Snow, but no skiers at Mt. Hood Meadows


News staff writer

November 18, 2006

Snow is falling on the mountain and shiny new skis and equipment sit on the shelves.

The ski season opened on Thursday, but you wouldn’t know it in Hood River, a town that is typically bustling for opening day at Mt. Hood Meadows resort.

Mother Nature threw a wrench in the works last week in the form of hundred-pound boulders and tons of debris, when large portions of Highway 35 were wiped out from flooding.

That in turn has wiped out early season profits for ski shops and retailers that typically see a cash flow from skiers headed to the mountain.

Doug’s Sports has not rented out a single pair of skis yet this season. Typically the store sees about 15 percent of its rental stock taken on opening weekend, according to ski shop tech Seth Metteer.

However, they have seen a steady flow of skis to be waxed and repaired as locals hope for a speedy repair to the highway.

Downstairs, a few people browse through the shelves, which Mike Hay called typical for a Thursday. The main difference between this Thursday though and any other Thursday was that not very many people where being much of anything on opening weekend for ski season.

“Usually there is a lot less product sitting on the shelves,” Hay said, gesturing to the racks of skis and gears waiting to be purchased.

Hay said that Doug’s is down 30-40 percent in sales from its usual numbers this time of the year and hopes that the slump does not last too long. “We could be talking losses of 20-30 thousand dollars,” he said.

Doug’s is not the only part of the area suffering. Mt. Hood Meadows hires around a thousand seasonal workers, many from Hood River County, many of whom are idle until the resort opens. Hood River itself counts on tourist dollars from snow enthusiasts getting ready to head to Mount Hood.

Dave Riley, the President and general manager of Mt. Hood Meadows has been running a blog to give updates to skiers hungry for news.

The blog allows him an easy way to communicate with customers, and gives them a quick way to get in touch with him.

While there have been a few posts that have expressed unhappiness with the resort’s unwillingness to offer season pass holders refunds, much of the response has been positive.

“Thanks for the update and all the pictures. You and your staff are in a tough situation and I appreciate that you are doing the best you can with the hand Mother Nature has dealt. Keep up the good work and send along our praise and appreciation to the road crews,” one poster said.

While the powder at Mount Hood goes unused, Timberline’s opening went off without a hitch. The resort, which is offering Mt. Hood Meadows season pass holders 20 percent off a “5 punch” pass, had about a thousand skiers on the slopes for opening day, according to spokesman Jon Tullis.

“We’re offering whatever help we can for whatever the situation warrants,” Tullis said of the situation at Mt. Hood Meadows. “We're empathetic about that whole situation and we want see that road open as soon as possible.”

In order to get the discount at Timberline, Mt. Hood Meadows season pass holders must present their Meadows picture season pass and another form of picture identification.

While skiers hit the slopes at Timberline and ODOT crews work feverishly to get Highway 35 repaired, Hood River area skiers can only wait and hope.

Hay said their has been “basically no interest” in rental gear or to purchase new gear at Doug’s, and he does not foresee an improvement until Mt. Hood Meadows reopens.

“Hopefully that road opens soon,” Hay said.

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