It’s no secret that Oregon is a winter sports paradise. But you don’t need to be a seasoned snow-goer to get in on the fun. Here’s where to sled, snowshoe, ski and snowboard with the family in Oregon, and parts of Washington.
Whether you’re serious about winter sports or just want to spend an afternoon playing in the powder, options abound for Portland families looking to plan an epic snow day.
The action is centered along Oregon’s portion of the Cascade Range — also known as Yamakiasham Yaina, or Mountains of the Northern People. Mount Hood is Oregon’s tallest mountain and offers snow play to suit all abilities, from black diamond ski runs to gentle tubing slopes. Towering farther afield in the Deschutes National Forest is Central Oregon’s Mount Bachelor, situated on the eastern side of the Central Cascades and boasting diverse trails, dry snow and satisfyingly long seasons.
Wherever you roam, planning is key. To safely access higher elevations, you’ll need emergency winter weather supplies and a set of traction tires or tire chains. (The Oregon Department of Transportation requires you to carry chains along many mountain roads, even if you don’t use them.) Be sure to double check conditions before heading up — weather changes fast and snow slides can wreak havoc on already busy roads. If navigating wintry passes isn’t your thing, you can also catch a shuttle up to either mountain. With a little advance prep, you’ll have winter fun down cold.
Tubing & Sledding
Looking for tubing, sledding, or the perfect hill for an old-fashioned snowball fight? Oregon’s got a boggling array of “sno-parks” to choose from, all accessible with the purchase of a Sno-Park Permit. Pro tip: Some parks don’t allow outside sledding devices, and some have age/height requirements, so check in advance.
Mount Hood’s Snow Bunny Sliding Area Sno-Park is a longstanding family favorite, especially for the smaller set. Located near Government Camp, the area has tube rentals and several slopes, one right off the parking lot. Outside sledding devices are welcome. Another classic spot is Frosty’s Playland and Winter Adventure Park at Mt. Hood Skibowl. In addition to tubing, you’ll find a carousel, outdoor playland, heated indoor play area (praise the gods!) and kid-friendly snowmobiling. Come dusk, older kids will love the technicolor party that is Cosmic Tubing. Lively lights and music, four-person “party tubes,” and a conveyor belt make jolly work of the slope, but this spot gets rowdy! Also on Mount Hood, Cooper Spur’s Tubing Park has an assortment of tubing hills, plus a snow carousel that pulls tired tubers round and round.
Nearby is White River West Sno-Park’s half-mile stretch of prime sledding territory. The park quickly fills up and you’ve got to be mindful of the water, but the sweeping terrain is magnificent.
On Mount Bachelor, adventurous teens and tweens will dig the Snowblast Tubing Park, featuring an exhilarating 800-foot slope and a tow back up. But be sure to get there early. Closer to Bend, check out Wanoga Sno-Park. It’s a bring-your-own-sled deal, and amenities are basic, but this spot is very family-friendly.
Downhill Skiing & Snowboarding
Mount Hood is jam-packed with skiing and snowboarding options! Mount Hood Meadows, the mountain’s largest ski resort and a perennial family favorite, boasts reliable snow pack and endless runs, and in addition to lessons for adults and older kids, there’s a state-certified day care and Parent & Me Lessons for kids ages 3 to 6.
Timberline Lodge and Ski Area features nearly 1,500 acres of ski surface and the longest ski season in North America. This ski area is adored by more experienced winter sports families, and then there is that high-alpine lodge — a lovely landing spot for those traveling with babies or grandparents. Pro tip: Sledding isn’t permitted at Timberline.
For easy access and some prime night skiing, you can’t beat Mount Hood Skibowl, set at the edge of Government Camp. You can also find your snow legs at nearby Timberline Summit Pass, Timberline’s sister ski hill. This spot is small, affordable and caters specifically to families and novices. Manageable trails also make it ideal for older kids craving some independence. Pro tip: If you can swing a long weekend, Summit Pass on a Monday makes for lower-key, less-crowded practice grounds.
Cooper Spur’s Ski Area is also an affordable, beginner-friendly spot. If your kid learns best with a little breathing room, try their one-lesson pass for kids 10 years and older; all-day access to instructors lets you practice at your own pace.
Also fun for mixed-experience groups: Hoodoo Ski Area in Oregon’s central Cascade Range. Their Ski & Ride School has private lessons for all ages, plus junior ski and snowboard lessons for the 8 to 12 set. The school’s night skiing and snowboarding lessons are ideal for older kids ready for a new challenge. Pro tip: Book early to avoid equipment-rental bottlenecks.
