No snow? Mt. Hood adapts to climate change

Warmer winters have caused no end of trouble for snow sport enthusiasts in the Northwest.

Ski resorts in the Cascade Range have been hit the hardest, forcing managers to seriously consider how they’ll be able to sustain themselves.

Mt. Hood Meadows has fared better than others, but it attracted little more than 200,000 skiers this past year, down from its 450,000 average.

Meadows public relations director Dave Tragethon hopes the past two winters have been anomalies. “We truly believe we will be back into regular, normal winter weather patterns,” he says.

But the resort has shifted its business model.

Mt. Hood Meadows saw some small success in January by offering more ski lessons than during any other winter in the company’s 47-year history.

“But there’s also no single person at Mt. Hood Meadows who doesn’t believe that we shouldn’t be looking at ways that our company can profit and be successful on a year-round basis,” Tragethon says. “I’d say the past two years have created a sense of urgency and really made us look hard and fast at what can we do to most quickly take advantage of summer and off-season opportunities.”

The main result of those efforts so far is Altitude, Meadows’ new Portland retail store planned for a grand opening in September, at 1202 N.W. 17th Ave.

With year-round outdoor recreation in mind, Meadows’ is designing Altitude to change its offerings based on the season. Skis, snowboards and associated gear will be available in the winter, and backpacking, hiking and climbing gear in the summer.

“Altitude will be a retail store that will be open year-round, but it will also be a gateway to Mt. Hood Meadows,” says Jeremy Riss, vice president of resort and commercial operations. Meadows guests will be able to purchase passes, tickets, lessons and get fitted for rental gear, which they’ll be able to pick up when they arrive on the mountain.

The drive from home to Mount Hood is long enough, Riss says. A visit to Altitude will help reduce the time a guest spends going from their car to the ski lift.

Additionally, Meadows’ executives have worked out an agreement with the U.S. Forest Service to run operations at the resort throughout the summer months as well.

Along with kids’ camps hosted this July, Meadows will offer something new and different every Saturday and Sunday in August.

On Saturdays, there’s painting and photography workshops, a barbecue “shindig,” and the second-annual uphill challenge on Aug. 22. On Sundays, there’ll be local singer-songwriter acoustic concerts.

Environmental sustainability remains a priority along with financial sustainability.

“We hope to be in the business of providing this alpine recreation experience that we love so much — that we’re so passionate about protecting — long into the future,” says Heidi Logosz, the Mt. Hood Meadows executive sustainability manager.

Meadows has been able to reduce carbon emissions from its operations by 15 percent since 2011. Two LEED-certified buildings, an elaborate and effective recycling program, and energy- and resource-efficient utilities helped make Mt. Hood Meadows the only recreation company included in Oregon Business magazine’s “100 Best Green Companies to Work for in Oregon.”

To check out the resort’s events: http://www.skihood.com/schedule-events

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