Mount Hood, OR
Beta: From June through August, Timberline is abuzz with young athletes at summer camps. There's Windells for new school skiers, High Cascade for boarders, and the Atomic Race Camp for gate bashers. By September, the area is pretty quiet, with ski-industry product managers testing new gear and race teams training for upcoming competitions. Diehard skiers and riders from the Portland area fill a few more of the chairs on the Palmer Express.
Opening Dates: After a lift-maintenance closure around Labor Day, Timberline reopens mid September. This season, however, due to low snowpack and warm temps, they may not reopen till mid November.
Early-Season Snow: Summer and fall skiing takes place on the 100-acre Palmer Snowfield, which shrinks to around 50 acres by the end of August. Once the snow starts falling in earnest, the rest of Timberline's terrain begins to open, usually by mid November.
Terrain: The Palmer Snowfield serves up intermediate groomers, plus a snowpack-dependent terrain park and halfpipe. Timberline's lower section, 1,000 acres that stretch beneath the snowfield, has 30 trails and a handful of glades.Biggest Early Season: September is the driest month at Hood, but the wet Northwest storm pattern can kick in as early as mid October. In October '84, Timberline's base depth rose three feet.
Deals: Lift tickets for the early winter season cost $29 (regularly $39).Plan B: Whitewater raft or kayak down the nearby Deschutes River (through September). All Star Rafting offers one-day guided trips for $65 to $80 per person (800-909-7238, asrk.com).
Nightlife: Government Camp, six miles down the road, has three bars, including the Ratskeller for PBRs, pinball, and pool and Charlie's for darts and Golden Tee. They're all sardined with campers and coaches in summer, and empty (but open) in the fall.
Info: timberlinelodge.com, 503-622-7979
Crystal Balling It
"There's a 50-50 chance of a La Niña developing this winter," says Mike Halpert, a meteorologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center, "which should bring warmer temperatures and drier weather across the southern Rockies." NOAA expects the northern Rockies to receive above-normal precipitation, but it doesn't make predictions about snow. Still, Halpert says, "You could extrapolate from that information that it might be a good snow year."