If you want to have winter fun but you’re not into downhill skiing or boarding, this week’s Grant’s Getaway is marked by ease and simplicity – plus, it’s perfect for youngsters and those young at heart.
On a sunlit day without a cloud in the sky, the crowds at Ski Bowl East near Mt Hood were eager for action on the groomed tubing hill.
Ski Bowl Manager, Sean Maloy, noted with a smile, “It’s more fun than any one person deserves, so they usually bring lots of friends!”
Judging by the line-up of enthusiastic visitors, Maloy seemed to be right! Winter tubing has become popular recreation at Ski Bowl and other snow park sites around Mt Hood.
In fact, Ski Bowl draws as many tubing enthusiasts as skiers to the nearby slopes.
“Snow play has taken off,” said Maloy. “You don’t need lessons or pieces of sophisticated equipment to ride a tube. You just come out and have fun and now the secret’s out!”
At Ski Bowl East, you not only ride a comfy cushioned seat atop a vinyl-wrapped inner tube, complete with handles and a towrope, but you can enjoy an easy tow up the hill or try the new escalator style, stand-up ride back to the top.
“Helps take the trudging out of tubing,” noted Troy Fisher, Ski Bowl Operations Manager.
“From small kids up to adults, tubing is a good family oriented activity where everyone can hang out, socialize and spend the day together.”
At the nearby snow park hillside “Snow Bunny,” (managed by the Summit Ski Area,) you will find less grooming and a rental shack where you pick up an old fashioned inner tire tube.
It’s a great place for large groups,” added Fisher. “They have their own space and it is more affordable. We get a lot of church groups that come out to Snow Bunny and play all day long.”
If you wish to “free lance” and find a hill to call your own in the Mt Hood Forest, be cautious of the site you choose. Hillsides are usually heavily wooded and not groomed at all.
One exception is the Littlejohn Sno-Park in the Mt Hood National Forest that’s located along Highway 35 less than 10 miles from Government Camp.
Adjacent to the parking lot look for a ‘sled at your own risk’ sign that marks important rules should you choose to slide down the site’s steep slope.
Right now there’s not much to worry about on that score because there’s no snow. That could change in a heartbeat! After all, it is a ‘La Nina’ winter and heavy snowfall is long over due. So check conditions before you go.
Climb Highway 35 back up to White River West Sno-Park and enjoy a spacious and popular play area.
It’s a great site for snow play and it is where Devan Schwartz, a guide with “Adventures Without Limits”, brings newcomers for a hike along the eastern approach to Mt Hood.
“It’s one of the more popular destinations and just a few miles past Government Camp,” noted Schwartz. “Everything from inner tubing to snow shoeing to backcountry skiing happens up this way.”
You’ll also find plenty of elbowroom and a stunning view to the mountain that makes the snowshoe effort so worth your time. And that is the point – get out there and explore the Mt Hood National Forest in winter.
“When we get fresh snow – and we will,” added Ski Bowl’s Troy Fisher. “It’s a good getaway and feels a world away.”
A Sno-Park Permit is required in most snow play areas. The money from the sale of the permits offsets the cost of snow removal along roadways and parking areas.
Something else to keep in mind: Winter is “weather fickle!” and the snow level can rise and falls thousands of feet each week, so check snow conditions and the weather forecast before you head for the hills.