Loads of Mount Bachelor’s runs are beginner-friendly, and there’s good news on the horizon this year: Many of the mountain’s kiddie offerings, including their licensed day care, are set to return! For a gentle start to outdoor fun, check out the Snow Explorer package for kids 2-and-a-half and up, which combines skiing introduction and snow play with indoor child care. The Signature Start package, for kids 3-and-a-half to 5, includes a two-hour supervised ski session and a half-day of indoor child care. Pro tip: Reserve well in advance; these packages sell out.
New to winter sports? Check out Bachelor’s Ski or Ride in 5 program — a bargain-priced, five-lesson beginner program. If your family already knows its way around a mountain, head for one of Bachelor’s lively and challenging runs, such as Summit, an ungroomed and visually stunning thrill-ride for those comfortable navigating trickier terrain.
If you have a family member with a disability, be sure to check out Bend’s Oregon Adaptive Sports (OAS). OAS aims to ensure everyone can access Oregon’s abundant outdoor recreation opportunities. Winter options include affordable adaptive alpine ski and snowboard lessons at Mt. Bachelor Resort and Hoodoo Ski Area, plus adaptable cross-country skiing and snowshoeing instructions at Mount Bachelor’s Nordic Center.
Cross-country Skiing & Snowshoeing
A cross-country (Nordic) skiing or snowshoeing excursion is an affordable way to escape the crowds while drinking in some of Oregon’s finest winter scenery, and Central Oregon’s got tons of options. The Mount Bachelor Ski Area boasts a wealth of well-maintained cross-country and snowshoe trails of varying difficulty within the Nordic Network. The fun starts at the Nordic Lodge, where you can warm up by a fireplace, plot your route, and grab a bag lunch before heading out. Pro tip: If you’re after a more rugged experience, strike out from here for the Todd Lake Trail; if the weather’s clear, you’ll catch unbeatable views of Mount Bachelor.
For groups of mixed age or interests, Swampy Lakes Sno-Park near Bend is a smart-if-busy bet: You can head out on snowshoe or skis to explore miles of trail, or just enjoy tubing in the central area.
Over on Mount Hood, Mt. Hood Outfitters is the gold-standard for equipment rentals, plus friendly interpretive guide services, offering everything from skiing to snowmobiling lessons. Teacup Lake Sno-Park is a nice spot for a cross-country skiing test-run. You’ll find sweeping views and lovingly groomed trails at Teacup, but no snowshoeing is allowed. Need a helping hand? Teacup Nordic’s Learn to Ski Program introduces kids ages 6 to 10 to cross-country skiing, and kids ages 10 to 16 can level up with the Pipeline Program. Seasoned cross-country skiing families also adore the 5-mile Trillium Lake Loop. The elevation gain is modest, and you’ll be rewarded with picture-perfect Mt. Hood views. If you want to start super-simple, rent snowshoes at Timberline Lodge & Ski Area and strike out from the lodge along an easy 3/4-mile trail.
Where to Stay
For après-ski amenities and easy access to groceries, gas and multiple Mount Hood ski runs, nobody beats Government Camp’s Collins Lake Resort, while a stay at the iconic Timberline Lodge is on every Oregonian’s bucket list. But there are plenty of non-resort options also available. If getting near-ish to Mount Hood works for you, consider the cluster of towns tucked along the Mount Hood Corridor between Sandy and Government Camp. The Laughing Bear Cabin, a historic red log cabin in Rhododendron, provides a comfortably rustic experience, while The Cabins Creekside at Welches offers cute, affordable cabins amongst the trees. Or check out the Mt. Hood Tiny House Village, also in Welches, for one-of-a-kind micro-lodging.
On Bachelor, you can’t beat the convenience of the sprawling Mt. Bachelor Village Resort condominium complex. Many condos are listed on Airbnb and VRBO, but you gotta book early to snag a prime weekend. For a one-of-a-kind backcountry experience, check out Elk Lake Resort. Come winter, these snug cabins aren’t accessible by car. Instead, you can cross-country ski or snowmobile in, or arrange for the resort to provide Snowcat transportation. Bend proper offers an easier jumping-off point: A Stone’s Throw Bungalow Vacation Rentals rents cute, centrally located cottages, while LOGE Bend offers a serene setting 20 minutes from the mountain, complete with ski lockers and a steamy hot tub.
- Family-Friendly Sledding, Skiing and Snowboarding in Oregon - November 17, 2022
- Portland-Area Live Performances by Month - October 3, 2022
- Road Trip Ideas: PNW Magic - May 12, 2022