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The gamble of Mount Hood Meadows Ski Resort

Heather Canyon
Heather Canyon

Mount Hood Meadows Ski Resort offers some of the best alpine terrain in the state for experienced skiers. With 2,150 skiable acres, Meadows features an assortment of engaging terrain types, including open bowls, good tree skiing, a well maintained park, and just enough steep slopes to keep the legs burning.

Enjoying a cornice off of the Cascade Express
Aaron Siegel

Unfortunately, Meadows is often forced to close its upper lifts as a consequence of frequent high winds. Upper lift closures crowd riders on the lower mountain, commonly causing painfully long lift lines during the weekends. Lift waits can be particularly bad on the Mount Hood Express which runs from the main base area and serves the finest lower mountain terrain.

Meadow’s often closed upper reaches, including off of the Cascade Express and in Heather Canyon, offer some of the best terrain on the mountain . The terrain served by the Cascade Express, while not particularly steep, is open and engaging with plenty of features to get the blood going, including droppable cornices and an excess of wind blown rollers. On clear days the sweeping views of the Cascade Mountains are worth the lift ride themselves. You can often see all the way to the Three Sisters volcanoes near Bend.

On a good powder day, Heather Canyon is the highlight of Mount Hood Meadows. Heather Canyon offers an open bowl experience with a backcountry feel, a rare commodity in Oregon ski resorts. An east facing slope protected from the westerly winds allows deep snow to accumulate. The steep terrain in the canyon drops just a few hundred feet, but due to the open slope, untrammeled powder is often easy to find. The sweeping turns you make in Heather Canyon are the type that will stay with you on the drive home. The adjacent woods off of the lower canyon offer steep tree skiing as an alternative to Heather’s open slopes.

Heading to Mount Hood Meadows on a day when high winds are in the forecast is a gamble. The variety of terrain at meadows makes it worth the extra drive from Portland. But if the upper mountain lifts are likely to be closed, you may be better off saving a few bucks on your lift ticket price and heading to the more protected Mount Hood Ski Bowl.


  • ahgull 5 years ago

    Gonna have to sue you for copyrite infringment if you don't start giving me some credit for pics. Good article though - well said.

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