January 5, 2021 / Comments (0)

Crowds and Covid Concerns intensify the Holiday Mount Hood Madness

Photo by Scott Morrison

The usual Mount Hood Madness got even crazier this holiday season due to Covid complications, massive crowds, and enormous lift lines.

With fewer passengers per vehicle due to Covid concerns, parking lots filled early and often at Mt. Hood Meadows, Timberline, and Skibowl. Skiers and snowboarders were joined by throngs of sledders, snowshoers, and cross-country skiers to create massive traffic jams. Many mountain visitors resorted to parking on Highway 26, prompting a crackdown by the Oregon Department of Transportation and state police.

The 60-mile drive from the mountain back to Portland lasted five hours or more, and the 10-mile drive from Meadows to Government Camp took up to two hours or more.

A the resorts, social distancing requirements made life lines even longer, and tempers occasionally flared  over the face mask requirements. Mt. Hood Meadows initiated a policy of pulling the passes of people who refuse to wear masks and react rudely to polite requests from employees. The mover spurred widespread support over social media channels, with the vast majority of people thanking Meadows for “keeping our mountain home safe for all to enjoy!” in the words of hard-core Mount Hood skier Josh Larkin.

Other respondents lashed out at the one in 100 skiers and snowboarders who forced the resort to take action. “Thank you for dealing with the privileged idiots who don’t understand the rules,” wrote Dave Fitzpatrick. “Put your mask on, people. Don’t screw the ski season up for everybody else with your selfish, ignorant behavior.”

Meadows also took the unusual step of asking visitors not to hang out or tailgate in the parking lot after skiing, to lower the risk of spreading the virus.

Over at Timberline, the access road shut down early and often, and Government Camp was full of drivers eager to get up into the snow. Still, the overwhelming response from most Mount Hood visitors has been to give thanks. As Todd Tessmer wrote on Timberline’s Facebook page, “In the year of COVID19 I’ve got to give the staff huge credit for all the extra hard work keeping everyone safe.”

All of which raises a big question:

Why do we put up with the hassle?

For me, it comes down to two powerful forces: mental health, and supply and demand.

This has been a hard year for a lot of people. In times like these, we need the natural beauty of Mount Hood blanketed with snow more than ever. We need to get into that snow because snow in the mountains is a lot more fun than mud puddles in a city that has been shut down for months. We need more joy in our lives.

And there’s only so much mountain for us to share. Only so many parking spaces. Only so much room on Highway 26.

So yeah, it’s always crazy on Hood during the holidays. And yeah, it was probably even crazier this year.

Chances are, it is going to be crazy next year too. Except hopefully by then the pandemic will be behind us.

Fingers crossed.

Last modified: January 5, 2021