Making the most of what’s left

We’ve seen it on television, we’ve read it in the paper, we’ve heard it on the radio – Oregon is suffering from a record dry winter.

The lack of rain and snow hurts many groups who rely on winter wetness. The salmon will suffer after making dramatic recoveries. Anyone with an electric bill suffers as rates increase due to low reservoirs.

And skiers and snowboarders suffer from days and days of riding without any new powder.

Skiers and riders can still enjoy a day on the mountain because the resorts have enough snow for recreation. One only needs the top two inches of snow for recreational purposes anyway, said Jon Tullis, public affairs director for Timberline Lodge.

But the resorts lack the big snow days of the past two years, when record snowfalls delighted the aficionados who found themselves knee deep in powder day after snow white day. Tullis admits that all the big snow enthusiasm is fun, but from a business standpoint, less snow is better.

Both Timberline and Mt. Hood Meadows have seen profits rise this year. Meadows has seen record business so far this March, and Timberline’s business has risen 12 percent over last year’s profits, which were higher than the 1998-1999 season.

Tullis posits that less snow means more nice days and better roads, bringing those who don’t normally venture out in bad weather to the mountain since the hard-core skiers and boarders come no matter what.

However, it is spring break and we all want one more trip up to the mountains, powder or not, to say good-bye to this unseasonably dry winter. Snow fall along the I-5 corridor has remained fairly consistent with Mt. Hood getting only slightly less snow than Canada.

So the biggest factor for students this spring break should be how far away do you want to go to make the last winter run the most memorable?

Mt. Hood Meadows and Timberline are closest to home and make good day trips. The drive takes roughly 90 minutes so you still can make it back home for a night out.

Meadows offers $20 per night accommodations with the purchase of a lift ticket at some participating motels if spring break plans include staying on the mountain.

To entice riders and skiers Timberline will reduce their rate starting March 26 to $30, $7 less than the normal season. Tullis also assures all aficionados that Palmer field will be open in time for Spring Break.

A trip to Mt. Bachelor in Bend takes a little more planning since the trip usually entails at least one night’s stay. Mt. Bachelor offers a variety of ski/accommodation packages with area hotels and motels. One package offers five nights of lodging with four days of skiing for $65 a night per person. That breaks down to $32 for the lift ticket and $33 for the motel. The resort offers a three night package as well. All lodging details appear on the Web site.

Sunriver resort and Inn at the Seventh Mountain offer houses and condos instead of motels but prices run higher. If you have a large group of people though, a house might work out better, if the resorts have any houses left.

Staying in Oregon presents one option. But after all, it is spring break, a term that implies travel to distant locales. Let’s stick with the Interstate 5 corridor.

Washington has numerous ski resorts near Seattle, including Stevens Pass, Snoqualmie and Crystal Mountain. The resorts offer accommodations on the mountain but staying in Seattle proves just as easy since the drive to the mountains works for day trips.

Crystal Mountain lies an hour outside of Seattle and about 200 miles north of Portland, so it takes as long to get to Crystal from Portland as it does to get to Seattle from Portland. Stevens Pass is about two hours from Seattle, and Snoquamie about one hour. All the Seattle resorts have about the same snow though Stevens Pass, on average, sees more snowfall than most other resorts in the region.

While Washington does provide something of a getaway from P-town, we all secretly want to get to Canada, where the exchange rate works in our favor and a hash bar is around the corner. No, its not like Amsterdam but the cops definitely don’t hang around Blunt Brothers in Vancouver, B.C.

Oddly enough, the snow isn’t much better in Canada either. It improves slightly if you go inland to the Canadian Rockies, but that’s slightly off the I-5 course and means some serious spring break planning. If spontaneity sounds like more fun, one can easily drive to Vancouver in a day.

Whistler-Blackcomb enjoys the highest profile of the British Columbia resorts, but it only boasts a 72 inch base at mid-mountain. In contrast, Mt. Hood Meadows has a 69 inch base rising to 87 inches at upper elevations, and Timberline has an 81 inch base. However, Kara Wiebe, marketing director for Cambie Hostels in Vancouver, says Whistler has the best snow in the area.

Whistler lies two hours outside of Vancouver and could make a good day trip if you’re staying in the city. The resort offers some accommodation/lift ticket packages that start around $339 per person for five nights and go up from there.

A lot closer to Vancouver is Mt. Seymour, which has a 92 inch base at mid-mountain and a much cheaper lift ticket. Whistler rings in at $41 U.S. while Seymour only costs $22 Canadian.

Seymour also has a deal with the coolest hostel and pub in Vancouver, The Cambie, selling lift tickets for $17 Canadian and shuttle to the mountain leaves from nearby locations. Rooms at the hostel go for $20 per night and includes one free breakfast (not your average continental fare either).

The Cambie offers free pick-ups from the airport, bus station or train station for the car-less students and the hostel’s neighborhood, Gastown, has plenty of entertainment for the college student, including the infamous Blunt Brothers. For more information or to make reservations, call The Cambie toll-free (877) 395-5335, or go online at

The snow is at a low everywhere within driving distance this year so really think about what you want out of spring break. Staying in Oregon is nice and Timberline and Meadows have some good lodging and lift ticket deals. Bend provides a diversion from Portland. The Seattle area offers a change of pace from Oregon, and the costs are comparable especially if you can crash with a friend.

Canada is always fun. There’s nothing like going to another country and experiencing a new way of life. Vancouver also happens to be one cool town.

So plan ahead or don’t. I-5 is straight and fast and can get you to the last mountain run with a minimum of fuss.


  • Timberline Lodge 86 inches $30 all day (503) 622-7979
  • Mt. Hood Meadows 69 inches $43 all day (503) 337-2222
  • Mt. Bachelor 81 inches $32 all day (students) (800) 829-2442

  • Crystal Mountain 57 inches $40 all day (360) 663-2265
  • Stevens Pass 63 inches $41 (206) 812-4510
  • Snoqualmie 62 inches $37 weekends, $29 mid-week (206) 236-7277
British Columbia
  • Whistler-Blackcomb 71 inches $41 (U.S.) (800) 766-0449
  • Mt. Seymour 92 inches $22 (CSD), $17 (CSD) w/Cambie lodging (604) 986-2261