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Early snow gets chairlifts moving

Rec and Roll
by: COURTESY OF CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT, Two snowboarders ride the Mount Hood Express chair at the Meadows in near whiteout conditions as heavy snowfall blankets the mountain on Tuesday. Meadows opened Nov. 11, the earliest opening in 15 years.

SKIING

Snow's here

Resorts on Mount Hood are coming off four pretty good seasons of snow, and Meadows, Timberline and Skibowl have opened already for skiers and snowboarders.

'We typically target Thanksgiving for opening, but this (Nov. 14) was the earliest opening in 15 years,' says Hans Whipper, Skibowl operations manager. The lowest level resort, located across Highway 26 from Government Camp, has limited openings for now. Timberline and Meadows opened full-time previously.

'Getting good conditions for Veterans Day was a big boost,' added Jon Tullis, Timberline director of public affairs.

'Opening late last year was troubling and, then it started snowing and wouldn't stop, and people from Portland couldn't get here for a while,' he adds.

The early snow offers some good news for the resorts as they prepare to deal with a poor economy that has forced people to watch their discretionary spending.

'Last year we didn't get open until Dec. 14,' says Dave Tragethon, Meadows executive director of communications.

But the new season hasn't brought wholesale changes at any of the resorts.

Skibowl and Collins Lake Resort, located in Government Camp and both owned by Kirk Hanna, have furthered their relationship. The Collins Lake Resort now has its 32 Grand Lodges available for sale, to go with its 151 townhouses.

Eventually, a multistory, horseshoe-shaped building with an ice skating rink could be part of the complex and, perhaps, a gondola heading to Skibowl and Timberline.

'It's passed the design review stage for the building part,' reports Levi Strayer, Grand Lodges vice president. 'Progression from there is going to be based on the economy, somewhat.'

At Timberline, the fairly new Still Creek Basin and quad chair lift are still being explored. The resort also has a new winter entrance at historic Timberline Lodge.

Timberline and Skibowl continue to offer the popular 'Fusion Pass' for skier/snowboarder enjoyment on both hills. Such promotions are essential these days; Meadows is offering a $25 beginning skier deal this year.

'People are not taking their vacations to Colorado or Utah or Tahoe,' Whipper says.

The Meadows annex parking lot has been paved and it's now called the 'sunrise lot.' Tragethon says stump grinding took place on its main terrain park, Park Place, and better lighting has been installed on all runs.