November 9, 2020 / Comments (0)

Is it even worth skiing this season?

view from heather

Quick answer: Yes!

Even with the risk of COVID-19, high-speed turns in the fresh air may be exactly what you need this winter. I know I could use some mountain time. It has been a long slog of a year, and I think we all deserve more bliss in our lives.

So how do we do this safely?

We are finally starting to get some early-season love from the snow gods, and thousands of Mount Hood lovers are primed to get up there and start shredding after a long long lonely summer. At the same time, COVID cases are spiking globally and nationally. Oregon is not immune, with record numbers of daily infections and new restrictions on social gatherings just announced by Gov. Kate Brown. Among the new restrictions is a cap of 50 people at indoor gatherings, a number routinely exceeded in busy ski lodges.

Mount Hood’s three main ski/snowboard areas have announced a variety of COVID rules and guidelines, ranging from the obvious to the extremely specific:

  • Masks will be required indoors, on shuttle buses in parking lots, in lift lines, on lifts, and anywhere else where people can’t stay 6 feet apart.
  • Lift passes, lessons and equipment rentals must be reserved and paid for in advance. This means no walk-up lift ticket sales.
  • There will be limited indoor dining and socializing. Guests are strongly encouraged to bring their own lunches, buy a grab-and-go snack, or find a spot in an outdoor eating area with adequate space between tables.

Additional rules will apply at Mt. Hood Meadows, the largest resort on Mount Hood:

  • Meadows will sell a limited number of day tickets online through its dynamic ticketing system, with time slots starting at 9 am, noon, 2 pm and 5 pm.

  • Season pass holders will not be required to make reservations.

  • Vouchers without specific dates (from Costco and other sources) will no longer be honored.

  • No new 5 time, 10 time, or beginner progression passes.

  • Shuttles will play a key role but seating will be limited to allow for social distancing.

  • The drop-off area in front of the main lodge will be expanded.

  • RVs and Charter buses will be relocated to the Sunrise Lot.

  • No guests may enter the Mazot, although the service window will be open.
  • No daycare services.

Timberline, which navigated a tricky summer season with relative success, also has some specific rules set up for COVID:

  • Reservations will “potentially” be required, and reservation slots will be split between season pass holders and day visitors. That means season passes will not guarantee access.

  • Private lessons only and no Timberline Kids Club.

  • Climbers and snowshoers must park in the Salmon River lot.

  • The Timberline shuttle will not run, but the Mt. Hood Express will be operating.
  • All visitors will need to complete a COVID questionnaire.

Mt. Hood Skibowl will similarly require masks and distancing while limiting accessibility to indoor areas at the tubing area as well as the ski area.

Given all of the above, will heading up to the mountain even be worth it?

In my view, absolutely. We will still get most of the great parts of skiing and snowboarding, while forcefully limiting the not-so great aspects. With luck that will mean more time on the mountain, in the snow, and less time in a stagnant lodge or waiting in line for overpriced food.

More fresh cold air, more snow-covered trees, more bursts of pure bliss with the feeling of flying and the excitement of high speed. Whether you prefer to go 50 miles per hour or 15,  you know you miss it.

Yes, it is going to be tricky when the temperature drops and the winds pick up and there is no room in the lodge. Yes, it will be harder to reconnect with mountain friends. And yes, we are going to have to live without pond skims and big races and crowded mountain bars.

But as long as we can pull together, stay smart, and keep it safe, we have an opportunity here.  There’s a 11,239-foot mountain up there covered with snow, with all sorts of trails and tree lines and terrain parks and bunny hills, just waiting to cheer you up.


Last modified: November 10, 2020