There aren’t many ski towns in Oregon, but the ones you do find in “The Beaver State” are sure to deliver a memorable experience. This is a place with ample natural beauty and tons to do outside, both on and off the slopes.
Skiing in Oregon is mostly limited to the Cascade Range, which runs from north to south and cuts the state in two. Fortunately, that means most of the ski areas are a relatively short drive from Portland, which is your best bet if traveling into the area by plane.
Here are the top ski towns in Oregon to live and visit, in no particular order:
Government Camp, OR
The first Oregoneon ski town on our list is the closest to the Portland metro area – and it’s also the smallest by a wide margin. According to the 2020 census, only around 179 people call this little town home, but it’s worth your attention thanks to its incredible location on the base of Mount Hood.
As is the case with most ski towns, Government Camp will feel far busier than its population indicates in the middle of winter when the snow is good. It also picks up for summer tourism too.
From town, you can go a couple of different directions to hit the slopes. Across Highway 26 to the south you will find Mt. Hood Skibowl, offering nearly 1,000 acres of skiable terrain divided up between 69 total runs. More than half of those runs are available for night skiing, which is a popular experience for locals and visitors alike.
For a unique skiing experience, you’ll want to head up onto Mt. Hood itself. Rarely do you get the chance to ski down such a prominent peak, but the runs on Mt. Hood allow you to do just that.
You’ll have access to more than 4,500’ of vertical drop when you explore the Timberline Lodge Ski Area, so named for the famous lodge that sits partway up the mountain’s slope. Even if you don’t head all the way up to the top of the skiable area on the mountain, there are still plenty of great runs to explore in the lower sections.
With your day of skiing wrapped up, you will find a few friendly local places to enjoy a meal or lay your head down for the night. If what’s available in Government Camp doesn’t quite meet your needs, you can drive west on Highway 26 back to the town of Mt. Hood Village for more services.
The Central Oregon region is a destination for outdoor lovers of all types, and skiers are certainly included in that list. This is a very popular vacation spot throughout the year, and Bend is at the heart of it all.
Recently, more and more people have decided to call this city home, rather than just visiting a couple of times per year. As of 2000, the population was barely over 50,000 – just two decades later, the 2020 census put the population at 99,178.
Many people who move to Bend are drawn by the diversity of what you can do outside in and around the town. Among the popular activities are mountain biking, hiking, golf, fishing, rafting, and on and on. And, as a result of having nearly 100,000 residents, all of the modern services and amenities you could need will be found in the city.
But that doesn’t mean it can’t be counted as a ski town. It’s only a 30-minute drive from the heart of Bend out to Mt. Bachelor Ski Resort. The beautiful drive on the Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway will take you to the 6th largest ski resort in North America.
As such, this is a huge ski area, with more than 4,300 skiable acres and 101 runs. With so much terrain to explore and with easy access from Bend, locals find themselves returning to Bachelor time and again, all winter long.
The town of Sisters is a beautiful mountain destination that had a population of 3,064 at the time of the 2020 census. Only a short drive from Bend, this is another popular spot within the greater destination of Central Oregon. It carries the motto “A Modern Western Community”.Where Bend has a large population and a high desert feel, Sisters is back into the trees of the Cascades. This is the kind of place where the air smells fantastic and there are notable views in every direction.
Going for a walk on Cascade Ave. will allow you to explore many local restaurants, shops, coffee spots, and more. When you’re ready for a day on the slopes, it’s Hoodoo Ski Resort that will be your likely destination (although you could also make the reasonable drive to Mt. Bachelor from here, as well).
At Hoodoo, you’ll find five lifts serving 800 skiable acres. There are more than 1,000 feet of vertical drop on the property, which offers a nice blend of beginner, intermediate, and expert runs. Night skiing is also offered here, so it is still worth making the half-hour drive from Sisters even after the sun has gone down.
For the last stop on our virtual tour, we are going to head south along I-5, nearly to the California border. Ashland, OR is a college town – home of Southern Oregon University – and it had a population of 21,360 as of the 2020 census.
This is a rather scenic place, as it is located at the foot of the Siskiyou Mountains. So anyone who loves nature and exploring the outdoors will feel right at home in Ashland.
Mt. Ashland Ski Area is modest in size but still delivers an excellent assortment of runs and challenges even for the advanced skier. There are only 240 skiable acres here, but the vertical drop still exceeds 1,100 feet. Also, the summit is all the way up over 7,500 feet, leading to excellent snow conditions throughout much of the winter.
What Oregon skiing lacks in quantity, it tends to make up for in quality. The ski resorts you’ll find, and the towns that serve them, offer a great experience and conditions that might be surprisingly good for this part of the country. Whether you are looking for a ski town to visit on vacation or you want somewhere new to call home, be sure to keep Oregon in mind.