Look! It’s Utah! It’s Colorado! Wait, it’s Oregon! And it’s got some of the most well-rounded ski resorts in North America.
Somehow, the Cascade Range hotspot has remained an afterthought to the famous Colorado, Utah and Northern California ski areas that dominate west coast ski and snowboard culture. But, our gut tells us, it’s not for long.
Oregon’s biggest city, Portland, sits comfortably in the Willamette Valley. Nestled tightly between the rising peaks of the Cascade Range and the temperate rainforests of the Oregon Coast Range. And when fall comes and the snow starts accumulating on the majestic Cascade Range and subsequent foothills, just a 3-hour drive from Portland will have you shredding at a ton of different ski resorts.
The best part, too? There’s terrain for everyone, from the seasoned vet looking for a challenge, to the first timer that knows they’ll look like a newborn doe at best, to the terrain-park junkie looking to perfect their latest trick. And Oregon’s got hot springs too! So you can properly unwind and recover after.
Like most ski resorts, the weekends are essentially a Walmart parking lot on Black Friday, but if you can cut out of work early or take a day off and get up on a weekday, the resorts are often at extremely low capacity. This leaves you with just yourself, some fresh fallen powder (hopefully) and the mountain breeze. Oh, and the always friendly lift-operators. Gotta’ love those guys.
Ski resorts near Portland by Mt. Hood ~1.5 hours
From Portland, there’s basically two regions where you’ll find all of the ski resorts: Mt. Hood and the surrounding foothills (approx. 1.5 hours drive from Portland) and Mt. Bachelor and it’s surrounding sibling peaks (approx. 3 hours drive from Portland).
So, without further ado, let’s talk about the top 7 places to strap on the skis or snowboard and get cruisin’! Let’s start with the ski resorts near Mt. Hood, Oregon.
Mt. Hood Skibowl (59mi/1.25hrs)
About 5 miles down the mountain from Mt. Hood’s two dominant resorts, Mt. Hood Skibowl is a smaller and much more basic resort. It’s located near Mt. Hood’s central rendezvous town, Government Camp (where skiers and snowboarders from all of the mountain’s resorts congregate at a handful of restaurants and bars and cabins if they’re staying overnight).
In recent years, this quaint little resort has gained in popularity because it’s relatively affordable price range, slightly closer proximity to Portland and easy access from US-26 (the route used for Timberline and Mt. Hood Meadows).
For just 960-acres of skiing, it can hold its own though. 4 chairlifts that service a whopping 69 different runs, 40% of which are designated as “expert” level (the most of any resort on Mt. Hood), a 3 mile longest-run and 3 terrain parks make Skibowl a viable underdog to Hood’s other resorts. But Skibowl’s most notable attribute?
It’s America’s largest night skiing area with 36 fully lit runs. The resort sits a solid ~2,000ft lower on Mt. Hood than Meadows or Timberline and thus, has less annual snowfall, but that doesn’t necessarily impact the quality skiing/snowboarding at Skibowl. And despite not having a large central lodge like Timberline and Meadows, Skibowl boasts 4 different food and drink venues throughout the resort.
At well under a hundred bucks for a full day adult pass, Skibowl is probably the best deal available on Mt. Hood.
87000 US-26, Government Camp, OR 97028 (Map) | 503-272-3206
Mt. Hood Meadows (63.5mi/1.5hrs)
Now, although Timberline is the most common destination for Portland skiers and snowboarders, Mt. Hood Meadows easily takes the local popularity contest in terms of the terrain itself. There’s no big claim to fame, Jack Nicholson hasn’t tried to murder his movie-family here and the Meadows lodge isn’t haunted (at least, we don’t think).
But with 11 chairlifts, ~2,200-acres of skiing and a longest run that closely challenges that of Timberline at 3 miles, Mt. Hood Meadows is the Portlander’s choice. It’s especially appealing if you’re interested in a more diverse set of challenging runs.
As opposed to Timberline, which sits on Mt. Hood’s west-facing slope, Meadows is placed on Mt. Hood’s southeast-facing slope, so the terrain differs from Timberline considerably. A little less annual snowfall and pack at Meadows gives it a shorter season than Timberline (sometimes).
