Enjoy our 40th Anniversary video produced in 2008 for our 40th anniversary season!
The U.S. Forest Service advertisement of the prospectus in a local newspaper caught the eye of Franklin G. Drake
, head of a Portland based construction company. A review of the prospectus and several trips to the proposed permit area excited Drake’s imagination concerning the potential for a quality regional year-around resort. The variety of the terrain, the beauty of the alpine meadows providing natural open spaces to the tall stands of timber, and the wide open untimbered spaces above the tree line, provided a near perfect landscape for an outstanding ski area. Drake assembled a consulting team, prepared a feasibility study, and decided to compete for the award of the 30-year U.S. Forest Service permit. Once the Drake proposal was in rough draft form, he involved a hand full of his friends who had the same love for outdoor recreation in the formation of a limited partnership.
On March 2, 1966, Drake submitted the partnership proposal to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service Region 6. In late April of 1966, the U.S. Forest Service awarded the 30-year permit to Mt. Hood Meadows Oreg., Ltd. Lloyd Gilmore, supervisor of the Mt. Hood National Forest, announced that Drake’s bid was chosen, “In the belief that both the immediate and long range benefits for the using public would be better provided by the development plans of Mt. Hood Meadows Oreg., Ltd.”
The remainder of 1966 was spent in planning and designing the buildings, and selecting the chair lift manufacturers. In June of 1967, when the snow had receded to the point that Drake’s crews under the direction of Barney Metzger could plow the snow off of the building sites, construction commenced on a 12 hour a day schedule. The two chair lifts installed that summer were the first to have been installed by flying them in place with a helicopter.
During the summer and winter of 1967, Drake put together the team of professionals who were to operate the ski resort on a day-to-day basis for the partnership.
Over 200 invited guests and dignitaries attended the opening ceremonies, which included Gretchen Fraser, America’s first gold medal winner in the 1948 Olympics, who made the inaugural run with a 1,061 foot vertical drop through the finish gate to officially open the new ski slopes to the public. The next day the area was open to the public under clear, sunny skies. Because Highway 35 had not been completed in time for the 67/68 winter season, Meadows only operated on the weekends that first season.The winter of 68/69 was one of the deepest snow falls on record - almost burying sections of the Blue Chair.
By January of 1969 the Meadows was operating Wednesday through Sunday, and then on February 17, 1969, the Meadows went to a 7 day a week schedule. The current operating schedule includes not only 7 days a week, but also 5 nights a week.
The 70s - A decade of ski school
Three chairlifts (Blue, Yellow, Red plus a T-Bar and two Rope Tows) strong entering the 70s, Meadows focused on developing a local market with weekend and midweek lift, lesson and bus packages. Recognizing that the future of the sport was reliant on families embracing skiing as their winter sport of choice, Meadows promoted multi-week programs delivered by busses. Under the direction of Rene’ Farwig, ski school director from Hood River,
Rene’ Farwig Meadows first director of ski school organized bus groups to visit Meadows in the late 1960s, usually coordinated by “moms” who organized a day trip to the mountain on the weekend, inviting their children’s classmates or friends from church or the scout troop. But in the 70s, Meadows representatives met with school administrators and organized formal trips to the mountain on weekends. Many of the schools organized ski race teams, and selected Meadows as their training facilities. By 1975, Mt. Hood Meadows hosted over 15,000 school-aged children in its weekend programs, and it was not uncommon to see 70 busses in the parking lot on a Saturday. But the multi-week bus program also attracted another market - housewives - many of whom were the mothers of the weekend kids participants. Remember, at this time there were very few two income families, it was the wife’s responsibility to take care of the home and the family, while the father earned the income. The midweek program became known as “Mom’s day off” and soon grew to more than 40 busses a week coming to Meadows Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Now more than 20 years later, these programs continue to thrive as Meadows hosts an average of 120 busses each week through these programs and group ski trips, reducing the amount of vehicles which would be traveling to the mountain each winter. Approximately one out of seven visitors to Meadows arrives by bus - with up to 26% arriving by bus on peak days - which has a very positive environmental effect. Three new lifts were built in the 70s - including the Texas chairlift, which serviced the most popular skiing terrain in the Northwest according to readers of the Oregonian. The Texas chair was constructed in the summer of 1974, and took advantage of the huge amount of wide open above tree line skiing which local skiers had to travel outside of the region to find. The skiable acreage nearly doubled with the new lift.
