Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Ski the Glade

President's Day weekend + new snowfall on Mt. Hood = ski resort chaos.  Knowing Mt. Hood Meadows would be a complete madhouse, I desired a nice, quiet backcountry ski tour.

Friends who were supposed to join me cancelled at the last minute.  Now by myself, I needed to find a Plan B.  If I'm alone and want to do some uphill skiing, I'll normally choose the Palmer slopes above Timberline Lodge.  But high winds and poor visibility dashed those plans.

Snow capped trail sign

Where, oh where, would I get my backcountry fix?  Then I remembered there was an extensive network of trails between the town of Government Camp and Timberline Lodge.  And the most famous of them all was the Glade Ski Trail. 

Beautiful vacation homes in Govy

Although I'd never before skied the Glade, I knew a little about it.  The trail serves as a connection between the slopes of Timberline Ski Area and the village of Government Camp (affectionately known as "Govy" by the locals).  Not nearly as steep as the neighboring West Leg Road, it's slope is good for uphill skiing and snowshoeing.  And even though it's considered gentle, the trail does rise 2000 feet in three miles.

Cute little cabin surrounded by snowy trees

Pluses for today's trip - the Glade cut through a thick forest, so no wind or visibility concern.  Since it connected two population centers (a town and a ski area), I wasn't too worried about skiing by myself.  And as a bonus, four inches of fluffy white snow had fallen overnight, turning everything into a winter wonderland.  Skiing would be fabulous!

Ramshackle old garage

I parked my car along Government Camp's main street, and hiked four blocks up a snow-covered lane to the trailhead.  Along the way, I stopped to admire some of the cute vacation cabins tucked behind Govy's business district.  And a few not-so-well maintained structures - ugly, but picturesque at the same time.

Well trod path at the trailhead

The Glade's trailhead is at the dead end of a local street.  I was worried about finding my way, but upon reaching the beginning, discovered it marked by a well-trod path through the snow.  I strapped on skis and added my tracks to the mix.

Pretty snowy branches

The new-fallen snow was quite lovely.  It coated the trees with it's icy frost.  I loved the thick accumulations on the branches of a nearby bush.  Mother Nature's best art, don't you think?

Soon my skis made the only tracks

About a quarter mile down the trail, I came to a junction.  Here, the wide packed path veered down another trail.  Uphill, beyond this intersection, a wide clearing indicated my trail of choice.  From this point on, the snow was totally untouched.  Although it was really cool to be the first person making tracks through this perfect white canvas, I soon discovered breaking trail was hard work.  In no time, I was stripping off my jacket.

The slopes of Skibowl came into view

Initially worried about finding my way through the untracked snow, I soon realized my fears were for naught.  The Glade followed an old clearing, created in the 1950's for a transportation system known as the Mt. Hood Skiway.  This system consisted of an old city bus, suspended on cables, that was pulled uphill to Timberline Ski Area.  The bus was supposed to transport skiers to Timberline Lodge, kind of like the modern-day trams you see at some of the larger ski areas.  Sadly, the Skiway only lasted a few short years before mechanical problems and lack of customers spelled it's demise.

The Mt. Hood Skiway

Slogging uphill through the thick snow, sweating and breathing hard, a tram ride sounded pretty good about then!  During one of my rest breaks, I noticed a group of snowshoers not far behind.  Tired of breaking trail, I deliberately slowed down, hoping the group would catch up and pass me.

Happy skier

It wasn't long before the snowshoers and I met.  We exchanged hellos, took each other's pictures, and I then encouraged them to go on ahead of me.  Yahoo!  No more trail breaking!  But the snowshoer's trailbreaking was short-lived.  Shortly thereafter, two snowboarders came cruising downhill, creating a nice wide path through the snow for all of us.

I was joined by this lone snowboarder

The snowshoers soon turned around, and I was again by myself.  Then I noticed another traveler coming up from behind.  It was a man on snowshoes, a snowboard strapped to his back.  He caught up to me, and after exchanging pleasantries, we began traveling together.  Being my first trip on the Glade, it was nice to have a companion.  This guy was a regular visitor, and generously shared his knowledge of this trail, and the entire local ski trail network.

The sun came out for a brief moment

Near the junction with Timberline Ski Area, the clearing began to widen out.  A thick cloud bank that had been hovering overhead all morning, parted slightly to reveal the narrow, white runs of nearby Skibowl.  We began to see a few skiers coming down the trail from Timberline's in-bounds area.  I looked longingly at the perfect white powder.  By this time, I was more than ready for some downhill turns.

I made it!  At the top of Jeff Flood Lift

My initial plan had been to turn around at the Timberline Ski Area's boundary.  However, my companion invited me to have a cup of hot chocolate at Timberline's day lodge.  To reach the lodge meant traveling uphill through the ski area.  Although not wild about skiing up a slope full of downhill snow-riders, the thought of having a hot drink and using a real restroom sealed the deal.

Skiing back down through Timberline's slopes

The snowboarder and I shuffled up the side of a run beside Timberline's Jeff Flood Lift.  Although most ski areas forbid uphill travel during operating hours, Timberline grudgingly allows folks following the Glade or West Leg Ski Trails access to Timberline Lodge through their runs.  Our plan was to reach the top of the Jeff Flood Lift, and then ride downhill to the lodge. 

Crossing under T-line's lift

The last few hundred feet were tough.  After skiing uphill all morning, my legs were tired.  But finally the lift's unloading station came into view.  A most welcome sight!  I gratefully pulled off my climbing skins and enjoyed a quick schuss downhill to the lodge.

