A decade ago, Community Education director Mike Schend learned a lesson about Christmas Break.
Hoping to entertain both children and parents during the vacation, he drew up a full slate of 30 classes.
Twenty-eight were canceled due to low enrollment.
"I've found that people are just doing other things during the holidays," said Schend.
No doubt August Jackson would have agreed with him, as he glided down Cooper Spur in an inner tube Thursday.
Jackson, 12, came up from Hood River to enjoy the mountain snow on a crisp, clear afternoon during a winter vacation that was definitely lacking in structure. Not that he was complaining.
"I don't have much planned for the rest of the break," he said with a smile. "Just hanging out. Earlier I went shopping for my parents' Christmas presents and a skateboard, but that's about all."
The mountain was a popular destination for children this week, many of whom were taking advantage of the ski camps offered by Mt. Hood Meadows and Cooper Spur. The half- and full-day camps for ages 4-12 range from $30 to $75 and include instruction, equipment and lift access. Snowboarding camps are also available for ages 7-12.
Caley Melton, 11, was at Cooper Spur with her sister and mother, taking part in the first of five days of ski camp.
"I usually go to Meadows, but this is fun too," said Melton. "I like going fast."
For more practiced snow enthusiasts, all-access passes allow users to switch between snowboards, skis and inner tubes as they please.
"Now that school's out, people want something to do with their kids," said Dave Tragethon, marketing director for Mt. Hood Meadows. "The reward factor is very high for an outing at the mountain. The whole family is involved in playtime, and people get a great experience rolling around and romping in the snow. It's not just family play, it's family growth."
It wasn't just Hood River Valley children who were enjoying the snow -- Josh and Jordan Hayworth, both 9, were up from Salem for the day to do some snowboarding. Their visit was understandable, considering the current climate.
"This isn't to exaggerate, but conditions are incomparable," said Tragethon, pointing out that over 100 inches of snow fell by mid-December, a mark that wasn't reached until April last year. "Conditions are akin to Utah and the central Rockies, and skiers and boarders are coming out in record numbers."
For families who don't want to venture all the way up the mountain, the Hood River Valley Ranger Station reported that the Teacup trail is well-groomed for cross-country skiing and snowmobiling, and that lots of visitors are taking advantage of plentiful snow at Little John. The Station also urged caution to sledders and inner tubers in the wake of recent accidents.
Not to be left out, Community Education is offering children opportunities to enjoy the snow. Though Schend recognized that interest in programs generally wanes during Christmas Vacation, there are classes that remain popular throughout January and February, especially if they fall on a three-day weekend.
One such program is a trip to Mt. Hood Ski Bowl on Jan. 25. After they are bussed up for the day, students can inner tube on 10 different tracks and then warm up inside a play structure. On Jan. 21, there will be a trip to Skateworld in Portland, and on Feb. 25 students can travel to Clackamas Town Center for an ice skating party and lessons.
Schend also touted indoor rock climbing classes in February, one day seminars on computer network gaming and LAN parties offered Jan. 12 and Jan. 26, and a host of art classes.
Parents with preschool-aged children can still attend Hood River County Library's Storytime with librarian Jayne Guidinger each Wednesday at a new time of 10:30 a.m. that has been in effect since September.
"We were getting 20 to 30 kids in October, but there's a temporary lull right now," said Guidinger, noticing the same trend as Schend. "I think it's partially because of the holidays. Cycles also seem to be based on when people are having babies."
Hood River Valley Parks and Recreation is offering an outdoor Holiday Adventure Camp Jan. 4-6. Students will learn orienteering, go snowshoeing, build snow shelters and ski at Cooper Spur. Cost for the three full days camp is $135, including equipment.
During Christmas Vacation the Hood River Pool offers extended open swim hours from 12:30 to 5:30 p.m. to all students for only $1 admission.
A babysitting clinic for grades 6-8 will be Jan. 15-17 at Hood River Middle from 3-5 p.m., and Jan. 29-31 at Wy'east Middle School from 3:25-5:15 p.m. The $5 cost covers instruction on the basics of child care.
"Students learn to change diapers, fix healthy snacks, and other skills," said Billie Stevens of the OSU Extension Service. "Guests from the Health Department and parents talk about what they are looking for in a babysitter, and the kids get a certificate when they're done."
She also stressed that it wasn't too early to start thinking about 4-H activities, and noted that various groups would begin to meet during the next month. Stevens also hopes to start photography and art clubs, and mentioned that there is room in various clothing and livestock clubs.
4-H will also host a Conversation on Youth Development at Valley Christian Church from 6:30-9 p.m. on Jan. 10. Youths, parents and other interested parties will gather to discuss steps that can impact youth development both locally and across the nation. The recommendations will be passed on in both state and national Conversations. For more information, call the Extension Service at 386-3343.