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Mt. Hood Meadows

Inside Line
posted: 03/17/2004

Elevation: 7,300 feet
Vertical Drop: 2,777 feet
Acres: 2,150
Snowfall: 430 inches
Getting There: Mt. Hood Meadows is 67 miles from Portland. Head east on Highway 26 to Government Camp, then north 10 miles to Meadows.
Info: 800-754-4663, skihood.com

Beta: Despite a national reputation built on a handful of summer ski camps, Hood has managed to remain the near-exclusive winter haunt of loyal Portlanders fueled by fair-trade java. There's a reason they try to keep Hood to themselves: It's a huge hunk of a volcano that gets pounded by over 400 inches, most of which swoop down from the Gulf of Alaska. While the maritime weather brings some wet storms, it also makes for a deep snowpack on the surprisingly varied advanced terrain. You'll find high-speed cruisers over three miles long, and nearly a dozen wide-open bowls dropping into expansive, north-facing Heather Canyon. And those are just the named bowls. In good weather, locals often say, "The mountain is out,—but we think it might be already.

Powder Day
Be on the Mt. Hood Express at 8 a.m. and turn right at the top, heading straight for the loose trees of 3-D, O-Ring, and Rock Garden. If Heather Canyon is open, make run number two down the skinny but option-filled Ridge Run to the Cascade Express quad, then on to wide-open Moon Bowl. Oregon's snow may be more chowder than powder, but that just means it takes less snow to cover the rocks.

3 Days Later
While Heather Canyon receives most of the Hood Meadows hype, Clark Canyon, just beyond Heather, gets fewer skiers and more snow. To enter it, traverse high across the top of Heather. For a closer but mellower route, try the tight trees of Jacks Woods, skier's left of Shooting Star Express.

Proving Grounds
Marquee route: Elevator Shaft, the 45-degree plunge off the top of the Mt. Hood Express, has long set the bar for bragging rights in Oregon. Expansive and located above tree line, it appears less intimidating than it is—hence the unsuspecting intermediates descending on asses and elbows. Off-Broadway: From the top of Cascade Express, head past the Outer Limits to the A-Zone, opposite Ridge Run, where the vast expanse of Heather Canyon falls away beneath you.

Backcountry Access
Purchase a Superbowl Snowcat ticket ($10; available at the top of Cascade Express) for a shot at the choice runs near the craggy summit: Parachute, Confidence, and Hot Rocks. Wanna save a couple bucks? It's a 1,700-foot hike.

Weather
This is Oregon, where it's never too cold and never too dry. For the best powder, keep track of hammering dead-of-winter storms and come after the lifts have reopened.

Don't Miss
Vegetate, the on-snow spring bash at Hood (March 10—14), combines freestyle comps and live music with the best corn in the Northwest.

Après
Alpenstube, in the South Lodge, features a good beer selection from Oregon's 52 microbreweries. For dinner, try to hit one-dollar-taco Monday at the Elliot Glacier Public House in Parkdale.

Fuel
Windsurfer hangout Bette's Place, in Hood River, has perfectly runny eggs benedict. Stop off at Java the Hut in Welches for coffee, and at Meadows, grab an egg-bagel sandwich at Sahallie Room or some award-winning tomato-basil soup for lunch at Schuss.

Up all night
In Hood River, the River City Saloon's dance floor rocks into the night with a mix of live blues, funky DJs, and open-mic nights.

Digs
The clean, medium-priced Hood River Hotel (from $59; 800-386-1859, hoodriverhotel.com) is within walking distance of downtown. Closer to the slopes, check out the Cooper Spur Mountain Resort (from $99; 541-352-6696, innatcooperspur.com).

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