In Search Of Snow

With the temperatures in the 60’s and flowers blooming in our backyard we figured that we had better hurry up and fulfill our promise to take the kids sledding before there was no more snow left to be found. So, this past Tuesday we headed off for our first trip to Mount Hood. On clear days Mount Hood is visible from our house and is stunning to behold. Driving up to the mountain wasn’t so stunning at least compared to other mountainous routes that we have taken in Montana, Colorado, and Wyoming. Route 26 which leads you up the mountain is two-lanes, well maintained and doesn’t offer much of a view.

The kids started to get worried once we got into the Mount Hood National Forest and there wasn’t any snow in site. We continued to follow the road to Government Camp (about 4,000 ft in elevation) and by that point there were some patches of snow on the roadside. However, not what we would have expected for February. However, as we continued onto Route 35 the snow pack started to get deeper and the kids started to relax. There would be sledding after all!

Sledding and snow play on Mount Hood is permitted only in designated Sno-Parks. Use of these parks is free but you have to buy a Sno-Park pass for your vehicle. A daily pass costs only $4, but depending on where you purchase one there can be a service charge. We made the mistake of buying for an Arco gas station and they tacked on a $2 fee. Next time we will buy from the Zigzag Ranger Station located between Mt Hood Village and Rhododendron on Route 26.

The most popular Sno-Park on the mountin is the White River West Sno-Park and that is where we decided to start our day. This park gets heavy use on the weekend and holidays, but on a Tuesday there were only about 20 cars in the 200 vehicle parking lot. The scenery from the parking lot is stunning with a wonderful view of Mount Hood. There was only about 2 feet of snow on the ground and the snow around the parking lot and main trail was pretty dirty. However, we headed off into the woods and found some pristine snow to sled down. While blazing your own sledding runs can be a lot of work the kids prefer going off trail to make their own runs as opposed to sledding pre-made trails. The only downside to this is the increased chance of smacking into trees, but the kids put mom and dad to good use acting as buffers.

Due to the warm weather (it was 45F) the kids gloves and snowpants became waterlogged. So, we headed back to the car for lunch and then went to visit the iconic Timberline Lodge. Construction on the lodge began in 1936 as part of the Works Progress Administration. It was dedicated in 1937 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The artistry that went into creating the lodge is absolutely stunning and visitors can walk around inside viewing the wonderful wood carvings, metal work, and mosaics. You definitely walk away with a great appreciation for the planning and construction put into the lodge.

After viewing the lodge and watching the ski and snowboarders skiing at the Timberline Ski Area we headed back out to find some more snow. This time we found a parking lot off to the side of the road leading to the lodge. The area was steep and the kids had a great time shooting down the hill while we tried to keep them from crashing into trees. Definitely not the best spot for those looking for a peaceful sledding hill. However, the sun was setting and the kids were eager to get in a few last runs before the end of the day.

All in all our trip to Mount Hood was decent. The Younger Fives miss having snow right outside their doorstep and sledding in their own backyard like they did in Montana. However, us older types have enjoyed not shoveling snow all winter long. Driving to Mount Hood seems like a good compromise and probably is pretty rewarding in years when the mountain receives more snow. This year the conditions just don’t seem to be prime, but we sure appreciated there being some snow left for our first Mount Hood adventure.

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Eat. Sleep. Ski. Repeat!

A top priority on our winter to-do list was getting out to the local ski area to introduce the kids to the sport of downhill skiing. As the winter progressed we kept our eyes out for the perfect day to hit the slopes with beginners (not too cold, not too snowy, etc.) Finally this past week the conditions were near perfect and we piled in the car and up the very steep and windy forest road to Lakeside’s own Blacktail Mountain Ski Area.

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Since Five Spice grew up skiing she was excited to teach the kids the basics. However, Five Ball and Five of Hearts had their hearts set on trying snowboarding, so we ended up splitting up with Dad taking the snowboarders for a beginner’s lesson and Mom teaching High Five how to ski.

The snowboarders definitely had their work cut out for them as they tried to master this very difficult sport. From clipping and unclipping bindings by hand, to trying to maneuver around with both feet attached to a pretty heavy board they got a very good workout. By the end of the day they had progressed to the beginner trail, but were thoroughly exhausted from the efforts. In comparison the two that elected to ski felt bad as they zipped around on short, shaped skis that made turning a breeze. Not to mention that they didn’t have to unclip bindings every time they got on or off a lift.

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While Five Ball and Five of Hearts were glad that they tried snowboarding their younger brother’s fast and easy success with skiing made them want to try out skiing as well. So, when the next day rolled around we headed back up the mountain for day number two, this time with the whole family on skis. Not surprisingly after braving the slopes on snowboards Five of Hearts and Five Ball were more than prepared to learn skiing and after just one instructional run down the beginner slope they were skiing like pros. The new shaped skis really make turning so much easier!

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With everyone proficient we were able to spend the rest of the day skiing the intermediate trails as a family. It was a lot more fun than the day before and we all had a blast! After a full 6 hours of skiing the kids were ready to ski into the night while mom and dad were ready for bed. Luckily for us old folks the lifts shut down at 4:30 and the kids had no choice but to turn in their skis. They reluctantly got back in the car with promises that we would definitely be adding downhill skiing to our must do winter activities list.