Seasonal depression is all too real for us as snowboarders. It hits once school is out, resorts close and weather heats up, and sometimes it hits hard. But there are ways to postpone summertime, and I'm here to tell you how to make it happen on the cheap. Mount Hood is a summer boarding spectacle--a mecca for snowboarders from all over the world to camp, skate, party and explore the great outdoors--and if you play your cards right, it doesn't have to put you into debt.
Mount Hood is a volcano with two resorts on it, and one down the road. In the summer, you'll be riding Timberline, and between May and August, this is the slush capital of the world. By the time the lifts are starting to close, you're pretty much surfing. It can get deep and it takes some getting used to, but it's a choice place to learn new tricks because the snow is generally soft and fun. Wet boots come with the territory, and don't be surprised if the snow starts to feel like quicksand by noon. Boot dryers are a game-changer in this scenario.
Nonetheless, the public park is prime terrain for party boarding. Just hop on the Magic Mile lift and find yourself a multitude of assorted features. They offer small, medium and large lines of well-maintained jumps and a whole slew of creative features lined up in a progressive sequence. There is something for everyone, especially if you start on the small side and snake your way skiers right through the trees to hit the most amount of features possible in one run. The park staff doesn't sleep on their warm-weather duties, and you'll frequently find a digger filling in a chewed up lip or changing a feature. The flow park is on another level, with a halfpipe, jumps, hips, and tons of transition--just be sure to hit it in the morning before the sun drips Elmer's glue all over the mountain.
To take in iconic views, take the Palmer Lift to the top, and if you're feeling it, try the classic Palmer Point--straightline 'til you explode. And don't try to sneak into the High Cascade lane, or face the wrath of the diggers.
The closest major airport to Mt. Hood is PDX, Portland International Airport. Hood is a little over an hour away in a rental car, or if you're connected, in the car of a local homie. Depending on where you live, driving is a convenient and painless alternative. The drive from any state in the West guarantees solid gold scenery, and you'll have a car for easy transportation to and from the mountain.
Timberline Lodge at Mt. Hood offers an unbeatable spring pass deal. Starting in March and operable until the end of May, a spring pass costs $139 and pays for itself in only two days of riding. Springtime at Hood does bring a good deal of rain and snow, so come prepared, but you'll catch lots of other boarders lounging around the parking lot and Government Camp, aka Govy, on the same spring pass program as you. Comparatively, the summer pass is not cheap at a whopping $899.
This is where you have to ask yourself what it's worth to alleviate your heat-induced insanity on a mountain all summer. A day pass in the summer is $71, so if 12 days or less on hill does the trick for you, day passes are more cost-effective than the summer pass option. Hiking has always been an alternative means of getting on the mountain, but like most things that fall into a grey area of legality, it's getting increasingly more difficult. Keep a low profile if you go for it.
Where To Stay
Feed your inner mountain man/woman and keep your wallet happy with some summertime camping. Living out of a tent around Govy is commonplace, with many people taking the Lake Trillium route which comes with the views but does cost some money and fills up quickly. The airstrip is the classic camp spot that's provided summertime snowboard bums with a free place to stay for decades, but its sketchy notoriety is for good reason, so lock your stuff up and avoid stepping near any of the landmines designated with toilet paper that litter the ground outside of each rogue campsite.
But Hood is surrounded by more lakes than Trillium, and if you do some searching there are better options slightly further away. Should you find yourself there during an especially damp patch of weather, or camping isn't for you, rooms at the Best Western in Govy hover around $150 a night. Airbnb vacation rentals are of course another option, and many of the homes between Welches and Govy can be rented at an affordable rate.
To avoid blowing out your budget, buy everything and anything before entering Govy. On your way to Hood from Portland is a town called Sandy, and Fred Meyer or any of the larger stores there are going to be your cheapest options to stock up. Further toward Hood on Highway 26 is a town called Welches, and the Thriftway there is also a satisfactory option with everything you'd expect to find in a medium-sized grocery store. Just avoid Govy General at all costs, and bring a skillet and some propane gas to really keep things cut-rate. Taking a packed lunch or some pocket sammys to the mountain will ensure maximum time riding.
If you're going to eat out, High Mountain Café is the best bet for breakfast in Govy, with legendary bagel sandwiches that will fill you up for a day on the glacier. Pizza at Ratskeller has been approved by multiple East Coasters, so you know it's legit. Charlie's has classic bar food, and some of it's actually pretty good. If you've saved a few dollars with modest housing and transportation decisions at this point, treat yourself to a world-famous huckleberry milkshake at the Huckleberry Inn, open 24 hours a day. And as always, instead of constantly buying water bottles, bring your own and fill them up. It's not only the environmentally sustainable solution but will save you a few dollars for a milkshake.
In Govy, you've got two options: Charlie's and The Rat, the former being the most classic establishment in this tiny town. A trip to Hood is hardly complete without a cool one from this iconic mountain dive. The Rat is not to be forgotten, however, and the good news is there's no need to choose. You can be from one to the other in less than a minute. Both are cheap, and it really depends on the night as to which is the place to be.
But down the hill, in Welches, there are more options. Again, pretty much two. The Skyway is unique and eclectic space, inside and out, home to the best macaroni and cheese you've ever tasted. Their massive outdoor space is a great zone to hang in on a warm night. If it's cool out, just order another drink and huddle closer to the fire pit.
The Shack is a dive bar also located in Welches where you may find yourself singing your heart out in front of a karaoke prompter if you're not careful.
Of course, if you're really looking for exciting nightlife, Portland isn't far and offers just about every hedonistic opportunity imaginable.
Other stuff to do
It goes without saying that Mt. Hood provides one of the world's most remarkable backdrops for exploration. Hikers and wanderers can find solace in the moderate Little Hawaii hike that lands at a swimming hole, while those looking for a more active experience may find it mountain biking at SkiBowl or on any number of surrounding trails. Within the surrounding are a number of lakes that all provide a picturesque place perfect to post up with some man sodas or take a dip. If you have the opportunity to skate Windells, take it.
A trip down the hill to Portland makes for a feasible day trip that can quickly turn into an overnight endeavor before you know it. There's so much to do in Portland it would require another post in itself to explain, but a cup of coffee from Heart Roasters is always a good way to start the day, skating any of the surrounding parks is a good way to fill it, and we're not saying Sassy's is a good way to end it, but don't be surprised if you find yourself there. Two hours in the other direction from Mount Hood is Bend, a utopian town situated on the Deschutes River. Float the river, ride a bike, skateboard, or better yet both, and say hello to our friends at 10 Barrel while you're in town.