News staff writer

April 19, 2006

Six months ago, Mount Hood’s loyal riders were hoping, wishing, praying for snow and for a good, ample white winter.

Some were in full swing by the end of October, with their dances to the winter-weather Gods, while others waited skeptically to see if it would be another wash-out year like 2004-05. The dancers gambled and took advantage of early season pass discounts, while the skeptics hesitated, using last year as an excuse for the cliché not to count chickens before they hatched.

But confident or skeptical, the local snow-loving community waited to embrace another Oregon winter, hopeful that the white substance from the sky would fall all winter long.

By the time winter officially ended on March 19, those who frequented Mount Hood’s slopes had perma-pink cheeks and weathered faces, toned thighs, sore backs and enough powder shots to give even the most devout snow addicts their fixes for the season.

It seems, however, winter forgot to check the calendar.

As any Northwest local can attest — skier/snowboarder or not — the joy of spring can be beyond description after a long, cold and wet winter. And, as any skier/snowboarder can attest, after a winter like the one that just passed, some of the best turns of the year are those in a T-shirt and sunglasses, on slushy, sun-softened snow. Spring skiing is payment to the hard-core enthusiasts who endured the coldest, gnarliest and most brutal conditions the 11,239 foot mountain can dish out.

It offers a sense of relief, a sense of accomplishment that says yes, we’ve made it. We’ve made it through another one.

But that sense of relief has, for the most part, been delayed on Mount Hood. Almost another foot of snow fell on the mountain over the weekend, adding to the current annual snowfall total of over 550 inches at about 5,000 feet. Saturday’s conditions were as wickedly nasty as any mid-season storm dished out in the last six months, inspiring many of the same former snow-hopeful locals to beg the question: “When is it going to end?”

With an original closing day of mid-April, and an extended date of April 30 at Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Resort, it seemed for a while that spring riding would be the wash-out of the season. But the season has been extended into May, and possibly June, at the local resort with a never-before campaign resort officials have dubbed the May Challenge.

The May Challenge

After a considerable amount of feedback about Meadows extending its season beyond April 30, the resort launched a campaign to challenge users to decide how long the lifts will run into the spring.

Here’s the deal: After Sunday, April 30, Meadows will close for weekdays. They will open the following Saturday with the start of the May Challenge. For each weekend the resort hosts a minimum of 4,000 guests, they will open the following weekend. If the total number of visitors drops below 4,000 on any weekend, that will be the end of the season at Meadows.

Season pass holders will count toward the total. The number of guests will be determined by a car count, with each car multiplied by 2.5 as the average number of guests per vehicle.

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