Mt. Hood Meadows, the largest ski resort on Mount Hood, celebrated its half-century milestone Jan. 25 with a gala at Pure Space in Portland, attended by about 400 people.
From the mid-winter event, every attendee took home a red flowering currant seedling, a plant native to Mount Hood, as a symbol of the resort’s endurance.
“Tonight, we celebrate together 50 years of continuous operations at Mt. Hood Meadows, which officially commenced Jan. 27, 1968,” said CEO Matthew Drake. To begin, his father, Franklin Drake, constructed a lodge, parking lot, maintenance facility and two fixed grip lifts and a T-Bar. Meadows and the Cooper Spur Ski Area are operated under Special Use Permits issued and managed by the United States Forest Service.
“We thank the U.S. Forest Service for trying the best they can to be a good partner and landlord,” Drake said.
He noted that the resort’s opening in January 1968 came at a time when American society was torn by war and, later that year, the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and then Robert F. Kennedy.
“During this tumultuous period, Oregonians sought a safe and fun place to recreate, a place to restore their shaken spirits and re-establish their emotional and physical equilibrium. Mt. Hood Meadows quickly became a special sanctuary for recovery and restoration for many Oregonians. Fifty years later, we remain a special Oregon place for rejuvenation of the human spirit,” he said.
Travel Oregon Executive Director Todd Davidson read the proclamation by Gov. Kate Brown declaring January as “Mt. Hood Meadows 50th Anniversary Month.”
The proclamation states, in part, “Mt. Hood Meadows has hosted millions of skiers, snowboarders and winters sports enthusiasts, engaged in environmentally, ecologically and economically sustainable recreation; and provided employment to thousands of Oregonians and has been a significant economic contributor to Oregon’s economy for half a century; and has been owned and operated by Oregonians for the education, enjoyment and enrichment of generations of outdoor recreation enthusiasts.”
“Mount Hood is an icon for the state of Oregon. We have built a reputation as a resort I consider one of the best in the West. It’s been a good run,” said Franklin Drake said in a “My Mountain Home” video series previewed at the event. He and his wife, Harriet, founded Meadows in 1968.
Also featured in the videos was Hood River’s Elle Truax, now a collegiate racer, who said, “I’ve lived here since the third grade, (and) for me it’s the place where I’ve grown up. I grew up racing here, and it is great to have the variety of runs. It pretty much taught me everything I know, and has been a super-cool place to grow up. I see Meadows as my mountain home because it’s so close to Hood River, so easy and so many activities to come up here, whether it’s summer or winter. Coming up here and being myself and doing every single thing I like to do outside is really cool. One of my favorite memories was when I learned how to ski, and I felt a sense of vertigo — it was totally white, but I found myself not even caring and just skiing down. There was nothing in my way, just a blanket of whiteness.”
Hood River’s Jeanne Stevens Farwig has been a skier since age 5, and a certified instructor for 50 years, “almost as long as the National Ski association has certified,” she said in her video. She moved from the east with her husband, Rene, who founded a ski school that now has hundreds of students. She recalled, “The first few days I was here I never saw the top of the mountain because it was all fogged in, and on the fourth day, sun came out and I’ve been in love with that mountain ever since.”
Farwig said, “Meadows is special because it has every kind of skiing you can imagine. I have friends here, I know I every part of the mountain. it’s always a challenge. It’s a thrill to be there.”
Drake introduced Meadows Board members Kelly Ritz, Carl Fuller and Jake Bolland, who is chief operations officer, and staff members Dave Tragethon, Katie Kadlub, Heidi Logosz, and Greg and Rachel Leo.
Bolland read the litany of employees who have worked 20 or more years for the company, culminating in the “Queen of the Mountain” honor presented to Farwig, with 50 years’ tenure.
Drake opened his talk by showing a photo from the 1970s with his sisters Andrea and Amy.
“My family has been involved with this company pretty much since day one. I am really appreciative of their support and assistance with the businesses and caring for our parents.
“It is appropriate that we start this evening’s proceedings by thanking the Creator for the magnificent world in which we live and work,” he said, introducing Ron Suppah, Council Member of the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs, who would deliver a prayer of thanks.
“With pride we acknowledge that we have been neighbors and friends with the Confederated Tribes of the Warms Springs for 50 years. Most importantly, we are mindful stewards of their lands on Mount Hood, an honor and significant responsibility on which we place foremost priority. We are grateful for, and humbled by, the patient teachings the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs have provided us regarding the resourceful management of these lands for long term environmental, spiritual, ecological, cultural and economic sustainability.
“Our celebration of the past 50 years is not just this evening, but this entire season. A broad series of special events at Meadows and Cooper Spur Mountain Resort have been designed to offer our most sincere appreciation to our team members, guests, shareholders, partners, and to all of those who have contributed selflessly to the success of Mt. Hood Meadows.”
Drake said, “Created over a half million years ago, the volcano known as Wy’east and later Mount Hood has been our state’s icon well before Oregon became a state in 1859. This timeless and noble mountain helps define us as Oregonians. Our strength of character and our many freedoms are manifest in the regal majesty of Mount Hood.
“Mt. Hood Meadows and Cooper Spur Mountain Resort have become special places for Oregonians and, increasingly, visitors from afar. We have grown over 50 years from serving 16,000 guests in 1968 to more than 400,000 guests in 2018.
“Our humble company has been sculpted from the skill, labor and resourcefulness of many talented and dedicated Team members. Over the years, Mt. Hood Meadows and its people have become as much of the fabric of the communities we serve as the very values that define them. Not coincidentally, these are the same indelible values, embraced by the early pioneers of our company. Our core values define our culture to this day: Passion, service, sustainability, integrity and wellness.
“To the intrepid Members of Mt. Hood Meadows Oregon, LLC, our shareholders, we cannot thank you enough for your vision, persistence and patience. Through good years and bad, your belief in our core values, strategies and tactics and, most importantly, in our team has been and continues to be essential to our sustainability. The Meadows team is, at the same time, honored and humbled by your trust in our ability to fulfill your vision for this company. We understand that Meadows represents more than a financial investment for you. We are aligned with your goals to remain a sustainable, independent, family owned and operated organization focused on meeting the explosive year around recreation demands of a growing population.”
Drake described Mt. Hood Meadows and Cooper Spur Mountain Resort as “independent alpine villages” with their own water treatment and storm water management systems, redundant power systems, information technology and communications systems, waste handling systems, lifts, buildings, medical clinic, childcare, M105 recoiless rifle for avalanche control, parking lots, grooming and bus fleet, seven restaurants and as many terrain parks, operating procedures, staff training and wellness courses and so on.
“These essential elements are, however, of little practical value without our highly skilled and dedicated team members,” he said.
“This entire season, and particularly tonight, is dedicated to recognizing the tremendous accomplishments of our team members, past and present, and bestowing them with gratitude from our guests, owners, partners, vendors, consultants and constituents. Without you, and all that you have contributed to Mt. Hood Meadows and Cooper Spur Mountain Resort, we would not be the unique ‘Mountain Home’ to so many in our community.
“Our passionate and loyal guests, some of whom are in this room and measure their awesome experiences at Mt. Hood Meadows in decades, are the central focus of our service model. Your consistent participation, feedback, and unflagging support provides us with a strong sense of purpose and motivates us to continually improve. We are honored and profoundly grateful to be your mountain home!
“Meadows and the Cooper Spur Ski Area are operated under Special Use Permits issued and managed by the United States Forest Service. We thank the U.S. Forest Service for trying the best they can to be a good partner and landlord.”