Gondola Eyed to Link Timberline & Summit Ski Areas on Mt. Hood

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When the family that operates Timberline Lodge & Ski Area bought nearby Summit Ski Area last year, an interconnect immediately entered the realm of possibility.  The Forest Service recently accepted RLK and Company’s new Summit Master Development Plan, which includes a 10 passenger gondola from the Summit base area in Government Camp to historic Timberline Lodge.  The combined resort would feature a vertical drop exceeding 4,500 feet, longest in the United States with all lifts open.

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A Timberline Gondola would span 12,952 feet with a vertical ascent of 1,890′.  It would require a boundary expansion of 228 acres between the top of Summit’s Homestead double chair and the bottom of Timberline’s Jeff Flood Express.  Importantly, the Summit base area would become a transit and parking hub for both mountains, reducing congestion and parking demands at higher elevations.  An approximately 30,000 square foot base lodge would replace the existing one at Summit.  Guests from Portland would save almost 12 miles of driving each day, instead enjoying an 11 minute flight from Government Camp to the base of Timberline’s Magic Mile quad.  “The gondola would not only provide direct, aerial access to Timberline from the Summit’s base area, for both guests and employees, it would also alleviate the congestion on Oregon Highway 173 and re-prioritize the need for additional parking at the bottom of Timberline’s Molly’s Chairlift,” notes the master plan, which was prepared by SE Group.  The gondola would travel up to 1,200 feet per minute with a capacity of 2,400 passengers per hour in each direction.  It would operate approximately nine hours per day in both winter and summer, serving skiers, snowboarders, sightseers and mountain bikers.

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Additionally, the plan prescribes replacing Summit’s 1980 Riblet double with a fixed grip quad called Summit Pass.  This lift would parallel the gondola for 1,933 feet and terminate at 4,290 feet in elevation.  “By upgrading the existing chairlift conveyance, the overall guest experience would improve by having updated lift technology, allowing ski school and parties of four or less to ride the chairlift together,” the plan notes.  Capacity would increase from 1,200 per hour to 2,000.  A new carpet lift would also be installed.

The Forest Service’s acceptance of the master plan does not constitute approval of individual projects and, if approved, gondola construction is likely still years away.  Timberline’s immediate next lift project is set to be a detachable replacement for Pucci, benefiting beginner and intermediate skiers.  The gondola link would be even more impactful with major environmental and guest service benefits year round.

14 thoughts on “Gondola Eyed to Link Timberline & Summit Ski Areas on Mt. Hood

  1. Gavin October 3, 2019 / 11:10 am

    Is there snowmaking at summit ski area? Since it is much lower elevation they may have to install some snow guns in the future.

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    • Brian October 3, 2019 / 12:58 pm

      To my knowledge no. They were a single chair, mostly beginner level trail, operation prior to Timberline’s purchase. I don’t think the ROI would have justified it. The local higher elevation ski area only have limited snowmaking capabilities to fill in some of the tough spots that then allows them to open some lifts earlier then they would have been able to organically. I know Meadows salvages their parking lot snow early season and hauls it onto the hill to supplement their already sparse snowmaking abilities, and it seems to work pretty well.

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      • Benjamin r mckinley October 4, 2019 / 9:05 am

        Summit was the first snow making operation on Hood. Its been a lifeblood for consistent operations prior to the sale of the resort.

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      • Sally Niedermeyer October 6, 2019 / 8:47 pm

        They do make snow whenever they can, at least before it was aquired by RLK & Co. The GC water system will need an improvement if they add many guns.

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    • Wally Kramer October 19, 2019 / 9:44 pm

      I have not seen any snow making at Summit. If there is sparse snow at that elevation it is almost always caused by warm air temperatures, not lack of precipitation. Cold temperatures with lack of precipitation occasionally occurs, perhaps up to two weeks per winter: that rarity makes it hard to justify snow making equipment.

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  2. Cameron Halmrast October 3, 2019 / 11:45 am

    I personally believe that some type of parking garage will need to be built to accommodate the vast amount of guests who would prefer to park at the base area than the mountain. There is no sense to waste gas money and time when you can just park and ride up the gondola and ski to the base at the end of the day if you prefer.

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  3. Donald Reif October 3, 2019 / 12:57 pm

    Somehow I think this plan would be benefitted with a high speed quad servicing trails directly below the Jeff Flood pod.

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    • Brian October 3, 2019 / 1:06 pm

      Getting anything done on Mt. Hood is an exercise in frustration and diplomacy. The local hippie groups (FOMH, among others) tend to fight ANY ski area infrastructure additions or modifications on the mountain.
      I see it as an active volcano that may modify itself at any moment and we might as well get some use out of it now.

      Give them time…it’s a slow process. I imagine the gondola will be a BIG fight.

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      • Donald Reif October 3, 2019 / 2:26 pm

        At some point, the tree huggers should realize that it’s better to let the ski area do its expansion. Especially the ones that are about more efficiently dispersing people throughout the mountain.

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        • Brian October 3, 2019 / 7:50 pm

          They’re crazy vocal lunatics, IMO, there is no real productive rational negotiation. They want the wilderness to essentially remain virgin. I understand not trashing or polluting the wilderness, with sustainable use that is in the public’s best interest. This is the sort of thing they do: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/09/science/volcanoes-cascades-monitoring.html

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    • powderforever45 October 3, 2019 / 4:09 pm

      Would it be possible to instead do a HSQ or a HSS with a midstation where the fixed grip quad would unload then it extends up to the bottom of Jeff Flood?

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      • Cameron Halmrast October 3, 2019 / 4:36 pm

        While possible, it’s not practical as a large percentage of people would prefer to download, especially if it’s raining at that lower elevation.

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  4. milanyvr October 3, 2019 / 4:50 pm

    So this is basically the return of the Ski Way…

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  5. Mark October 7, 2019 / 11:55 pm

    As someone who grew up skiing on Mt. Hood ski resorts, and also as someone who almost every season has had a season pass at a Mt. Hood ski resort, this leaves me grinning unbelievably. I love watching all of the growth and improvements happening! I still remember when Jeff Flood Express opened at Timberline in 2008, how awesome that was.

    I haven’t been to Summit since early 2006 when I was still learning to ski. But I will never forget Summit because it was my third day of skiing and it suddenly clicked for six year old me, how to ski a run and not fall over. Maybe I gotta get back there and record and photograph the lift and runs and everything before it gets a massive overhaul :)

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