Last Spring I was lured to the Mt. Hood Territory by fact that they have the longest ski season in North America. Confident there would be fresh powder to shred, culinary delights, and artistic encounters, I ventured into The Territory with high hopes for a great shoulder season ski experience.
The hospitality began at the Portland Airport where my luggage came through baggage claim with dispatch, and my Enterprise rental car was waiting for me all gassed up. With Google maps as my co-pilot, I was off to experience the best of Oregon.
Snow Days & Nights
Timberline Lodge & Ski Area
To begin, the parking at the top was very well organized, and there was plenty of it. The ski rental and lift ticket offices are in the main building, and it was so simple that I was out on the slopes within minutes of arrival.
Tip – when you rent a car, make sure you get a 4-wheel drive or rent chains for the trek up the long and winding road. Note: Chains are required during snowy weather.
With 1,415 skiable acres and the capacity to take 9,869 people uphill per hour, the Timberline Ski Area is very attractive for snowboarders and skiers like me who hate to wait in lift lines. Of the 41 trails, 25% are for beginners, 50% are for intermediate and 25% are for advanced participants. I felt like that was a pretty good mix as I am somewhere in between intermediate and advanced so roughly 75% of the mountain was potentially for me.
The south slope of Mt. Hood (6,000 feet above sea level) draws nearly two million visitors per year. President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated timberline Lodge, a National Historic Landmark, in 1937. After a long day of skiing, it’s so nice to “ski-in” to the lodge, pull off those tight boots, slip into a pair of slippers and be “home” away from home. The Lodge rooms are alpine chic, and some are made even cozier by the wood burning fireplaces.
Après ski action is definitely in order when staying at Timberline Lodge. The Ram’s Head Bar is known for its microbrews and hot toddies, but I went for a non-alcoholic buzz instead. A combination of a hot fudge sundae and a cup of cocoa, their hot chocolate concoction is both a drink and a dessert. Topped with whipped cream, chocolate, caramel and crunchy toffee gave me a much needed energy boost.
At times I find skiing multiple days in a row a bit much, and prefer to take a day off to relax. The Spa at The Resort at The Mountain, close to Government Camp in Welches, Oregon was a lovely place to relax. I enjoyed every second of the 50-minute Swedish-style Mountain Spirit Massage. My therapist unwound ages-old knots and left me completely satiated. At $99 for my session, it was a very affordable luxury.
Mt. Hood Skibowl Cosmic Tubing®
Regular tubing on steroids is how I would describe this nighttime activity on the mountain. There are over 600,000 LED lights (black lights, colored lights and laser light shows) brightening up the slopes with awesome music to keep the party vibe going. Most resorts make you walk back up once you have tubed down, but at Mt. Hood Skibowl, they have a conveyor belt to bring you back to the top for more runs. I can imagine families with younger kids truly appreciating this feature!
Open Fridays and Saturdays from 5:00pm – 11:00pm and Sundays 5:00pm – 10:00pm.
Collins Lake Resort Grand Lodges
By the time I finished my ski and après ski day, I was utterly exhausted, and ready for a quiet night back at Collins Lake Resort. I pulled into the heated garage, took the elevator up to my floor and walked inside expecting a nice condo with good amenities, but what I found was so much more.
Let’s start with the flick of a switch and the fireplaces adding warmth literally and figuratively to the ambiance of the logged cabin feel. The kitchen was outfitted with every appliance and gadget I would need for a to make a gourmet meal – there was even a gas grill on the terrace. There was closet space galore and a huge laundry room with a Murphy bed for overflows guests – so smart.
While my particular unit was not decorated with upscale fabrics or furniture choices, the luxury value was in the fully modern kitchens, bathrooms and generously sized living spaces that were tastefully decorated and very well appointed. Bottom line: for groups or families, it is a slam-dunk to rent here.
Tip: Sno-Park Permits are required for all state-maintained parking areas in recreational areas from November 1st until April 30th.
