It’s hard to look at that beautiful white-capped mountain in the distance as I drive east these days and not think about winter fun. Just over an hour away lies the snowy adventure of skiing on Mt. Hood.
I did some snowboarding in my 20’s but largely abandoned the snow during the baby years. After moving to Portland from Chicago, my daughter missed the snow so it seemed only natural to teach our kids to ski. I decided to leave my board and learn to ski with them. We set out to figure out lessons, rentals, and lodges on the beautiful mountain in the distance, and in one trip we went to three resorts, took lessons, and ate at the lodges. Now my family loves to ski on Mt. Hood and we’ve continued to explore other slopes since that initial trip. Here are five places to take your kids (or yourself) for skiing lessons near Portland.
Overview: The closest resort to Portland, Skibowl feels best suited for those who have prior skiing experience and are there for the slopes, not the amenities.
Lessons: We ended up taking two lessons from the Olympic Ski School at Skibowl. The first day they had about ten people with a single instructor. The ages ranged from early elementary to a couple in their 50’s. Unfortunately, the conveyor lift was broken and we didn’t get much out of the lesson. They did make it right by offering everyone an additional lesson the following day which we took advantage of. The second lesson was great and I became the self-proclaimed queen of the rope tow. My kids left ready to jump on a lift.
Food: We have eaten here a few times out of necessity, but I’m sorry to say the service is slow and the food poor quality. The beer selection is pretty good, but Skibowl doesn’t have a great apres ski vibe (fun things to do after you ski).
Cons: Rope tow on the beginner’s hill, which requires some learning of its own.
Overview: Iconic Timberline Lodge has beautiful views and plenty of green and blue runs for learning skiers.
Lessons: Our oldest daughter had never skied before and took a private lesson. Her instructor was skilled and patient but also really pushed her. She left able to take the beginner lift and go down a green run.
Food: Timberline offers the usual overpriced grab-and-go fare at Wy’East Cafe. For those willing to take a longer break, there are other high-quality dining options in the main lodge. According to their website, kids eleven and under eat free in the first hour of dinner service in the Cascade Dining room (with an adult purchase).
Pros: The views, beginner chairlift, snowshoe track for non-skiers, and the best apres ski vibe we’ve found on Hood.
Cons: A short ski day (lifts run only 9-4).
Warning: Don’t forget your sunscreen! We have nursed two sunburns in our house from failure to use sunscreen at Timberline during spring skiing.
Mt. Hood Meadows
Overview: Mt Hood Meadows has something for everyone from a great beginner’s hill to plenty of advanced runs for the more experienced skiers in the family.
Lessons: My kids and I took beginner lessons and my husband took an advanced one at the same time. The instructors were fantastic and kept the groups small for plenty of personal attention. The ballroom carpet area has well groomed “runs” that are sloped to help link your turns naturally.
Food: There are grab-and-go options here, but I thought the service was fast enough at Alpenstube to warrant sitting down for a good meal. The food was tasty and not too overpriced.
Pros: Nice ski shop, very skilled instructors, beginner’s magic carpet and beginner lift, and decent food value.
Cons: A further drive from Portland, and the Alpenstube closes when the lifts close so there are no apres options.
Although Meadows offers Nordic Skiing, just up the road is Teacup. For a fraction of the price, you can enjoy well-groomed tracks of varying difficulty. There is a small lodge, but no food sales or rentals here. We rented our skis at the Mountain Shop before we left town.
If you’re heading to central Oregon, the small resort HooDoo in the Santiam Pass on the way is a gem! They have a bunny hill lift that offers lots of practice loading and offloading. The rental process is also easy and it’s not as crowded as the resorts on Mt. Hood.