In 1977, Meadows constructed the Hood River Meadows chair, the longest lift on the mountain. The lift provided access to tree-lined trails protected from occasional harsh weather which could affect the operation of higher lifts. It also provided Meadows with a second base area, more conveniently located to visitors driving from Hood River, and extended the vertical footage of the resort to its present 2,777 feet. Having become somewhat of a mecca for learning, with the largest ski school in the Northwest, Meadows constructed the Buttercup lift in 1979, for beginner skiers. The gentle terrain and easy accessibility to the base made Buttercup the ideal beginner lift, and in the next 20 years approximately 150,000 skiers and snowboarders would take their first chairlift ride on Buttercup.
Under the direction of Renee Farwig, Meadows gained a worldwide reputation in the 1970s for its summer race camps. Thanks to consistently deep snowpack, Meadows would operate through June and often into July, offering several week-long race camps to teams throughout the country, and from around the world. The U.S. Ski Team made Meadows its official summer training site as Meadows featured a 6,000 foot downhill course - thanks to the Texas lift. It was one of the few locations in the Northern hemisphere which facilitated downhill training, and attracted the fastest racers from around the world.
The 80s - A decade of growth
You would think with 7 lifts, one of the most popular ski schools in the country, a base lodge and plenty of parking, Meadows could have cruised through the 80s without much change. Wrong. Truth is, those amenities combined with the most varied terrain of any ski resort in the Northwest made Meadows a very popular place requiring further expansion of the resort. In fact, the need to grow produced an expansion into what has become the most sought after terrain among advanced skiers in the Northwest - Heather Canyon It is the most well known terrain in all of the Northwest, as close to extreme as any resort has to offer. Heather Canyon - featuring sustained 30 degree slopes, near vertical pitches, rocky outcroppings and expansive wide open skiing and snowboarding. Heather Canyon following a fresh powdery snowfall is as close to heaven as most skiers dare to come.
In 1984 Meadows debuted the Express - triple chair - constructed side-by-side with the original Blue Chairlift to get the crowds out of the base area as quickly as possible. And while the new lift helped reduce lift lines outside, Meadows responded to indoor crowding with the construction of the North Lodge in 1985 - a 40,000 square foot lodge which provided five different restaurant and bar operations, a “brown bag” eating area, and a new state of the art ski rental facility, still the largest in Oregon. The new lodge also accommodated “Sno-Blasters” - a fully supervised ski program for grade schoolers. The room hosted up to 700 Blasters each weekend, and has become one of the premier youth skier development programs in the country.
In 1985 Meadows also opened its slope-side Medical Center providing the same medical care and treatment as one could receive in a Portland emergency room. The Medical Center was staffed by professional doctors, nurses and EMTs and boasted state of the art technology, including an x-ray machine to help doctors in their examination and diagnosis of injuries.
In 1988 Meadows added the Shooting Star lift a quad chairlift which accessed the angular, undulating terrain bordering Heather Canyon. The lift and the terrain it opened up followed an entire space program theme, with trails named “Mercury”, “Gemini”, “Apollo” and “Titan”. The lift also provided a faster track to lower Heather Canyon, which had its own celestial following.
The 90s - a decade of ecology and technology
Upon Clay Simon
’s retirement in the early 1990s, Dave Riley was promoted from the position of Controller at Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Resort to Vice President and General Manager. While Mt. Hood Meadows had always been committed to preserving and maintaining the environment in which it operates, it was the 90s in which it became recognized as being on the leading edge of these environmental issues. Meadows initiated a recycling program, for everything from paper and cardboard to glass and lubricants. Meadows worked with venders and suppliers to reduce the amount of packaging materials brought to the resort, and began printing most of its promotional materials on recycled materials. The resort started a “trash bash” program inviting season pass holders and other Meadows advocates to participate in a day-long trash pick up day around the mountain. And in 1996, Meadows received the prestigious “Silver Eagle Environmental Award”, presented by the Skiing Company, for its native wildflower revegetation program. Each summer Meadows employees collect the seeds of grasses and plants native to Mt. Hood to be replanted on Mt. Hood. Existing plants are transplanted and hydroseeding native seeds combines with a mixture of bio-stimulants, fertile fibers and tacifiers takes place. The process is more expensive than traditional seeding program using non-native plant or grass seeds, but improves the bio-diversity of the unique mountain environment. These native grasses and wildflowers establish stronger root systems which promote soil conservation and water quality.
