Taking Kids Skiing and Snowboarding at Mt. Hood

Taking Kids Skiing and Snowboarding at Mt. Hood sounds like a great time for most folks. The trouble lies in all the logistics that can sometimes be part of the trip. In this guide, I will walk you through everything. I will discuss everything from your first research of where to go to the drive home.

Taking Kids Skiing and Snowboarding at Mt. Hood
Good Times!!

How Do I Take My Kids Skiing or Snowboarding on Mt. Hood?

Start by mapping out your best driving route there. Then make a plan for anything you need to rent or book such as equipment, lessons, lift tickets, or lodging. Finally, make one last check of weather and road conditions. Then load up the car and blast off for a great adventure with your kids.

One of the beauties of taking kids skiing and snowboarding at Mt. Hood is that it is only about 60 miles from the Portland metropolitan area to the town of Government Camp. When you arrive here you will find two different ski areas to choose from. If you are willing to drive a little farther you’ll find three more resorts.

What Often Stops Parents From Going?


There can be several factors that stop people from making a trip to go skiing or boarding in Mt. Hood:

  • They have never skied or boarded before or their kids have not (or both)
  • Parents do not have any gear for themselves or their kids
  • Folks worry about winter driving condtions
  • A worry there is nowhere to go for beginers
  • Some worry kids will get lost while they are skiing or boarding

While these are all valid concerns, I have options to help mitigate some of those fears. With just a little bit of planning, making a trip to go skiing or boarding in Mt. Hood cannot only be fun it can be quite easy to pull off.

Where Do I Start in My Planning for Taking Kids Skiing and Snowboarding at Mt. Hood?

If you and/or your kids have never been on the snow before I cannot recommend Summit Pass highly enough. This hill provides one slow-moving chair lift and very gentle terrain that makes a great place to learn. Because of this, you will find this hill packed with people just like you. They are either just starting out or are novices on the snow.

This location offers a base area with a small restaurant and patio. This is a perfect place to watch your kids. They will take their first lesson just a few feet away in the ski school area. What is even better is that since there is only one chair lift, all the runs end up there. As such, there is virtually no chance your kids can get lost on the mountain.

Another Good Choice is SkiBowl

Another option would be to head to Ski Bowl. They have a small conveyor belt that you can step onto to get up the hill. You stay on your board or your skis while you do this. When you do your learning there it is right at the entrance to the mountain. The top of the “bunny” hill here is right next to the parking lot. This is also where the ski school office is.

Again there is a small restaurant right adjacent to this area. This is a great place to sit and watch kids take their first lesson. The other benefit of heading here is that they have a much bigger parking lot than Summit Pass. If you are going on a weekend or a holiday parking is going to be an issue no matter what. Moral of the story-leave early!!

What About All the Gear We Will Need?

If your kids are first-timers you most likely also don’t have any gear for them. While you can certainly rent at the mountain when taking kids skiing and snowboarding at Mt. Hood, chances are this is going to be more expensive and can also be a little more chaotic. The flip side is that both of the locations I mention offer packages that include lessons and equipment. This tends to make the prices more reasonable. If I had to make a suggestion I would say that you rent on the way to the slopes. Do this in a town like Sandy, Oregon that offers a couple of options for rentals that will generally cost less and be less chaotic. That way when you arrive at the ski area you are ready to go straight to your lesson.

The only other variable is if you plan to stay the night. Another is if you plan on going to one of the bigger ski areas. We will cover that in more detail below.

Plan Your Route

The real “choice” of your route for taking kids skiing and snowboarding at Mt. Hood probably boils down to what part of the Portland metro area you are departing from. I live in the West Hills and I like to take the route that uses Highways 224 and 212 before meeting up with Highway 26. The other option is to head up Interstate 5 and then take Interstate 84 to the east before heading south down to Highway 26.

When there is no traffic both of these routes will take around 1:15 to 1:30 to make the trip. I prefer the route that does not use Interstate 84. I do this because there tends to be less congestion and there’s just more to see. If you are starting out from anywhere that is not south of Portland, take Interstate 84. This will be much easier for you.

I have heard of people that will take interstate 84 east of Mt. Hood and then head south on the Mount Hood Highway (35). To me, this just tends to make your drive much longer. That is especially true if you are going to the resorts near Government Camp.

