The Timberline parking lot during the month of May is how I imagine a full-time commune of ski bums would operate: groups of Subaru-stationed car bars, rows of vans, and camper villages; skiers on skateboards--still in their ski boots--chasing their dogs; and the perpetual aroma of grilled meat and sunscreen filling the air.
This is Mount Hood in May--the final migration of the winter season. It’s an annual pilgrimage for many skiers seeking hot pow laps, a slushy park, and camping in the Oregon rain before the deluge of summer ski racers and film crews descend on the glacier. For the next month, Mount Hood is a refuge that aides the post-winter woes.
I. Timberline on Palmer Glacier
Before summer camp season begins on the glacier, Timberline offers a $140 spring pass good until May 28. While the pass most recently went up from $119, it’s tough to beat. Whether you’re a rail rat filming your summer edit, a bump skier looking to harvest some corn, a racer punching gates, or you’re planning to join the boys and girls for a tour off Palmer, the May pass pays for itself in just two days.
II. The Park
Park and halfpipe skiing have a long tradition at Hood, thanks to the inaugural West Coast Sessions. This classic, freeski event for photographers and pros started in 2006, offering manicured jumps, a variety of rails and sometimes a halfpipe, all of which is accessed off the Stormin' Norman lift. No time like the present to participate in good ol’ fashioned park rat camaraderie.
III. The Backcountry
Aside from the spring park skiing, Timberline also offers uphill traffic and backcountry skiing off the Palmer quad lift. According to David Parr, an East Coaster who has made the voyage since 2010, Zigzag Canyon always has beautiful corn skiing in May. Toby Goldman, a Bozeman boy, says cracking a cold one during sunset at Illumination Rock, is a must, too. Both options are accessible from the top of Palmer, along with touring to the summit of Mount Hood.
I gotta say, skiing Palmer to the base (3,984 feet of hot pow) and lapping the park in one run, is the butter to my toast.
For most skiers Hood-bound this month, roughing it in the cold and rain is the name of the game. There are a few places to do so. Tim Lord, a Tahoe transient and Mount Hood veteran, advises bringing more than a few pairs of ski socks and drying them each night on a clothesline over the fire. You’ll need it.
I. Timberline Parking Lot
Clientele: For the #vanlifer
As long as you claim a spot in the overnight zone, you're good to go. Hood veterans advise if you're staying for a few weeks "to maybe move your car once in a while, just in case." If you're sneaky, you can take advantage of the amenities at Timberline Lodge, too.
II. Old Timberline Road
Clientele: The underage Newschooler
The kids call it the Air Strip, and this campground is commonly known for firework explosions, the smell of stale beers, and elaborate tarp villages. If you think you’re too old for this shit, you are.
III. Super Secret Campground off Highway 26
Clientele: The-sit-around-a-campfire-and-play-guitar goers
Sorry, we're keeping the exact coordinates of this one off the internet. There’s a river that runs through the campsites, and while the occasional tent village pops up, it tends to say quiet and void of the crowds.
Don't forget your grill or camp stove. These are important for making the most of your parking lot lunches and breakfasts.
I. Government Camp General
Lord also encourages to keep it cheap. Find the largest bag of tortillas and can of peanut butter at the Govy Gen. It goes a long way. There are also hot tater tots and corn dogs there, too.
II. The Taco Shoppe
Located in Government Camp, this hole in the wall New Mexican spot is known for Taco Tuesdays.
III. Solara Brewery
Located in Parkdale (between Mount Hood and Hood River), Solara has a beautiful scenic view of Hood while you sip your beer after skiing.