Villa Catalana Cellars
Set in a rural part of Oregon City, Villa Catalana’s estate is a charming place for a picnic (bring your own except for days when they have a pre-set menu and chef on-hand) and a game of bocce on the lower dam. Fairly new to the business of winemaking, Burl Mostul burst into Oregon City’s wine scene in 2014, and soon gained recognition as an up and coming serious winemaker, winning two gold and one bronze medals at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. My favorite red was their vin de table Villa Catalana Red. A robust fruity blend, it came with a reasonable price point, but also taste the striking Pinot Gris for a truly perky experience!
Open Saturdays from 1:00pm – 4:00pm
Beckham Estate Vineyard
A family passion project, the eight-acre estate is part animal farm, part art colony and part vineyard. Beckham Estate marries the best of all worlds in one small independent plot in Sherwood, Oregon.
The panoramic views of snowy-capped mountains were impressive, and I could envision how magical a summer degustation must be there. It was not too bad on an overcast spring day either. Co-owner Annedria Beckham gave an informative tasting of their current vintages, each is handcrafted and part of a very limited production. Great for a warm summer night, I suggest the young and divine 2016 Olivia’s Pinot Noir Rosé paired with Chèvre with spring herbs and citrus.
Co-owner/winemaker/artist Andrew Beckham proves art and function can be pleasurable and profitable. He is the artist who fires wine “jars” or amphora (a tall ancient Greek or Roman jar with two handles and a narrow neck) in his ceramic art studio on the property, and then he blends the grapes to make wine in them. Combining his life’s interests and enjoying the fruits of his labors seems like an ideal way to enjoy Oregon to me.
Open Friday – Sunday 11:00am – 5:00pm, or by appointment
Farm to Table Experiences
Our Table Cooperative
Sherwood, Oregon’s nirvana for healthy and happy eating is all about a spirit of community centered on food. Members of the community shop at their “on-farm grocery store” that stocks 80% Oregon-sourced and 90% organic meats, dairy, and produce. They conveniently sell prepared meals-to-go, health & wellness items, dry goods, and wine. Our Table has a growler filling station for their craft beer (counter pressurized filling systems that eliminate the oxygen and keeps home brews fresher longer).
Tip: call ahead to arrange a private tour of their kitchens to see the behind-the-scenes.
The Kitchen at Middleground Farms
Wilsonville, Oregon’s Chef/Owner Jessica Hansen gathers fresh ingredients, most from her own farm animals, and then she helps food channel addicts like me learn the traditional ways of making the perfect pie, or she shares the secrets behind making simple, delicious homemade cheeses. Basic knife skills are also taught in private or group classes, helping to instill confidence when cooking at home. Tasting the finished product was my favorite part of the entire experience.
Sweet Treats & Local Eats
St. Honoré Boulangerie
This is my pick for seriously French, seriously authentic breads, pastries and savory entrees. The lakeside location at Lake Oswego is divine with romantic tables for two, or a communal harvest table for breaking bread together. Gluten-free options available.
The bakery is also a great place to begin Lake Oswego’s award-winning rotating outdoor art exhibit The Gallery Without Walls. Many of the pieces you will see are for sale and don’t worry – for a fee they will even ship it home to you.
Stone Cliff Inn
One of Oregon City’s best scenic outdoor dining patios, the Inn overlooks the beautiful Clackamas River on the historic Baker Rock Quarry site. Twilight fans may recognize the site as the original movie was filmed here.
Bob’s Red Mill Wholegrain Store & Bakery
Milwaukie, Oregon’s Bob Red Mill Store sells over 400 grain-based products (80 gluten-free). Pop in for a real mom and pop experience then head down the road to the mill for a free public tour. Don’t be surprised if you see Bob in the lobby playing the piano. Though he has retired and gave the company back to the employees, he is still part of the “family.” To learn more about this marvelous man, read the book entitled with his personal philosophy, People before Profit.
How naïve was it of me to plan only three days and nights at Mt. Hood Territory? There is so much more to experience. Unfinished business: top of my list for my next visit is a hike to Little ZigZag Falls.