For decades, High Cascade Snowboard Camp terrain has been a forbidden temple for Mount Hood's summer skiers, a barricaded island of awesome park features with a siren's lure. The penalties of transgression were harsh—there are plenty of stories about fights, park rakes thrown at skiers, even a skier whose knee was blown while being tackled by an aggressive HCSC staff member.
But on Friday, May 20 at about 11:30 a.m., I skied cautiously across the imaginary boundary between High Cascade and Windell's—the two camps are side-by-side on the Palmer Snowfield at Timberline Ski Area—and I came to a stop above the HCSC superpipe.
It was a cloudy, in-and-out day and the pipe wasn't seeing much action. A High Cascade coach stood on the drop-in mound near me.
"Pipe open?" I asked him.
On any given day during the summer ski season, there are anywhere between two to four halfpipes among the diverse offerings of Timberline's various terrain park providers. There's the Timberline 18-foot public halfpipe, a long-time staple of the summer scene that's open to anyone with a lift ticket. Occasionally Windell's Camp will feature a halfpipe in its continually changing park lane, open only to Windell's campers and staff.
And then there's the superpipe at High Cascade Snowboard Camp. At 22 feet high, 400 feet long, and cut by the builder of the 2002 Olympic halfpipe in Salt Lake City, the HCSC superpipe is one of the crown jewels of the Palmer Snowfield. Considered the best summer halfpipe of its size and quality in the Northern Hemisphere, the High Cascade pipe lures Olympic teams and pipe pros from around the world. With one crucial restriction: Skiers not allowed. Or at least until this season.
High Cascade bills itself as the only summer camp on Mount Hood that's "100 percent Snowboarding." HCSC started touting the slogan not long after rival camp Windell's started allowing skiers in the early 2000s. Since then skiers have gained equal footing, perhaps even a slight numerical advantage, in the ranks of Windell's campers, coaches, and staff, while neighboring High Cascade has remained staunchly opposed to integration.
"It's not that we don't like skiers, but snowboard culture is unique," explains the camp's website. "Our parks are 100 percent built by snowboarders with snowboarder's [sic] wants and needs in mind."
Given HCSC's policy of exclusion, skiers wanting to shred the camp's terrain, including the pipe, have historically had only one choice: to poach that shit. Duck a rope on a day when camp's not in session, wait until late afternoon when everyone's gone home, or just drop in in broad daylight and then beeline it for the exit without getting caught—those are all methods that have been used to bypass High Cascade's no-skier policy.
But things are changing this summer—at least a little, anyway—following a surprising merger between High Cascade and Windell's earlier this year. With an announcement on April 1—it was initially widely regarded as an April Fool's prank—High Cascade and Windell's Camp broke the news that their owners had partnered and were going to operate both camps under a new company called We Are Camp, LLC.
This summer, High Cascade and Windell's will continue to operate separately, but there are a few significant changes: Windell's will make its renowned skate campus available to HCSC campers, while High Cascade will share its superpipe and lap park with Windell's.
In other words, they'll share it with skiers, for the first time.
The High Cascade coach responded to my question with an affirmative and I dropped in to the HCSC superpipe. I didn't face any confrontations, heckling, or flying shovels. The barricades are down, and the best part of the transition—besides the awesome pipe—is its apparent mellowness. I took a few laps on the rope tow alongside the pipe, and nobody seemed to mind the presence of a skier on what was once exclusively snowboarding's turf.
In the afternoon, Windell's coach Colby Albino ran a pipe clinic while other coaches and campers began tentatively drifting over to the High Cascade side to check out the pipe. Albino demonstrated some excellent switch pipe skiing between pep talks with campers hoping to learn how to approach the daunting 22-foot walls.
"I grew up looking over here, dreaming of hitting this pipe, and the day has come," says Albino, 24, a veteran summer migrant to Mount Hood from Lake Tahoe.
"I was expecting to get heckled," he added. "There are some snowboarders looking over here, but I think they're actually stoked that we're here."
I asked one young High Cascade camper what he thought about sharing the once-exclusive pipe with the skiers. Are we harshing the vibe at High Cascade?
"I think it's cool for the skiers," he answered. "It's fun having a little change-up."
For more installments of Meanwhile on Mount Hood, here’s a photo essay from a day on the Palmer Snowfield, a story about the mayhem that ensued when Line Skis took over Windell’s, and a video from the time when Tommy E and the Inspired Crew took it to the backcountry.