Snow Lies?

Jesse Cornett

I awoke Sunday morning, and as most weekend mornings since early December, excitedly logged onto to see if the snow conditions had miraculously changed overnight. While the four inches received overnight was good, on such a small base of snow, I thought, it would do nothing more than put a thin coat over the rocks and stumps I’d like to avoid scraping my snowboard on. Nah, maybe I’d go for a hike with the dog, I thought.

In no hurry, I get the Sunday paper and begin to read the news, when I stumble on a story about Mt. Hood’s low snow pack. According to the article, and most on the subject, Mt Hood’s snow pack is only about 30% of average.

Then there’s this quote:

"The thing that we're battling right now is the media," said Dave Riley, Meadows' general manager. "There's a perception in the community that there is no snow at the mountain. From a skier's point of view, there's some great skiing up here."

Is it the media that left all of the rocks and stumps uncovered all over the mountain, I wondered? And, was it the media that won’t let Meadows operate any of the terrain over on the Hood River Meadows side of the hill? Just curious. That must be it. Darn media.

With that, I threw my gear (already packed up in anticipation of that big storm) and snowboard in the car and sped up to Meadows. I knew that I must have been wrong the whole time. Here on Blue Oregon we regularly mention our concerns with the “mainstream media,” heck I have myself. We must stand up against them!

After arriving at 10 am, and looking around finding nobody around to buy a daily snow park pass from, I ventured on over the ticket window and laid down my $50 for a peak shift lift ticket. I was on my way. I went up the Hood River Meadows lift and rode down to the lodge (for those of you not familiar with Meadows, I was at the alternative parking lot that you can usually ski back down to) to stow my belongings in a locker and went back to the lifts. I was immediately asked to go back to the ticket window by a very nice lift operator because my ticket was attached to my jacket incorrectly, and by the time I actually got to get in a run it was after 11. I didn’t stop riding until 4, save about ten minutes for lunch. And what a great five hours it was!

I quickly realized that the media hadn’t been all wrong, but Dave must’ve been misquoted somehow. The rocks and stumps exist, as does the bare ground under some of the more traveled slopes. Fact is, though, that we are fair weather skiers and riders here in Portland. When the snow is bad, we’ll go on a long bike ride. When it’s raining, we’ll go to the rock gym. Whatever it is, we’ll already have two other options lined up.

So, Dave was wrong and Dave was right. I don’t think the media has been misreporting the bad conditions. They exist. From a snowboarder’s point of view, there was some great snowboarding yesterday. And, if you want to snowboard or ski, don’t listen to the media tell you how bad it is, just go! Conditions aren’t great but you can’t let that stop you.

  • Sid Anderson (unverified)

    Don't assume all of us in Portland are fair weather skiers. I prefer to ski in raging snow storms. I know that sounds crazy, but I've been skiing long enough in my life to know that the best snow to ski on is raging snow storm snow. And you know when you're still out there at 3 pm on a raging snow storm day with a few others, you have this unspoken bond with them, the bond of loving the great bad weather that makes each run you take new, soft and exhilerating.

    And then there's that moment when you walk into the lodge and all your friends are sitting in the bar looking at you like you're some kind of nutjob, but you know that when you take a sip of your beer that it tastes a lot better to you than it did to them because they came in at noon for lunch and stayed there.

    Anyway, suffice it to say, I haven't gone skiing this year. I'm waiting for a big storm.

  • (Show?)

    Of course, I should admit that while I have two other options for the days I don't snowboard, I don't rock climb and I don't even own a bike anymore.

    And, Sid, I actually wasn't referring to fair weather in the literal sense, more in the sports fan fair weather sense: what I meant was we only like to ski when the conditions are good (and, heck, I don't even assume we are all "skiers"). I agree with you on the snowstorm days. That being said, I'm starting to think you'll be waiting about 10 months for the big one.

  • Sid (unverified)


    Yeah, it's not looking too good is it? Every morning I pick up the paper and look at the forecast and those damn squares all have suns in them. There are certainly going to be some big water issues this summer.

  • (Show?)

    I skied - the two-plank variety - from about age 6 to my sophomore year in high school.

    I was lucky enough to ski Meadows, Multorpor/Ski Bowl, Hoodoo, Stevens Pass and Bachelor back then on average base snowfall of 5 to 6 feet. If base hadn't reached that level by Thanksgiving, it was an anomaly.

    Back then, it was a point of pride between the lift-ticket sellers, the chairlift operators, and the Ski Patrol that those places never had to make their own "fake snow."

    So when I toted my skis to the baggage check at the airport to visit family back East, I wasn't really enthused about the places we'd be going: Belleayre, Hunter Mtn., Vernon Valley/Great Gorge. I'd accepted the garbage about "snow machines," and I could tell just by looking at comparative elevation that the drops in the Adirondacks were bunny hills compared to the Cascades.

    So imagine my surprise when even with the snow machines pouring fake snow onto a run, it skied just fine. I liked pack, as opposed to powder, and the runs were very good.

    Maybe it's time for the Oregon hills to make their own snow. The machines pay for themselves over time, it's still just water and air, and besides, a kickass vertical drop is nothing without people skiing/boarding on it.

  • (Show?)

    Well, a couple stories I think are going unreported.

    1. What does the salting of the runs above Timberline during the summer months do? What effect does that have on snowpack, water quality, etc.

    2. 30% of normal snowpack sounds pretty low. What impact will that have on our water supply going forward

    3. Perhaps related, I'm not sure. Since there has been little snow this year, I've noticed more than the normal amount of logging trucks filled with logs passing through Portland. My sense was that logging doesn't usually start in earnest until later on in the year. If they're able to get out more logs earlier, what effect will that have on moisture retention, climate change, erosion, etc?

    Enjoy the skiing to those who go. I realize this is a little off-topic, but it's what I thought of when I read the article you referred to.

  • andrew kaza (unverified)

    hey Albert: I thought of you when I was up at Timberline on Sat. (the humble Mr. Kaufman worked on my campaign last yr. and has been an integral part of the effort to make Mt. Hood a national park!). Thanks for raising those points.

    As for Jesse's original post, I have to agree. We nearly turned back from our trip on Sat. because of the rain enroute, but it was snowing lightly on the slopes and the actual conditions were far better than we'd imagined.

    My son (who 'boards) and I (on skis) especially enjoyed the upper runs off the Magic Mile lift. When it cleared off in the afternoon, the snow and the sun were absolute magic.

    There are a lot of jobs tied up in the "winter rec" biz at Mt. Hood, so do some people a favor and also yourself - ignore the reports and get up there (better now than at the w/e after some more serious snow-melt). You might be in for a pleasant surprise...

  • andrew kaza (unverified)
    <h2>PS to John D.'s comment: I've been told that Bachelor does have some sno-making equipment, tho I have no confirmation of that. But even with sno-machines, the ski areas still need freezing temps and one of our big problems this winter has been the warm air, not just the lack of precip. Still, I would agree that it's high time for the Oregon ski areas to invest in these, but I suppose they know the economics of the biz better than we do and I suspect Meadows and Bachelor are the only places big enough (and with out of state, less naive ownership?) to afford 'em.</h2>

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