Ski the Volcano

Skiing Mount Hood 03
Mount Hood Summit Area | Oregon | 2017

Everybody has a bucket list. And to have those goals to see or do things before you call it a day once and for all is what drives you forward in life. And my bucket list is long, definitely too ambitious for my remaining life time. But yesterday I managed to cross out not one, but two of those items I always wanted to do: I skied on a volcano, and I skied in North America.  Why those two items were on my bucket list? To find out and to see the photographs of my magnificent Sunday in the Pacific Northwest continue reading after the jump…

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When I took my significant other to Hawaii on our honeymoon trip some 25 years ago I was fascinated by the aspect that one could actually ski down a veritable volcano, Mauna Kea in this case. To be on those even slopes with completely unobstructed views across the surrounding landscape, plus the fact you ride on a real volcano  was something I really wanted to experience. Then in Europe everybody who skies talks about that unreal snow that you can find on the mountains in North America. The legend says that the dry air in the high altitudes produces a natural snow that is far superior to the mostly artificial snow that you can find on the slopes in Europe. So every skier on our side of the pond dreams to once experience the likes of Aspen, Vail and Whistler, to find out if the snow is really so much better than the one in Europe.

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So spending the weekend (having to spend the weekend would really be the wrong thing to say) in Portland I grabbed the first opportunity of a free day with beautiful weather to drive the 60 miles to Mount Hood to get the two things off my bucket list. I left PDX at 6:45 in the morning, arrived at the Timberline Ski Area 90 minutes later and was on the slopes with rented skiing gear at 9am when the lifts opened.

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My expectations were not disappointed, to say the least. I never had a better skiing experience in my life. The highlight was to take the snowcat up to the Palmer upper lift terminal at 8500 feet altitude. The lift doesn’t run in winter as it is simply buried in too much snow, the snow depth on Palmer glacier reaching 50 (fifty!) feet, so going up with the snowcat is the only way to go. But what an experience, as you are directly below the summit area of Mount Hood (11,239 feet or 3,426 m). The view across Oregon on a clear day is one of a kind. The hosts from the ski area claimed you can see all the way down to Northern California.

Ski the Volcano
Ski the Volcano | Mount Hood | 2017

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Taking the snowcat ensures you are actually one of very view people on this top run on Mount Hood. For me it was really an exhilarating experience, and the photos I took with my Olympus PEN-F with the mZuiko 12-40mm F/2.8 Pro Zoom can’t do the actual scenery any justice.

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Besides the experience of skiing a volcano I was also treated with a splendid view of neighboring (some 46 miles away) Mount Jefferson (see next image), another of the Cascade’s great stratovolcanos.

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Starting point of my unforgettable skiing experience was the historic Timberline Lode, built in 1937 on the south slope of Mount Hood at an altitude of 6000 feet.

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Seeing that impressive structure buried by all this snow was also quite impressive. Guests need to walks a sort of tunnel structure in winter to enter the building through all this snow. Returning to Portland after a great day of skiing took another 90 minutes. After being back in Rose City I went up to the Rose Garden to capture the view of majestic Mount Hood behind the Portland skyline, only to find two problems. Trees nearly completely block the view towards city and mountain behind. And the view point is to high with the mountain towering rather way above the buildings instead of being behind them. So following a tip I found on the web I drove a good mile to NW Maywood Drive which is a bit lower and, between the houses located there offers the beautiful view of city and mountain that I had hoped for to capture at the end of this great day in the Pacific Northwest.

And yes, the snow is far superior to what I ever experienced in while skiing in Europe! And that you don’t get a wrong impression, this was honestly the first sunny day in my last twenty days I’ve spent in Portland, where it was only raining. And it is raining today again….

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Thanks for reading and coming along on my memorable skiing trip to Mount Hood. Sometimes there is a good side to business trips and the time away from family and home after all. But it is sour earned and the exception.

Have a great week!


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38 thoughts on “Ski the Volcano

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  1. Congrats for checking things off your bucket list! What about the Alps? The snow isn’t good at the high altitudes there? We went skiing in Garmisch 20 years ago – I was a complete beginner – and it was a disaster! HA!

    1. Thanks 😊🙏! On my flight home I got another item very high up on my list checked off 😀! Post coming up! And high altitude snow is ok also over here, but the majority if the ski areas work with artificial snow these days (due to the lack of real snow), and this sucks.

    1. Thanks for the “as always” 😊🙏 Well it is not “fake snow”. It is made by ice crystals created by pumping water through intakes with high pressure to create a spray that in freezing temperatures falls to the ground as sort of snow. These devices are called snow-guns and are placed on about every slope in Europe. In out typical winters we ride on white “ribbons” through a brown landscape. The consistency of this “snow” is really bad when it gets warm under the sun. Thus, the natural North American snow is far superior. And I didn’t see one snow-gun on Mount Hood 😀👍

  2. Wow! Those are great things to get to check off the bucket list. I’ve only been skiing in Virginia in West Virginia, but we do know people who go to Aspen and Vail to ski. I’ve heard it’s quite phenomenal. Glad that you got to enjoy it! -Amy

  3. Marcus great post! My twin sons live outside Portland and we go visit every September. We have taken that trip up to Mt. Hood in June and there was still plenty of snow around. Glad you were able to get some skiing in!

  4. Thank you for this post! It brought a smile to my face, and I am so glad you got the sunny day and the chance to achieve two bucket list items! Your photos are beautiful!
    I live in Oregon and used to ski Mt. Hood often as a kid. I never knew about the European legend of unreal snow here in North America! I’ve dreamed of skiing the Swiss Alps myself…

    1. Thanks so much, Heather, this is so much appreciated. Switzerland is nice for skiing when you get real snow, but we now have almost everywhere artificial snow in the Alps (apart from the high end high altitude resorts) which takes so much fun away. Hey, and also this afternoon the sun was out in Wilsonville 😉 ! Took a quick look at your blog, there is tons of inspirations for future weekend activities…will follow happily. Marcus

      1. I appreciate your heads-up about the snow situation in Europe. I’ll hope for real snow, but won’t take the reality too hard if that’s what is there when I get to ski in Europe one day! and thank you for following my blog!

  5. I can see from your photographs how beautiful, exhilarating and awesome this landscape and experience must have been. Nice to learn about the difference in the quality of snow between North America and Europe.Coming from a country where snow is a novelty, I appreciate any snow. I’ve been up the Swiss Alps thanks to business trips as well and I understand when you say that the picture can’t do justice to what you experience with your naked eye. Well done on ticking off from your bucket list! 😀 Chevvy

  6. I’m beyond excited and happy for you and to read this will send me off to sleep smiling. Wow, what an awesome adventure, I’m so glad to got to go and experience this, it’s so well deserved. I know what you mean and sometimes it’s hard to capture so much beauty in pictures. We feel that they don’t do the real thing justice, but you should know that I thoroughly enjoyed your vision. 👍🏼❤😉

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