But, MHM has a lower price-point, which, is attractive to many. They use what’s described as “dynamic” pricing. Meaning, you pay for the lift ticket in advance for a specific day and you pay a subdued price point, but if you show up to the mountain and get a ticket, that price will have increased. And, like Timberline, they offer a number of limited tickets (afternoon, night skiing, 75+ free, etc.).
For the skiers and snowboarders among us that are interested in choosing the resort which offers the most terrain park style riding, Mt. Hood Meadows trounces Timberline. With 6 terrain parks and a halfpipe, freestyle riders and skiers have more than enough to keep them busy for a day (or a season).
14040 OR-35, Mt Hood, OR 97041 (Map) | 503-337-2222
Timberline Lodge & Ski Area (66mi/1.5hrs)
Here’s Johnny! If you don’t get that reference you’re one of two things: not from Oregon or still sipping from the fountain of youth. Either way, Timberline Lodge and Ski Area isn’t just Mt. Hood’s most commonly used ski resort, it’s also famous for it’s role as the lodge that Jack Torrance and his family live at in the cinema adaptation of Stephen King’s The Shining (he drew inspiration from The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colo.
But, Timberline has a lot more to offer than just Hollywood prestige. It has 1,430-acres of skiable terrain, 35 distinctly different runs and one of skiing/snowboarding’s most incredible experiences (weather dependent): the 3.12 mile descent from the top of Palmer (at ~8,500ft) to the bottom of Mustang Sally at (~4,800ft).
With 7 lifts and, about 45ft of fresh snow per season and an average 15ft snowpack, Timberline is the closest large-scale ski resort to Portland (see above). Its lodge is just about picturesque as it gets, offering full-service menus and restaurant experience as well as a more ‘cantina’ experience. Plus a few outfitters and retailers that sell and rent ski/snowboard gear, benefiting those of us who can’t afford to purchase or simply want to give it a try before we buy.
In addition, Timberline offers fairly extensive night skiing (3/7 lifts running). It’s a popular event for Portlanders to head up for 2-3hrs of night skiing.
Lift tickets at Timberline are not easy to swallow, however. But all in all, you get big bang for your buck with high quality run maintenance, lots of facilities and offerings and Mt. Hood’s most amazing views – from the top of Palmer you can see all the way South to Mt. Bachelor, Oregon’s other big ski mountain.
27500 E Timberline Road, Government Camp, OR 97028 (Map) | 503-272-3311
Cooper Spur Mountain Resort (84mi/1.75hrs)
Think of Cooper Spur as, well, a boutique experience. What we mean is, you don’t go to Cooper Spur because you’re trying to land a part in the next K2 film. Instead, you head to Cooper Spur if you’re looking for a combination experience that includes some recreational skiing on Mt. Hood’s East-facing side.
50-acres of terrain aimed at beginner and intermediate users with 10 runs and a single-chairlift, riding Cooper Spur is kind of like finding a ski resort oasis in the snowy equivalent of a huge desert. Like most resorts on Mt. Hood, night skiing is prime though and lift tickets at Cooper Spur are cheap (relatively speaking) at under fifty dollars for the day (less if you’re 7-15, free for under-7 and 70+, just cheap night skiing passes).
Cooper Spur is about the experience of being immersed in an isolated mountain resort. While there isn’t a lodge on the ski-area itself, Cooper Spur Mountain Resort does have a few top-notch food and beverage choices.
If you’ve had a long season of pushing yourself on Mt. Hood’s more challenging routes, Cooper Spur is a great way to get back to basics and enjoy some solitude with easy riding, easy living and mountain clarity.
10755 Cooper Spur Rd, Mt Hood, OR 97041 (Map) | 541-352-6692
Ski resorts near Portland by Mt. Bachelor ~3 hours
Mount Bachelor and its surrounding peaks are some of the best in Oregon. Situated around 3 hours from Portland, it’s more of a weekend trip than a day trip. This always helps cut back on crowds though, so enjoy these awesome ski areas.
Hoodoo Ski Area (134mi/2.33hrs)
On the way down to Mt. Bachelor as you’re passing through the Mount Washington Wilderness, in the flash of an eye you’re winding through the little peaks of the Cascade Range. But those soon get forgotten in favor of the behemoth Mt. Bachelor. Along US-HWY 20 is Hoodoo Ski Area, one of Central Oregon’s most exciting and unique ski areas.
