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An Insider’s Guide to Mt. Hood’s Timberline Lodge

Historic Timberline Lodge sits at the base of one of Oregon’s most popular recreation areas, majestic Mount Hood.

Built during the Great Depression of the 1930s, the Lodge is a legendary Works Progress Administration (WPA) effort. It’s a charming example of what can be achieved when the government partners with artists, craftspeople, and workers to create and build public projects—namely a distinctive piece of Pacific Northwest Americana. President Franklin D. Roosevelt officially dedicated Timberline in 1937.

This magnificent ski area is the only one in North America to offer year-round skiing and snowboarding. Conveniently located just 60 miles from Portland, Timberline is drawing record numbers of skiers and snowboarders. John Burton, Timberline’s Director of Marketing and PR, shares some ways you can spend more time on the slopes and less time in traffic. For those of you who plan to stay at the Lodge, John also offers tips on making sure you have the best experience possible.

Beating the crowds

The best way to beat crowds is to adopt the Monday-through-Thursday approach.

“Whatever you have to do to get here during the week, that’s your best angle,” John says. “Monday through Thursday, the powder lasts longer, rooms at the Lodge are cheaper, and the crowds are smaller.”

But playing hooky from work isn’t always an option. That leaves weekends. And while Timberline is seeing an increase in visitors, so is Highway 26, the road in from Portland. John still knows some ways you can ski past the crowds.

“Growing up skiing and snowboarding, we used to have leisurely mornings with a big breakfast, pack our gear, and hit the road,” he says. “But the days of sauntering up the mountain are over.” What’s the solution when any weekend is a busy one, regardless of holidays? “Get up early, know that you’re still going to hit some traffic, and give yourself some extra time.”

In addition, John recommends being patient while driving up to Timberline, and being kind to your fellow humans. “I see some crazy accidents and incidents on a daily basis, and most are caused because people are impatient.”

John also suggests that if you want to book the Lodge, pack some work clothes, stay over Sunday night, get dressed for the office, then head out early Monday morning.

An early start makes an awesome start

Early starts have other rewards beyond beating the bottleneck.

As an added incentive, the ski area offers FREE cat skiing. “It’s a great experience to get that first Magic Mile chair, ride it to the top, then be one of the lucky 13 to ride the first snow cat up to the top of the Palmer Snowfield,” he says. This opens up approximately 1400 more vertical feet of skiing. “Mount Hood is an amazing experience.”

Then there’s Timberline Lodge itself. Staying there checks the “awesome” box again. John has been working there for three years, but has skied on Mount Hood for about three decades. “I bounced around but kept coming back to Oregon,” he says. “I was in outdoor retail, became a rep, then worked up to this. It’s neat to be in our marketing office because it’s more than a job: I work at the only national historic landmark that’s still being used for its intended purpose as a ski lodge. Timberline’s heritage makes it a completely different experience from other ski resorts, in that it’s truly authentic.”

Elks steak & swim suits

Insider tips for hanging at the Lodge.

A favorite spot of John’s is the Head House fireplace on the Lodge’s second floor. “People are just hanging out in their PJ’s, drinking coffee. It sounds corny, but Timberline intrinsically has a sense of place—it doesn’t feel like a hotel. More like a really cool living room at 6000 feet.” And he loves the “darn good” elk steak served up in the Cascade Dining Room.

While we all know what to pack for days on the snow, there’s one thing might not be on your list that John wants no one to forget: board shorts. “Definitely bring your board shorts or swimsuit for the outdoor pool and hot tub. Both are open 365 days a year, and they’re really nice in winter under the nighttime stars. But we won’t let you in naked. Definitely bring some shorts.”

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