Smooth but crunchy snow, lack of wind, and bright sunshine filtered into a calming blue were conditions combining for an enjoyable opening for Cooper Spur Ski Area.
From Dec. 26, the earliest-in-memory opening day, through Jan. 6 and the end of the winter break from school, folks flocked to Cooper Spur from Hood River and far beyond.
“People are having a great time,” said Operations Supervisor Max Power.
Power is back for his third year, along with an experienced lift crew.
He wears a badge reading “Cooper Commander” — given as a joke from co-workers in lift operations at Meadows, where Power splits his time.
“They give him grief because he also works here,” said Dennis Klein, ski area operations manager. “And they don’t know how good it is.”
Klein calls him “one of the right-hand men.”
“They miss him at Meadows when he comes over here,” he said.
Working both ski areas “makes it interesting, kind of a well-rounded job,” Power said.
With its lodge right at the base of its beginner-accessible slopes, and the resort’s close proximity to Hood River, Cooper Spur is a well-rounded place to find winter fun.
Hood River’s McPherson family — Seth and Caroline, and their daughters, Sarah, 9, and Lily, 4 — were taking a short break from skiing. Sarah is a veteran skier, but this was Lily’s first time on skis, a day made even better thanks to a cup of hot chocolate.
“Cooper is just our speed,” said Caroline, a Georgia native, “and true southerner, second year, I’m still on the rope tow.”
The rope tow entertained a steady stream of beginning skiers who ranged from enthusiastic to nervous about that tried-and-true, but scary-the-first-few-times way of getting up the hill.
Klein said, “We are so lucky. Business is going good, my employees are great.” Klein has 20 on the slopes and six or seven inside the lodge.
“They love it here. It’s easy; well, it’s work, but it’s not shoveling snow all day like at Meadows,” Klein said
The hill was closely mowed before the snow fell, making it easier to take care of the slope now that it is covered with snow, according to Klein.
“It’s a matter of grooming it at the right time,” Klein said. He said that on Dec. 27, “a huge rain shadow” was in place, and while it was pouring in Cascade Locks and Meadows closed due to rain, at Cooper it was “sunny and warm ... We got an inch of rain overnight, but it snowed on top of that, and that layering helps. We take what we get,” Klein said.
“We’re pretty good at managing what we’ve got and figuring out how to take care of it and groom it at the right possible time.”
What do you look for to groom? Klein said, “Just if it’s not too wet.”
Later this season, skiers will be able to go online to get a real-time view of the hill, thanks to a newly-installed webcam mounted on the Cooper Spur lodge.
“The reason I got it is because of the rain shadow,” Klein said.
“People in Portland see it’s raining elsewhere on the mountain and call about conditions, and are told at Cooper it’s clear and sunny, and say, ‘No, that can’t be’ and they can look at the photo.”
The webcam images will be available at cooperspur.com.
The IT team at Mt. Hood Meadows, which owns Cooper Spur, is working on getting it connected “sometime soon,” Ford said.
Asked, “How soon will it be operational?”, Klein replied “That’s correct.”
“How soon will it — “
“That’s correct,” he joked.