Hoodoo Ski Area: family skiing in the NW

The motto of Central Oregon’s Hoodoo Ski Area is ‘steeper, deeper, cheaper’. After spending a full day on the mountain, we concur. Located in the Willamette National Forest about 12 miles from Sisters, Oregon, Hoodoo is only an hour from much larger (and more costly) Mt. Bachelor Ski Resort, and even in a drought year, enjoyed over 160 cm of powder the March day we visited. As for ‘steeper’, Hoodoo certainly has its challenging runs, but for us, the challenge came from the thick powder and terrain more than from sheer vertical angle. For the steepest skiing in the Northwest, we suggest Mt. Ashland Ski Area in Southern Oregon.

We visited Hoodoo on their annual Winter Carnival day, which includes wildly fun extras in the already low lift ticket price: a ‘dummy derby’ of creatively decorated sleds sent down the slope, a bonfire, games such as archery and axe throwing (yes, we competed), a pie-eating contest, and fireworks. The community spirit at this family-owned ski resort was high, but we noticed details that suggested Hoodoo is always a friendly, community-driven resort, not just during their carnival. For instance, families are encouraged to bring in outside food to most sections of the spacious lodge, creating an almost pot-luck atmosphere during meal times. Many even brought crock pots and plugged them in at the tables: a practice we’re used to coming from a small ski resort ourselves, but which is literally unheard of at large resorts. We observed many skiers and snowboarders going out of their way to assist children carrying gear, and every staff member was cheerful, friendly, and helpful.

hoodoo-ski-area

Hoodoo offers five lifts, and no, none of them include high tech windbreak bubbles or seat warmers. This is old-school skiing, but after spending roughly half the price on lift tickets as you might at mega resorts, you won’t mind the scenic route up the mountain. Beginner terrain is accessed from Manzanita Chair and Easy Rider (a separate ticket price allows beginners to access Easy Rider all day for a discount), and intermediate skiers will find the most options off Ed Chair and Hodag Chair. The Big Green Machine takes you to the top, where a ridge and face await. We felt the black diamond runs had earned their designation, especially on a day like we had, which included heavy, choppy snow. There is a small terrain park off Manzanita Chair, but the bigger thrills for our tween and teen boys awaited them in the trees: Hoodoo offers excellent tree and glade skiing, especially around mid-mountain off Big Green Machine (there’s even an option to off-load at the half-way point of this chair).

hoodoo-ski-area

Hoodoo offers a day care center on-site (a surprise for a small resort), dining services, and full lesson packages and rentals. The lodge is open, bright, and larger than we expected. Remember that homegrown, community feel I spoke of? It’s alive and well in other ways too: throughout the lodge, air hockey and pool tables are on offer, and there’s a fun little arcade for kids. Our boys had a blast playing games in the area adjacent to the bar while we relaxed.

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It’s impossible not to notice Hoodoo’s signature rental item: the snow bikes. These skis on bike frames can be rented on-site for $30-$50, and include a 30-minute lesson to get the basics of the particular bike. If you’re brand new to snow biking, a ‘license’ is required, making the lesson and rental package $40 instead of $30. Next time we visit Hoodoo, we’ll be trying it out! Hoodoo also offers their Autobahn tubing park and miles of nordic trails. Trail tickets are $14 for adults, but on most Tuesdays and Thursdays (their non-grooming days) the trails are free.

hoodoo-snow-sculpture

Tips for visiting smaller Oregon ski resorts: As an Oregon resident and frequent visitor of smaller and family-owned ski resorts, I recommend keeping the following in mind:

  • Be sure to obtain and display an Oregon snow parks parking permit in your vehicle. Permits are only a few bucks for a single day pass, or around $20 for the season. Pick them up in the lodge, or at your accommodations.
  • Bring quarters for the arcade games and pool tables!
  • If you bring your own lunch, store it to the side of lodge areas permitting gear. Keep tables clear for others while you’re skiing. Be sure to ask whether the ski area charges a small fee for extras such as empty cups, bowls, or utensils you may need.
  • Keep your outerwear weatherproofed. Small ski resort chair lifts can be wet, snowy, and chilly on the bum!

Date last visited:

March 1, 2014

Distance from the interstate:

Hoodoo is located on Highway 20, about 30 minutes from Highway 97. It’s an hour and forty-five minutes from I-5 at Salem, OR.

Lift ticket rates:

At the time of our visit, adult all-day tickets sold for $45 and a child ticket was just $31. Kids five and under are always free. Night skiing is offered Friday and Saturday nights.

Lodging:

There isn’t on-site lodging at Hoodoo, but we recommend staying at Black Butte Ranch located 12 miles away near Sisters. Black Butte offers home rentals, recreation centers, dining, and kids’ programming. For a quieter stay, try Lodge at Suttle Lake.

Directions:

From Bend OR, take Highway 20 through Sisters and up the pass to Hoodoo Ski Area. From Salem Or, take Highway 20 from the opposite direction. Hoodoo is very easy to access!

As I disclose whenever applicable, we experienced Hoodoo Ski Area as guests of the resort, for the purpose of review. While we appreciate Hoodoo’s hospitality, all opinions are our own.

About the author

Amy Whitley AUTHOR: Amy Whitley is the founding editor of Pit Stops for Kids and content editor of Trekaroo. She writes on staff monthly as a family travel expert at Go Green Travel Green and Practical Travel Gear, and contributes to Outdoors NW as an outdoor adventure traveler. Find Amy at Google.

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