The Columbia River Gorge is a hub for kiteboarding, hiking, biking, and boating all summer long, but during the winter, the whole valley turns into an outdoorsman’s dream. Access to the outdoors is around every corner with Sno-Parks all over both Washington and Oregon wilderness and the impressive Mt. Hood looming to the south. Come visit for a weekend and get into nature with these great winter sports.
Downhill Skiing and Snowboarding
You may have heard of a place called Mt. Hood. Let’s be honest, almost everyone knows about the incredible skiing and snowboarding at Mt. Hood. With the stunning 360° view from the top, to some of the best snow your skis will ever touch, Mt. Hood is a skiers paradise. While there is only one mountain, several companies run their own resorts side-by-side, so you need to know which one to buy tickets for.
Cooper Spur: Cooper Spur is the closest access to the mountain from the Hood River side and reminds you more of the ski hills you would see in the 70s than the mega-resorts that you see now. Most of the trails are rated blue and there are only 50 skiable acres from their chairlift making this a great spot for beginners and intermediate skiers wanting a more relaxed skiing experience.
Meadows: When most people think of Mt. Hood, they are thinking of Meadows Ski Area. With 2,150 skiable acres, 6 high-speed quads, and some of the steepest runs on the mountain, this is the spot you want to go to get the ultimate Mt. Hood experience. Because of the popularity of the mountain, it is best to try to adventure out to lifts further away from the base and make a weekday visit if possible.
Timberline: Over two-million skiers and snowboarders visit each year to shred the powder on the mountain. While the base may be sunny, there is almost always a snow cloud at the top meaning there is fresh snow in all corners of this ski area just waiting to be shredded. There is every kind of skiing imaginable at this resort, from a bunny hill to a freestyle terrain park and it even has the longest run on the mountain.
Summit: Summit Ski Area is the second-oldest ski area in the country and is a great spot for beginners. This resort is cheaper than the other options on the mountain and drastically less busy – even on the weekends. The real pull to Summit is the Snow Bunny Snow Play Area. Trust me it’s more exciting than it sounds. You’ll find some of the best tubing on the mountain here and hundreds of kids shrieking with laughter.
Skibowl: Skibowl is known as the ‘steep and cheap’ option for experienced skiers. Passes are less than Timberline and Meadows, but the terrain has an incredible selection of black diamond runs. While the runs are short, the lift lines are quick and you can hit all your favorite runs in one day.
If you want to experience the backcountry of Mt. Hood, then rent a snowmobile or take a tour deep into the woods. Many of Mt. Hood’s best summertime hiking destinations are still available during the winter but you need a vessel to get you there.
If you’ve never been on a snowmobile before, consider taking a tour from Mt. Hood Outfitters where their knowledgeable guides will lead you around the backcountry while you focus on having a great time! If you have your own snowmobiles or are renting from a nearby dealer you can wander through the dozens of Sno-Parks dotted around the mountain.
Nordic Skiing & Snowshoeing
With Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams cradling the Columbia River Gorge, there is no lack of terrain out there just waiting to be explored. Grab a pair of snowshoes or rent some nordic ski gear and head out for a great workout paired with stunning scenery.
On the Washington side of the Gorge lies Oldman Pass, a little-known gem just up the road from Carson. This Sno-Park was made for people looking to venture away from motorized vehicles and into a serene setting as there are no snowmobile-only trails and motorized recreation isn’t allowed on the trails made for on-foot traffic.
To find our other favorite nordic spots, check out our blog post Your Ultimate Guide to Cross-Country Skiing in Washington.
Snowkiting sounds like a made-up word. And it was, a couple of years ago when some extreme snowboarders decided to mix their love of shredding the mountain with their favorite summertime sport of kiteboarding. While there isn’t an outfitter to take you out on excursions (yet) you can try out this radical new sport for yourself by grabbing your snowboard or skis and your kiteboarding kite then heading to a windy flat spot to test out your strength and skill.
No not snowshoeing, hiking. Because the base of the Columbia River Gorge is at such a low elevation, there are years where the ground doesn’t get more than a dusting of snow. You can still explore several of your favorite hikes with fewer crowds and more beauty during the wintertime. The increased rainfall during the winter months allows mosses and ferns to bloom along the cliffsides creating the most stunningly green backdrops in the Gorge, and increases the river levels and waterfall intensity to magnificent scenes. Toss on a raincoat and head out for a hike in this year-round paradise.
Winter is one of the best times to get out and explore the Columbia River Gorge! Whether you want to steer a snowmobile around the backcountry wilderness, ski to the summit of mountain passes, or shred the thousands of skiable acres on Mt. Hood, the Columbia River Gorge has more than enough terrain to keep you busy. After a long day of braving the wilderness, come back to Carson Ridge Luxury Cabins to warm up in your comfortable and cozy cabin.
Planning a trip to the Columbia River Gorge? Book a stay at the Carson Ridge Luxury Cabins, our upscale B&B in Carson, Washington offering romantic cabins and gorgeous mountain views to make your getaway an unforgettable experience.