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Not far away, a mountain of fun awaits urbanites

by: Courtesy of Mt. Hood Skibowl, It’s pretty to look at, and it looks even better at playtime. Mount Hood welcomes summer adventurers with skiing, of course, as well as alpine slides, tubing, mountain-biking trails, a Super Play Zone and much more.

Mount Hood doesn't have to be just for powderheads and jocks and the people who drive them. In the summer the region is transformed into a playground of wildflowers, hiking trails and sun-baked rock, and weekend stays start to look more attractive. You can still ski on the glacier, but the mountain reveals far more about itself in the sunshine.

Government Camp is a strip of unremarkable restaurants, gift shops and ski rental outlets, but the new Collins Lake Resort, which opened in 2004, makes for a fun alternative to an inn or hotel. It contains dozens of three-story condos that sleep four to 10 people (the ground floor is taken up with a two-car garage) and can be rented at $169 to $199 per night depending on the season.

The condo we rent, although obviously lived in (a couple of closets are padlocked), is modern and scrupulously clean. It is stocked with Ikea gear and all new appliances, including a box-fresh television and DVD player.

Workmen are still quietly finishing the nearby units in the enclave, which may in the future be turned into a gated community, according to one of the helpful youngsters who staff the reception. (The 'lodge phase' of building will add 75 new homes to Collins Lake Resort. The first of them should be completed early next year.) Needless to say, some condos already have been flipped by their owners.

In springtime you can walk between the snowdrifts in your flip-flops and rove the 50 yards to the clubhouse, which has a small outdoor pool and hot tub. Here you can swim and catch snowflakes - or hailstones - in your mouth, then watch the clouds part and the moon rise through the conifers.

In summer Skibowl West's slopes and cross-country ski trails disappear, and from beneath the snow emerges the half-mile alpine slide, a concrete luge for adults and children (with slow and fast lanes). There's also a vast network of mountain-bike trails.

Skibowl East's Summer Adventure Park has more than 20 activities, including batting cages, miniature golf and the Super Play Zone, 2,400 square feet of tubes, slides, net walks, trampolines, bungee tower (with regular and reverse bungees) and a zip line. New this year at Skibowl East is the Summer Tube Hill, which consists of 300 feet of dry ski run with banks and turns, upon which regular inner tubes work.

With various lodging packages at Collins Lake Resort, the cost of the activities can be reduced.

We eat at the most Portlandlike restaurant in town, the pub at Mount Hood Brewing Co., just down the hill from the resort. The Golden Badger pizza is pleasant, though the Tater-tots and fried poppers are a little basic. The ambience, however, makes up for it, as the place bustles and the staff is friendly.

Several Government Camp ski rental stores vacate their premises in the summer, only to be replaced by ski manufacturers such as Rossignol and Burton. These outlets then lend high-end race skis (secured by a credit card) to ski campers for use on the glacier.

If the thought of hundreds of teens filling the town's one street on a summer evening does not sound like much of a vacation, perhaps consider spending more time at good old Timberline Lodge. At 6,000 feet on the south side of Mount Hood, the views can be spectacular when the clouds lift.

There's skiing on the Palmer Snow Field, a glacier served by the Palmer lift, and the Works Progress Administration-era lodge, which was finished in 1937, remains a great place to hang out regardless of the weather.

To see the hand-crafted wood, wrought iron, mosaics and paintings is to see work that has stood the test of time. Around the giant central hearth people doze, listen to music via headphones or play board games, while lunch goes on in the balcony above.

Although fine dining is available in the tony Cascade Dining Room, the Ram's Head Bar offers hearty fare and a great view. If you must ski, note that summer lift tickets go up from $34 and $26 for children to $43 for all ages, due to the scarcity of snow. But even when the powderheads are rejoicing, there's plenty to do on the mountain for other people, too.

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