Entering the trail proper - always lots of warning signs

Never before have I so enjoyed a cup of hot cocoa!  I think it was the best I've ever tasted (and at $3 a cup it better be).  Or maybe the cocoa tasted wonderful because I'd worked so hard to earn it.

Excited by the fresh snow

My belly full of warm cocoa,  I bid my new friend goodbye, and prepared for the moment I'd been waiting for all morning.  It was time to ski down through that wonderful new snow!  It took a little bit of route-finding through Timberline's ski runs, but I finally located the beginning of the Glade.  Off the side of an established ski run, signs ominously warned that you were entering an out-of-bounds area.  From that point on skiers were on their own.

Wonderful wide path

But having just traveled up this trail, I knew precisely what I was in for.  And eyeing the fresh, white clearing, with few tracks, I couldn't wait.  With a loud whoop, I launched myself downhill.

Tall trail signs

The trip down was uneventful.  I ran into a lot more parties all heading uphill, mostly skiers, with a few snowshoers mixed in.  Since this trail is not groomed, there were a few tricky areas (and I did fall exactly twice - but the new snow made for soft landings).  I enjoyed skiing through new snow, without the resort crowds.  And the scenery was gorgeous.  I returned to my car happy and refreshed.

Admiring my tracks

Back home, I did a little internet research and found more interesting facts about this famous ski trail.  People have been skiing through the forest between Government Camp and Timberline Lodge since the early 1900s.  Trail skiing was so popular in the 30's that as many as 15 buses worked on weekends transporting skiers back to Timberline.  In the early 1960s, a local man groomed the Glade, and continued this tradition for over 20 years.  There have also been informal ski patrol races from Timberline to Govy, with the loser buying rounds at a local watering hole.  But in modern times, the Glade, and it's sister trails are left unmaintained for use by backcountry skiers.

From the internet, I also learned that the Glade is groomed one day a year, for a special fundraising event.  Although I missed it this year, I'm keeping my eyes and ears open for next year's date.

I had a great time skiing the Glade.  I've discovered another good alternative for backcountry travel when the weather is bad above timberline, or the avalanche danger is high.  I'm hoping to fit in another trip yet this year and explore more of this wonderful ski trail network.

Sharing with:  Weekly Top Shot.


  1. Hi,Linda. Marverous skiing trip! I felt that you are not only a good skier but also a adventurer. The bus typed cable car is very unique and interesting. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Your images are wonderful.. you took us on a great adventure, which I enjoyed immensely.
    I really love your posts!

  3. Linda, thank for sharing your wonderful day of skiing. The scenery is just stunning.. beautiful photos. Have a happy day!

  4. That looks like a lot of fun! I loved the photograph of your tracks by yourself. I like how you found a trail less traveled for the holiday weekend, even if the trails weren't groomed for down skiing. I like skipping crowds, too. That hot chocolate sounds yummy since you couldn't catch a ride on the party bus!

  5. Boy, you do some spectacular skiing! Never had that sort of opportunity; looks awesome. Did ski here yesterday, and going out today, but pretty mild compared to you!

  6. I'm pretty sure I've said this before, but you need a GoPro camera to capture those downhill trips! I could almost imagine the snow flying up as you went down.

  7. Wonderful post Linda. Really enjoyed todays story and the pictures of the buildings were very cool. I agree with Pam - you need a Go-pro.

  8. Thanks for taking us along, Linda! The scenery was gorgeous!

  9. You amaze me! I'm sure I would not be that brave! I do love hearing and seeing your adventures! Thanks!

  10. Hi Linda, I enjoyed your backcountry ski almost as much as you did! Are you on tele skis? I go out on my new shaped touring skis with scales, and they do well if the grade doesn't go too steep. However, I wouldn't be comfortable on ski area runs (either up or downhill). Mine don't have a 3 pin binding and are not stable on anything too steep. I loved your photos - esp of the mountain in cloud cover.

  11. Since my body is long past such adventures (if ever it was!!), I so enjoyed sharing your ski outing - thank you for sharing (and for following my blog). Happy schussing!

  12. What a perfect adventure in perfect snow. Fantastic that the snowboarder stayed with you. Not quite my image of a 'snowboarder'.

  13. Snow like that makes everything, even that old shack, look picturesque. What a wonderful adventure! I'm jealous you live so close to that much snow. It has been a poor year for snow in our nearby mountains, the Trinity Alps.

  14. What an awesome ski day. All your ski posts really make me want to start skiing again.

  15. It's so picturesque there! I love how the snow clings to the trees. Makes for pretty photos! Especially that one with the tiny cabin. Lovely!

  16. What a great place! I don't ski but you make it look like a lot of fun!

  17. Wow! What excellent photos and what a wonderful time day for you being in nature with all its beauty ~ thanks. Linda ~ Happy Sunday to you ^_^

    artmusedog and carol

  18. Beautiful area you found!! And the smiles look like you're having a lot of fun. Best of all, besides the quaint hidden cabins in the Govy...I like the skiway. How ingenious.

  19. Oh loved reading your post :) thank you for visiting my blog and leaving a comment - the 2nd photo is my fave too :)

  20. What a nice series....Glad you can enjoy this snowy winter♪

  21. What a wonderful place to stay.

  22. too bad the Skyway bus no longer exists - what a cool idea that was!

  23. Linda, what a trouper you are. If my friends cancelled on me I would not go by myself. Good for you girl! Love, love the photos! Especially the one where you are so excited. I remember the town of Government Camp when we were there two years ago. Loved it! Fun to learn that they call it Govy. Such a gorgeous day.

  24. What a gorgeous tree lined trail! Loved the historical info/photo about the Mt. Hood Skiway:)
    Blessings, Aimee


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