806 acres of riding, 4 chairs, and 32 runs with a 1-mile descent being the longest possible are pretty good stats. Add in an extremely popular weekend night skiing and you see why Hoodoo has the hearts of Portlanders (and Central Oregonians). It’s a unique mountain experience that isn’t Mt. Hood or Mt. Bachelor.
Two of the lifts take you all the way to the very peak of Hoodoo at around 5,700 ft. And with 30ft of annual snowfall, Hoodoo is set up for a comfortably long season in Central Oregon, giving Portlanders easy access for weekend (or weekday, we’re not judging) getaways.
One of Hoodoo’s biggest bragging rights? It’s massive 60,000-square-foot lodge for day-use that includes restaurants, a bar and plenty of other options for a midday rest from the slopes. Hoodoo also has decent prices less than a hundred bucks for an all day pass (that includes night skiing), and down under fifty for juniors and seniors.
27400 Big Lake Road, Sisters, OR 97759 (Map) | 541-822-3799
Mt. Bachelor Ski Resort (166mi/3.15hrs)
The 6th largest ski area in the US, the largest in Oregon and probably its most well known, Mt. Bachelor Ski Resort is the Beaver State’s crown jewel when it comes to ski/snowboard culture. Its nearest city, Bend, which has around 100,000 people, has become a Mecca for ski and snowboard lifers that want to melt into the ways of the mountain.
But even if you live in Portland, a roughly 3 hour drive will have you grabbing the skis off your rack and heading out onto Bachelor’s jaw-dropping 4,300 acres of skiing/snowboarding.
The longest continuous run in Oregon, 4 miles, about 39ft of annual snowfall and a max elevation of 9,065ft with a vertical drop of ~3,400ft has Bachelor screaming adventure. 11 chairs, 101 runs and 5 different terrain parks give Bachelor endless appeal to skiers and snowboarders alike. With 50% of the runs being designed for advanced riders, the resort draws interest from beginners visiting the Central Cascades for the first time to pro riders.
But all this extra goodness comes with a price hike from the rest of Oregon’s resorts. Just over a hundred for weekdays and nearly about a buck-fifty for weekends will get you full day access to the resort, so, Bachelor isn’t a light investment. Like the rest of the resorts on this list, teen and senior costs are reduced but still more than a normal lift price for Mt. Hood’s major resorts.
The one downside besides the price? Bachelor doesn’t have night skiing.
If you have the pocket depth to handle it though, it is well worth eating ramen for a week. Four different areas have their own set of dining and leisure options with a variety of food and beverage choices. You could get lost on Bachelor just enjoying the amenities let alone the 4300 acres of light Central Oregon snow.
13000 SW Century Dr, Bend, OR 97702 (Map) | 541-382-1709
Willamette Pass Ski Area (175mi/3hrs)
Last but not least in the Willamette Pass (hence the name) lies another small-mid sized ski resort. Willamette Pass Resort has just 555 acres of skiing/riding with 29 runs – but 80% of those are intermediate or higher. 6 lifts service the resort as well as a gondola for sightseeing.
At around 35ft of annual snowfall and an elevation of around 5,500ft, Willamette Pass is a fantastic alternative to Hoodoo and Skibowl for a small sized resort with a lot to offer.
Lift tickets will make you feel good about the potential of eating decent meals in the days after skiing as well under a hundred dollars will get you an all day pass. This resort, or “resort” is a little more bare bones though. A basic restaurant and lodge provide some food and drink service and rentals, but Willamette isn’t going to offer that same level of experience as say, Hoodoo’s night skiing party.
Nonetheless, it belongs on the list as a ski resort that Portlanders should consider when thinking about where to head out to on their mountain days.
Highway 58, Crescent, OR 97733 (Map) | 541-345-7669
Oregon is blessed with incredible mountains all up and down the state, as well as Washington, so Portlanders have no shortage of options for day-trip skiing. Plus Oregon will surely continue to grow interest from the ski/snowboard crowd as other popular ski areas get more and more inundated.