with the U.S. Forest Service, which brings close scrutiny of all proposals.

Other plans mentioned in Timberline’s 2019 Master Plan call for:

  • A new, faster lift to replace the 30-year-old  Pucci lift (these machines don’t last forever… Skibowl)
  • A new water well to limit the amount of water pumped uphill from Government Camp
  • New snowmaking covering an additional 21 acres of trails
  • Additional improvements to the new mountain bike park, which will host its grand opening this coming summer, with 7-10 miles of trails completed and legal clearance to expand further
  • An upgrade to the popular new Phlox Point cabin/taco stand

The Master Plan makes almost no mention of a popular proposal to connect the town of Government Camp with Timberline Lodge with a new gondola. Mount Hood history buffs will recall that the Skiway gondola made national headlines in the 1950s, although it only operated for a few years before shutting down in 1956. The tram towers were ripped out in 1961, but many locals and skiers like the idea of an updated version.

A failure to consider a gondola or other ambitious transportation solutions was one criticism leveled by stakeholder groups such as local businesses, government agencies, and environmental and recreational groups who met with resort reps during the master plan process. “Why aren’t you thinking in a bigger, broader way?” was a prevailing question noted in the Public Outreach Report that accompanies Timberline’s master plan.

The answer to that question may lie in the sheer difficulty of completing any new development within the Mount Hood National Forest. Large plans such as the long-awaited Mount Hood Land Exchange are notorious for their long delays. So we probably shouldn’t expect hundreds of parking spaces, a new lodge, and a new tubing hill at Timberline to appear quickly.

I’m curious what readers think about the proposal. Do you think it’s time for Timberline to build more parking spaces? Is a tubing hill a good idea? What would you like to see happen?

Last modified: February 7, 2019

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