Snow! Snow! Snow! Ski! Ski! Ski!
Wait, what? It’s July, the sun is shining, the grass is a little brown, the kids are out running through the sprinkler and the pool is perfect. It’s barbecue season, not snow ski season.
Why are we talking about snow in the summertime in the Northern Hemisphere? Because we are blessed with a nearby mountain that has summer skiing. Yes, you read that right. So, unpack your ski gear, wax up those skis, and head to Oregon’s Mount Hood for some great nontraditional skiing.
Our family is a dedicated ski family. And by dedicated, I mean, I married a Colorado-raised skier, so all three of our kids have been on skis since they could walk and we can easily ski four out of seven days a week during the typical ski season. While our home mountain is White Pass, we enjoy all that the Pacific Northwest has to offer in terms of snow skiing. And Oregon has a special treat with a grand glacier offering stable summer snow.
Timberline Resort is only a three-hour drive from Yakima, very do-able in the summer. And quite honestly, you could make Mount Hood your home mountain for a regular ski season just to try it out.
We have been going down to Mount Hood for several summers now, usually around the Fourth of July holiday. Our kiddos enjoy going to ski camp there and getting world-class coaching on all disciplines. Some of our friends go for downhill team racing, while others do freestyle ski camp, where a massive jump and fancy aerial tricks dominate the day. Our 9-year-old daughter launched a serious jump last summer and then was featured on Instagram from a world-class skier (hint, on the cover of ski magazines), getting props from famous skiers across the globe.
Mount Hood ski camps are surreal that way. You might end up skiing with former Olympic athletes or skiers who are in the prestigious Warren Miller ski films.
Camps can be flexible and offer some families to dip in for just a few days or do a whole seven-day program with lodging and food included. Kids from all over the world descend on Mount Hood for summer skiing; some are already trending toward expert level, and come with coveted sponsors, while others just see it as a great way to keep skiing year-round.
Some camps offer both on-mountain and off-mountain training. If you’ve ever watched the X Games and wondered how a skier can do so many tricks in the air and land it perfectly, know that they trained at a facility like Mount Hood, where there is a huge gymnasium with practice trampolines and jumps where you land in foam pits. Practice makes perfect, so after a morning on the slopes, our kids head indoors for trampoline work.
All of this excitement and fun isn’t just reserved for the kids, though. Several camps on Mount Hood now offer adults-only weekend so people like my husband can go from doing a simple back flip on skis at White Pass to something even more outrageous, with the right coaching.
Timberline sells day passes but also summer ski passes, so you can pop down several times during the summer to enjoy early mornings on good snow. Prices are steeper here than at our home mountain, but summer skiing is such a novelty, it’s fun to treat yourself.
Timberline has a beautiful grand lodge with dining services, restrooms, shopping and some lodging. We have spent hours on the patio, relaxing in the sun, eating delicious hamburgers and fries while our kids finish off a long ski camp day. Government Camp is just down the mountain but is a quaint little ski town with shops, restaurants, an outstanding bakery and lodging — both have a gorgeous Best Western as well as various Airbnb and VRBO options.
Our family invested in a travel trailer, so we go down to Mount Hood and camp at a local RV Park. Our favorite is Mount Hood Village, just down the road from Timberline in Welches.
This park offers everything from basic campgrounds to full-hookup RV sites and even several adorable tiny homes, yurts and cabins. They have a swimming pool, hot tub, sand volleyball court, playground, laundry facilities, and a game room.
Nearby, and accessible from the campground, is the lush Wildwood Recreation Site. Here you will find over 500 acres of spectacular wilderness with old-growth Douglas fir, western hemlock and western red cedar. Run along the well-maintained paths through a fern-laden valley down to the river and enjoy a picnic.
For kids being raised in a valley of shrub-steppe, this kind of wilderness is like a movie set. From this recreation area you can link up to more challenging hikes such as the Boulder Ridge Trail.
If your family is on the slopes and you’d rather skip the summer season, or you’re just not an avid enough skier to haul your gear out this summer, the Mount Hood area is replete with other activities, including mountain biking, hiking, horseback riding, paintball, whitewater rafting and more.
We especially like Mount Hood Adventure Park at Mount Hood Ski Bowl, across from Government Camp. This activity center boasts a ton of fun including a half-mile alpine slide (like a luge), go-karts, disc golf, a rock-climbing wall, pony rides, bungee trampoline, mini golf, batting cages ... and the list goes on. If you like to mountain bike, you can rent absolutely everything on-mountain here and take the ski lift up and ride down miles of paths.
One of the best memories I have of our summer holidays at Mount Hood is the spectacular waterfall hike to Tamanawas Falls. A mild 3.4-mile hike meanders through the forest to reveal a 110-foot curtain waterfall over a lava cliff.
I’ll never forget the sheer delight on our youngest daughter’s 6-year-old face when she came around the bend and saw that beauty. While her siblings were shredding it on Mount Hood, our littlest was learning that nature can be truly extraordinary.