Ahhh, the smell of freshly salted snow baking in the afternoon sun! An aroma that is found stronger at Mt. Hood, Oregon than anywhere else in the world. To say you’ve never heard of it can only mean you’ve had a recent lobotomy or you’re simply a liar. Mt. Hood is more than the staple of summertime snowboarding in the US, it IS summertime snowboarding.
Besides the flocks of campers lucky enough to have landed a trip to the Palmer Snowfield, I’ve noticed that there isn’t a lot of love going around for Mt. Hood these days. Instead, it is more of a place the rest of its residents find themselves drawn to each year out of habit. And with most habits, whether good or bad, this one too is hard to break.
You see, snowboarders are a strange breed. In order to partake in the sport they hold so dear, most must make sacrifices. Since mountains and their accompanying resorts are usually isolated on the outskirts of civilization, living in a scarcely populated, overpriced tourist town is a way of life. When the snow melts, the opportunity to branch out and try other things, perhaps even move to a different environment, becomes an option. But instead of taking advantage of this situation, the masses make their way from near and far to the neighboring towns of Mt. Hood, where the snowboarding lifestyle lives year round. Besides a noticeable change in climate, and limited snow conditions it’s almost as good as back home. And living in small, musty, cabin-like conditions is a small price to pay for being in the company of people who do nothing but eat, drink, sleep and breath snowboarding.
July is the middle month of summer and is when things start to “go off”, so to speak, at Mt. Hood. This is usually due to the fact that it has finally quit raining and the pipe-cutters and digging crews have figured out what they’re doing. Not too coincidentally, this is also when most of the professional snowboarders make their annual pilgrimage in hopes of getting a shot from one of the many photographers who line the pipes and kickers on a daily basis. This summer was no exception as there were few aerial maneuvers that escaped the watchful eyes of the lens.
For years I have cursed Timberline, the resort on Mt. Hood, when purchasing a ticket to ride the two lifts on the mountain. It’s not for the principal of having to pay to ride, but more what you’re getting in return for your 34 big ones. In years past, unless you had some kind of “in” with a camp, you were stuck carving down a narrow strip of snow known as the public lane. And with a mountain full of perfectly shaped halfpipes and kickers that you couldn’t touch, it was a hard pill to swallow. After all those year of highway robbery, however, Timberline has started to give back to it’s paying customers. Not only is there a public halfpipe that rivals many of the camps pipes, there is also a park that comes with the one thing the camps don’t have: a chair lift for doing laps. It’s almost like real snowboarding, at least until one thirty when the lifts close and you’re hiking again. With a record amount of snowfall last winter, this is the latest that it’s been possible to ride all the way to the bottom lift. So at least in some ways, the summer of ’99 is already somewhat legendary.
Another first for The Hood this year is a section of Windell’s Snowboard Camp dedicated to the new sport of snow-skating. The snow skate is snowboarding’s answer to ski-boards, only a hell of a lot more fun.
Long-time Mt. Hood local and Oregon resident, Andy Wolf came up with the concept over a year ago when he started the world’s first snowskate company, Premier. Basically the snowskate is a really short, concave snowboard with a steep kick on the nose annd tail. There are no binding, but a gripy rubber-like surface for traction. You’ll probably never see one of these coming down the mountain, as they have no edges. Instead, they’re made strictly to live out street-skating fantasies on the snow. All you need is a little of the white stuff and slight incline–something most kids don’t have to look too far past their backyards or neighborhood parks for. Besides the obvious flat-ground tricks of kickflips and pop-shuvits, the snowskate can adapt to the same obstacles you would find in the street section of your local skatepark. This is exactly what was set-up at the Premier corner of Windell’s with fun-boxes, kinked rails, and wooden launch ramps. Forum’s Jeremy Jones and Nate Bozung were so stoked on the concept that they spent more time on snowskates than their snowboards.