Why does it seem like everyone is heading up the mountain these days? Because everyone is! Ok, maybe not everyone… but a lot of people. This year we were spoiled with a home exchange house a few miles from White River snow park, and since then our kids have been pleading with us to go back. Whether you choose to go for sledding, skiing, snowboarding, or just to visit snow, you can pack in a great family day if you plan ahead.
Our Family Trek
We decided to go on a weekday and leave early (7:30 am). We enjoyed breakfast in the car, listened to a few Wow in the World podcasts, and pulled into the parking lot to White River Sno Park before 9:30 am.
We made it up there without any issues and in a responsible amount of time. While the lot was starting to fill up, there were still spots. Geared up and ready to roll, we headed up the main trail. The last time we were here, we walked a decent way up to find a good spot, and we were hoping for this same spot again. As luck would have it, the spot was open. We tried out a new-to-us snowboard, sledded, ate snow, explored the snowy forest, and enjoyed lunch with an amazing view — all before our youngest begged to go home.
We headed back to the car around 12:30, and the place was overflowing. There was so much traffic, the sheriff was blocking cars from entering the parking lot. On a weekday!
Before leaving, I had to use the bathroom, which had a line 20 people deep. While heading back to Portland, the traffic heading up the mountain was dense. We could see that cars were crammed into every snow park, ski resort, and spot near a patch of snow. Our drive home was uneventful.
After all the fun we had, the kids are already talking about going up again. When we go, we will stick to a similar plan. The plan involves a lot of prep the night before including: packing the car, laying out the layers, packing lunch and snacks, making breakfast, and downloading a few podcasts. Additionally, we checked a few things off the list a few days prior: chains for the car, snow gear for the kids and adults, snow park pass, sleds and snowboards.
Of note, rental shops are inundated and stock is low this year. We scored with a beginner snowboard at a consignment shop earlier in the year and another board on Facebook Marketplace. Our snow gear is hand-me-downs from our amazing Buy Nothing Facebook group and local children’s consignment shops. There is a list of great sledding spots from a previous post, 11 Snowy Sledding Destinations Near Portland. Check websites before, heading out as hours and restrictions are constantly changing at many local destinations.
Three Tips: When, What, Wear
When: Early, weekday
What (to bring): food, extra gloves, dry clothes, sleds, chains for the car, snowshoes or crampons (really helpful for us adults walking on icy surfaces), full tank of gas, water, snow park pass, whatever keeps your kid entertained in the car on long drives, wipes, Portland potty, and lots of patience.
Wear: base layer on top and bottom, warm socks, snow boots, mid-layer (fleece works well), waterproof snow jacket and pants, sunglasses or snow goggles, helmet for those sledding, hat, waterproof gloves, masks
It was a beautiful bluebird day when we went and the above suited us well. My mid-layer came off quickly as I broke a sweat helping the kids gear up in the parking lot. My general thinking when heading to snow is it’s easier to cool down than warm up therefore, I tend to overdress and then remove layers as needed. Bringing extra clothes, and fresh gloves are helpful for when the so-called waterproof gloves end up soaked. Warm clothes are nice to change into for the drive home but not always essential unless you have a kiddo who is prone to accidents (that’s a post for another day). The weather can change on a dime up there, being prepared for changing weather can make or break a day on the mountain. Check out other great spots from a previous post, 11 Snowy Sledding Destinations Near Portland.
Be careful when driving; I am hearing about an increase in accidents on the highway leading up to the mountain. If you aren’t comfortable driving in snow and ice, then don’t go. Please only park in designated spots. Parking on the side of the highway is extremely dangerous for all involved, not to mention ticket-worthy. Yes, the mountain is a blast but getting there is not worth a ticket, an accident, or something worse.
Flexibility was essential and a huge dose of patience was vital on this adventure. As always, our family motto of “lower your expectations” served us well.
Have you been up to the mountain this winter? Where is your favorite spot?