What Else Besides the Route You Choose?

It never hurts to pack some snacks and drinks plus some entertainment for the kids for any trip. That is just as true before taking kids skiing and snowboarding at Mt. Hood. Don’t worry if you forget because there are plenty of places you can stop along the way. There are plenty of options for food and drinks as well as bathroom breaks.

One of the really great things about traveling to Mt. Hood is the road conditions. You most likely will not encounter any snowy or icy roads for most of the trip. When you are almost at the resort you may see some but that is only for a couple of miles. I have had occasion to drive 10 or 20 miles on snowy roads getting there. If that is a deterrent for you, skip that day and pick another. Most days icy and snowy roads are not an issue.

Is There Going To Be Snow and Ice on the Road?

You should always be prepared for winter driving conditions. Roads are generally well plowed in this area. Even if you’re not all that familiar with driving in winter conditions this is a pretty mild trip. It is always a great idea to check out Trip Check before you head out. They offer WebCams at quite a few locations along the route. This lets you see what the roads and traffic conditions look like.

Anywhere you park when you go skiing or boarding is going to require a Sno-Park Permit. You can get these online or at merchants along the route.

Equipment

If you or your kids have never been boarding or skiing before you probably do not have any equipment. If that is the case you can rent equipment somewhere in the Portland area. You can also rent somewhere on the way. A final choice is to rent when you get to the mountain. All of these choices are vialbe when you are planning on taking kids skiing and snowboarding at Mt. Hood.

Renting skiing or snowboarding equipment
Not fans of renting!!

My kids are eight and seven years old so I rent for them just because there seems to be no point in buying since they will keep outgrowing it pretty quickly. I do rent equipment in town because last fall I did year-long rentals for them. The cost was $150 per child and they get to keep the equipment until May 1. This choice provided them each with boots and a snowboard. If you are not sure your kids are going to enjoy snowboarding this is probably not a good choice but if they get hooked rather quickly this is a great option. I did my year-long rental at Evo in downtown Portland.

Renting Enroute

If you want to rent along the way, Sandy is a great town to do this. They offer a couple of options to choose from. I have rented at Meadowlark Ski and Snowboard in the past and the process could not have been easier. They even let you reserve a time that you can come in and rent. There are a couple of other options in Sandy. The great thing about all of them is that they are right on Highway 26. Because of that, you will find them quite easily on the trip up.

At The Mountain

The final choice is to rent at the mountain. The only downside of this is that it can be a little bit chaotic, especially on weekends. The first time I took my kids snowboarding I got them a lesson. I also got them equipment as part of a package at Skibowl.

Getting the equipment took a little longer than it probably would have somewhere else. That said, the entire process was pretty painless. If you are going this route make sure you plan on arriving at least 60 minutes before your lesson time. Then you can find a place to park, get checked in with the ski school, and get your gear. Summit Pass offers similar packages as well.

Stuff You Need to Buy

One place that you’ll have to shell out some money buying something before taking kids skiing and snowboarding at Mt. Hood is probably with the clothing they are going to wear. Most rental places will allow you to rent a helmet for them. For socks, pants, jackets, and gloves those are going to be up to you.

There are online places that will let you rent this kind of stuff. For me, you are probably better served to buy them this equipment. That is because it is stuff that they can probably use when they do other outdoor winter activities.

What You Really Need

The fact of the matter is most days that you go to Mt. Hood the temperature will be in the 30s. Kids don’t really need to be bundled up all that much on days like this. This is because they are going to be quite active while they are there. The one important thing to remember is to make sure that everything you buy is waterproof. They will spend a lot of time sitting/falling in the snow. Nothing is going to end your day quicker than wet and cold kids!!

Lift Tickets and Lodging

Mt. Hood Lift Ticket Costs
Ouch!

There is no doubt that going skiing or boarding can give parents a little bit of sticker shock and this is probably best exemplified by the cost of lift tickets. For example, on weekends an adult lift ticket at Skibowl is going to run you around $85 and even a kids ticket is probably going to cost you near $60. If someday in the future you plan on heading to some of the larger resorts such as Timberline or Meadows you are then looking at adult tickets that cost in excess of $100.

I again come back to the idea of taking your kids to Summit Pass. You can get lift tickets here for about half the price that you will get them at SkiBowl. They are about 1/3 of the price you will pay at the large resorts.