Meadows promotes the native wildflower revegetation effort with a freestyle event called “Vegetate”. The event has grown to become one of the nations premier events, and continues to be independently run and promoted by Mt. Hood Meadows. In its first three years, Vegetate attracted more than 700 competitors and 20,000 spectators to the mountain, and raised over $15,000 for the revegetation effort. The event targets the youthful snowboarder market, people who are very concerned about the environment, and vigorously support environmental causes. Meadows also maintains a snowboard park and half pipe, groomed with state of the art shaping machines to provide the highest quality park features and half pipes possible.
Under Dave Riley
's leadership, Meadows also initiated an extensive renovation and expansion program - resulting in the upgrading of three existing lifts to high speed quads and constructing the long awaited “Heather Chairlift” which provided a fast and easy way out of the canyon. In three successive years, Texas (replaced by Cascade Express), the “Express” lift (replaced by Mt. Hood Express) out of the base area, and the Hood River Meadows (replaced by Hood River Express) lifts were replaced with the latest technology - high speed quads. By 1995 the resort’s entire 2,777 vertical feet was high speed accessible, and ride times from the bottom to the top were reduced from nearly an hour to 20 minutes. When the Hood River Express was constructed, it was the fastest chairlift in the world, transporting skiers and snowboarders more than a mile in less than six minutes. Two seasons later, the Shooting Star quad was upgraded to high speed capacity, giving skiers and snowboarders unlimited access to the powder caches, steeps and snow fields which made the lift so popular.
Throughout the 90s, Meadows has purchased an average of three new snow grooming machines each year, demonstrating a commitment to maintaining the highest quality surface conditions possible. In 1996 the resort acquired its first winchcat (it now has two) - a grooming machine with a winch which allowed it to groom steeper slopes such as lower Heather Canyon, and the enticing bowls on the front side of the mountain. This commitment to grooming has reignited the love of the sport in some “ageless skiers” who enjoy steeper but non-mogully trails. It also allows intermediate skiers and snowboarders access to terrain they normally would not be able to ski comfortably.
The commitment to new technology was also demonstrated when Meadows opened a snowboard rental shop in 1995 - nearly doubling its snowboard inventory. In 1997, Meadows unveiled a strategic partnership with Rossignol with the purchase of all new shaped ski equipment - over 1200 sets of equipment. In 1998 the resort doubled its snowboard fleet with entirely new equipment, and offered the newest innovations in snow play - mini skis and snow shoes.
The 90s also signaled a change in the way Meadows marketed itself. Having earned the reputation as being the premier day ski area in the country, Meadows set its sites on becoming a regional destination resort. Having invested in the latest technologies, Meadows began to make improvements in services expected at destination areas, such as daily KIDSKI programs, slope-side dining in the exquisite Alpenstube and Sahallie Room Restaurants, on hill quick service at the Mazot, a snowcat skiing operation which added an additional 1,020 vertical feet above Heather Canyon. With this addition Meadows has an overall vertical drop of 3,797 feet - one of the longest in the country. Meadows began promoting these world class amenities with a resort ambassador who is also world class - two-time Olympian and U.S. Ski Team veteran Monique Pelletier, and later four-time Olympian AJ Kitt. In an effort to attract destination visitors, Meadows has partnered with several Hood River lodging establishments, offering a $25 lift ticket to overnight guests.
By the end of the century Meadows had thoroughly modernized itself with remarkable improvements at both of its base areas. A new skier services center was constructed at the bottom of the Hood River Express, housing lift ticket sales, rest rooms, lockers, and the Renaissance Café. The Nordic Center was also expanded. And then in the summer of 1999, Meadows began a 44,000 square foot expansion and remodeling project on the original South Lodge ú creating a state-of-the-art ski and snowboard equipment rental center, new ski shop and demo center facilities, a Concierge, racer lunch room, staff facilities, a 16,000 square foot sun deck and the most modern state-certified Day Care facility in Oregon.
