Standing at the top of lane 12 on Mount Hood’s Palmer Glacier, a swarm of preteens on slalom skis buzzed around me. At 8’clock in the morning, they had already made three laps on the upper mountain, moving through drills and arcing strong, technical turns on the frozen glacier. Despite a dazzling alpine sun already tipping the thermometer above 60, the snow would stay firm for at least another hour.
Two years ago at this time, skiers from around the world were already packing up and heading home from their summer training on Mount Hood’s Palmer Glacier. In 2015, the Palmer snowfield shut down their summer operations on August 2—five weeks earlier than the usual closing day on Labor Day weekend.
However, this winter saw 600 inches of snowfall on Mount Hood (with a few inches falling as late as June 9), which not only bolstered winter visits to Timberline Lodge Ski Area, but drew 90,000 summer skier visits. Summer operations are expected to extend through Labor Day weekend this year.
“It feels like we’re finally stabilized again, and we’re not dropping off anymore. We’re getting the perception back out there that the skiing is still really good up here,” says mountain manager Logan Stewart, who started working on the mountain as a lift operator in the late ’90s when Mount Hood was in its heyday for skiers and snowboarders looking to train and film all year round.
Located 56 miles northwest of Portland, Oregon’s tallest peak offers 3,690 vertical feet of skiing from near the top of the 11,245-foot volcano. As early as the 70s, the summer snow was used predominantly by ski racers running gates off an old double chair. By the late 80s and into early 90s, snowboard camps were getting started with hand dug pipes and terrain parks.
“It’s a pretty diverse place. In the winter, we’re a family resort with intermediate terrain and it’s a lot of people coming up to go skiing on the weekends,” says Stewart. “In the summer, it’s everyone from world class athletes to up-and-comers to little race kids. One day you’re dealing with mom and pop and then it’s Bode Miller and Shaun White.”
While the consistency of the snow and has kept Mount Hood’s summer ski program going for 40 years, drawing up to 100 different camps every summer, coming back from the low-snow year of 2015 brought out competition from places…