Staying Overnight

Since all of the resorts on Mt. Hood are so close to Portland most people tend to just make a day trip there. In all the times I’ve been there I’ve only stayed overnight one time. We stayed at the Best Western which is in the western part of the town of Government Camp.

You cannot beat the location because it is close to both Ski Bowl and Summit Pass. It is also just down the road from the center of the town. Here you will find plenty of activities for the whole family. The hotel was very clean and the staff was very friendly plus there was plenty of parking.

If you prefer something a little more upscale there are plenty of condo rentals available. One choice is utilizing something like Vrbo or AirBNB. Just be advised that finding places to stay in Government Camp can be difficult. This is especially true on weekends. You will often find that searches will yield results that are somewhere down the mountain in towns like Welches.

How Do I Keep Track Of My Kids On The Mountain?

Well, the easy way is to learn to ski or board yourself (if you do not know already)!! Even with that, there may come a day when your kids are better than you. They will then want to take off on their own. This is not so much of a problem at Ski Bowl or Summit Pass. They are relatively small resorts with a limited number of chair lifts. The problem gets bigger when you head to Timberline or Meadows.

I have written a post about Jiobits that make a great way to keep track of kids. This is especially true when your kids are younger. The problem with these is that you cannot communicate with your kids directly.

One other option is something like an Apple Watch. You can also give them a phone that they can take with them. Either way, you can track where they are (via GPS). Plus you can also communicate with them (if they answer:)).

Keep an Eye on Them by Actually Watching Them

As I said earlier, with little kids their first couple of trips will be on the bunny hill. This will be right at the base of the mountain so you can keep track of them pretty easily. As they move beyond that you are going to have to make choices. How comfortable you are with them being out of your sight? How you will find them (or how they will find you) if they get lost? Every mountain has a Ski Patrol that can help in a pinch. Remember that this is just a fail-safe, not an every trip option.

On a related note, you will have to decide when kids can ride on a chair lift alone. The first time will always be scarry, as I can attest. If you are not riding with them you MUST make sure they get a lesson or two first. Make sure it includes going up a chair lift with an instructor. They need to learn how to do this correctly and safely. My 8-year-old rides on his own now. That came after a few trips with me and warnings about how he can do it safely.

So Is This Right For Our Family?

My two boys rarely agree on anything, especially when it comes to activities. They both LOVE snowboarding. Now I will admit it is easier for me since I ski. I can go with them so letting your kids go on their own will present its own challenges.

Make no mistake this is an EXPENSIVE hobby. There is also a time commitment to get there, have fun, and then get back. There is also the chore of stopping to get gear for the trip. That said it is a great way for kids to get outdoors, get some exercise, and have loads of fun.

What about TImberline, Mt. Hood Meadows, and Cooper Spur for a snow trip?

Of these three I have only been to Timberline. My kids have not reached the age yet where they are “bored” with the terrain they are boarding. I would advise that due to the size of both Timberline and Meadows that you wait until your kids are much more proficient on their skis/boards before heading here. These are also places where your kids will most likely always be out of your sight. Cooper Spur is another beginner area like Summit Pass. I have heard great things about it for kids, but I have never tried it myself.

Should I learn too?

ABSOLUTELY!! Keep in mind as an adult learning to do this for the first time it is probably going to be more difficult for you than it will be for your kids. Not to mention which you are probably going to be a lot sorer afterward than your kids are.

If you can deal with that, the choice to learn how to ski or board is really a no-brainer. Getting out on the mountain with your kids is an absolute blast. The added bonus of course is that you can keep an eye on them. Riding together is far better than sitting at the bottom hoping that they are OK up there somewhere.

Should we buy season passes instead of lift tickets?

Just as I mentioned with renting their gear for the year, this year we chose to buy season passes. I think the most important thing to remember is to truly be honest with yourself. How often you are going to go? You can do the math pretty quickly and figure out if a season pass is a good deal. If you are planning on making multiple trips a season pass is a good purchase. Plus it saves you the hassle of having to buy a lift ticket when you arrive at the mountain.

For this season we bought a Fusion Pass. I did that in part because my youngest child cost only $50. This was the only year that was going to be true. Even without that that it still would’ve been a good deal for us since we will probably make more than 10 trips to go skiing and boarding this year.