Timberline Lodge and Summit Ski Area are officially one, encompassing 4,500 vertical feet of skiing on Mt. Hood. For now, skiers can enjoy the biggest vertical drop of any ski area in the United States only one way as there is no lift connection between the upper and lower mountains. That could soon change, however, as the Forest Service recently accepted Timberline’s new master plan. The cornerstone is a two stage gondola between Government Camp and Timberline Lodge, which would eliminate the need for hundreds of cars to drive to mid mountain each day and provide an enhanced guest experience year round.
The proposed 10 passenger gondola would link three stations 2.5 miles apart with an hourly capacity of 1,800 guests in each direction. “It would serve as an introductory experience to variety of guests to Timberline and the Mt. Hood National Forest, including beginner skiers, more advanced skiers traveling to Timberline, tourists exploring the area, people sledding or tubing, and more,” notes the plan, which was prepared by SE Group. The gondola would ascend 1,958 vertical feet in just 12 minutes, though a journey to the top of Timberline would still require two additional lift rides.
A new Summit Pass base lodge would anchor a new entry point for the larger Timberline area. The 20,000 square foot building would include space for dining, ticketing, ski school, retail, restrooms, and more. A new conveyor lift would serve beginner skiers and snowboarders away from the busy Timberline terrain. The master plan also includes replacement of Summit’s Riblet double with a 2,200 foot fixed grip quad and expansive new snowmaking.
At the gondola’s mid-station, another guest service building, learn to ski area, tubing park, summer camp sites and/or overnight yurts would be built. The intermediate station would also house a storage and maintenance building for the gondola’s approximately 65 cabins. Skiers and mountain bikers coming down the mountain could board the gondola here and return to Timberline without the need to descend all the way to Government Camp.
The top station would sit near the Jeff Flood Express, close to Timberline Lodge itself with easy access to other chairlifts. This would also be the home of the gondola’s drive system.
Forest Service acceptance is the first step in a multi-part approval process. Timberline’s owners estimate the gondola, if approved, could be operational within about five years.