Outdoor Report: Area Snow Sports Opportunities, Openings
If the recent fluke snow day in Corvallis was any indication of upcoming weather, it’s a good idea to start planning for chillier excursions in the near future. With winter sports like snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, snowboarding, and sledding available just a couple of hours’ drive time from Corvallis, it’s good to have a short-list of destinations to keep an eye out as the forecast calls for colder weather and precipitation.
For downhill skiers and snowboarders looking forward to lift days, Timberline Lodge at Mt. Hood recently opened for business on November 11; Mt. Bachelor typically opens for business Thanksgiving week; and Willamette Pass Resort shows that same week as its earliest possible opening window. Hoodoo recently hosted a job fair November 13, and their webcams show some snow on the ground, but like other resorts, the volume of available snow is the ultimate arbiter of opening day.
If you’re more interested in blazing your own trail on snowshoes or cross-country skis, a wealth of Sno-Parks can be found along Highway 20 toward Hoodoo. One popular snowshoeing and cross-country skiing loop departs from the Maxwell Butte trailhead at the Maxwell Sno-Park about two hours from Corvallis. The 6.9-mile loop features gentle climbs, rewarding vistas of Three-Fingered Jack, and a snow shelter that makes for a great lunch spot. Just across Highway 20, Ray Benson Sno-Park also makes an excellent destination for beginners looking to try their hand at snowshoeing, while nearby Potato Hill offers cross-country skiers a place to make fresh tracks.
One commonly-recommended area that might be best to avoid after heavy snowfall is our own Marys Peak. Though the day-use area offers access to opportunities for sledding, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing, the road is not maintained for winter travel. It’s not uncommon to see drivers in ill-equipped vehicles struggling to make their way to the top or stuck on the side of the road. For folks with capable off-roading vehicles, the trip may be worth your time, though you run the risk of delays caused by the aforementioned under-prepared drivers.
Lastly, before heading out to any of the areas listed above, it’s best practice to check the forecast and road conditions to ensure safe travel, and to call ahead when possible to determine if your chosen destination is open and accessible. Recent trip reports from other outdoors enthusiasts on apps like All-Trails also offer insights into what kind of conditions you might expect. Additionally, be sure to pick up a Sno-Park permit for parking access before heading out. One-day, three-day, and annual passes are available for purchase at OSU and Peak Sports Outdoor Store, and annual passes can also be purchased through the Oregon DMV website.
By Matt Gomez, a bicycling enthusiast and sometimes outdoors writer who works locally for Peak Sports