The 21st Century and beyond
Having made the massive improvements to the resort infrastructure, Mt. Hood Meadows set its sights on sustainability and continual improvement. Already a charter member of the National Ski Areas Association “Sustainable Slopes” Environmental Charter, Meadows joined the Natural Step, an organization which helps develop plans which balance the social, environmental and economic aspects of a successful business operation. Meadows has incorporated these principles into its operational decision making as well as strategic planning. Meanwhile, the resort embarked on an aggressive continual improvement guest service training program, requiring daily briefings with every staff member.
The resort also pursued new horizons with the acquisition of the Inn at Cooper Spur, and Cooper Spur Ski Area on the north side of Mt. Hood - combining the two and presenting them as Cooper Spur Mountain Resort. The forested setting with magnificent views of three mountains and close proximity to boundless recreational pursuits is the ideal location for vacationing, retreating and vision setting. Cooper Spur offers log cabins, lodge condos and hotel rooms, a log home and a restaurant. There is a sports court, hiking and cross country trails and hot tubs. In the summer of 2002, Meadows installed the first chair lift at Cooper Spur Ski Area, the first in its 75 year history, and replaced the beginner rope tow and tubing tows. The base lodge was improved with an outdoor deck and operations were expanded to summer chairlift rides and a deck BBQ on weekends and holidays. Back at Mt. Hood Meadows prior to the 2003/2004 season, the company engineered and constructed one of the world’s most technically advanced in-ground SuperPipes located next to its Easy Rider lift and made a large investment in “rails” to embellish its popular freestyle terrain parks.
The ski area has a long history of using “best management practices” to properly minimize the short-term environmental impact of construction, and uses a number of strategies to restore construction sites long-term. Prior to proposing a new project, the ski area first analyzes the landscape, looking to minimize impacts on vegetation, wildlife habitat, water quality, and reduce the potential for erosion. Then the projects are constructed using sophisticated techniques such as helicopter installation of chairlifts to reduce impacts on the landscape, and re-vegetation with native wildflower and grasses with seeds collected on site.
The management and staff at Meadows continue to strive towards the company mission to “Create the highest quality mountain resort experience in harmony with our natural environment,” establishing Mt. Hood Meadows and Cooper Spur Mountain Resort as leaders among outdoor recreation providers through managing the businesses in a way that demonstrates their commitment to environmental protection and stewardship while meeting the expectations of the public.
In the four decades that Meadows has operated, its ownership and shareholders have invested nearly $50 million into the ski resort, which has grown skier visits from a few thousand its very first year to more than 400,000 a season. This private sector investment has created a high quality mountain recreational experience for three generations of Oregonians adding to the quality of life enjoyed by those who live, work and play here, as well as providing a major economic stimulus.Notes of Interest…
Franklin Drake’s family interest in the north side of Mt. hood dates back to 1925 through his grandfather, Franklin T. Griffith, a fact Drake only became aware of shortly after the acquisition of Cooper Spur Inn and Cooper Spur Ski Area in 2001. According to newspaper articles, Franklin T. Griffith was part of a civic committee which purchased the Cloud Cap Inn from Homer Rogers ú Kate McCarthy’s father. The committee was headed by Chairman A.C. Ainsworth and members including E.S. Collins, The Oregon Journal, W.B. Beebe and L.R. Wheeler, all of Portland, E.O. Blanchard and Leslie Butler of Hood River. Dorsey Smith would operate the old inn until a new one could be built.
Did you know..
- Meadows was the first in the Northwest, and possibly in the nation, when it installed an electronic reader board in Sandy, Oregon, halfway from Portland to the mountain, which was controlled by the mountain, giving updated weather and snow reports to motorists as they traveled to the mountain. The Sandy reader board was installed 30 years ago, and 10 years later Meadows installed another electronic information sign on the Meadows access road, also controlled from the Meadows mountain office.
- The Mt. Hood Meadows logo was designed by a renowned commercial interior decorator, Joseph Cannell, also an original partner in the Meadows partnership. The design was in the form of a shield portraying a snow-covered mountain, the green of the Douglas Fir trees, the clear blue sky, and a bright sun. All of the Meadows advertising and marketing information carries this logo. (Mr. Cannell’s son Steven is the very successful producer/writer of a number of TV series, including the Rockford files and the A-Team.