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Summit Ski Area – Mt. Hood
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What’s to Love: Update as of 2/2016. Everything I said in this article originally is still exactly the same. Taking all factors into consideration, Summit is the absolute best ski area to teach young children and first-timers. If you’re thinking about teaching your kids, this is the place you want to visit. It has many advantages over the nearby resorts. It’s less crowded, it’s less expensive, it’s easier to access the lift, the terrain is better, the ski run is long (when compared to other bunny hills), and there is tubing right next to the parking area.  As a beginner-level-area, it’s hard to beat the The Summit.

Summit Ski Area LodgeObviously, this ski hill is way too easy for most intermediate and advanced boarders/skiers, which translates into no wait time at the lift and slopes that are not crowded for first-time/beginning skiers.  Kids 5 and younger ski for FREE with a ticket-carrying adult (inexpensive at $25 half day/$30 full day). We all know the horror stories of walking 1/2 mile just to get to a lift, but not here. Park in the lot and walk a couple hundred yards, and you are there!

Summit Ski AreaLet’s talk terrain…my biggest problem with other bunny hills is that the run is just too short. You get off the lift, and ski a few hundred yards downhill (lasting about a minute or two), and you have to get back on the lift. Just when your kid starts to get the hang of it, you’re back on the lift again. This is very frustrating. Summit’s only hill is a perfect bunny slope the whole way down – gentle, rolling terrain! You’ll have ample opportunity to teach your kids between lift rides.

Don’t want to ski – no problem – try a little tubing instead!

Updated Video 2/27/2010

Summit Ski AreaCaveats: Okay, now that I’ve talked this place up, I do want to qualify a few things. There is a single chair lift, and it’s an “old-school” two-seater. You know, the ones with bar in between the riders. It’s not too fun riding this, because it’s a long and slow ride. Plus, you will need to keep an extremely tight hold on your child because there is no safety bar on older lifts like this one. A fall from the chair lift would cause serious injury or death. The lodge is fine, but very “rustic” with few amenities.

Website: Summit Ski Area

Distance from Portland: 54 miles east of Portland.  Here is a Google Map.

Recommended Ages: Perfect for beginning skiers. 3 – 8 years old is a pretty good range for this place.

Parental Stress Factor: Medium to High – Let’s be honest here, skiing is always pretty stressful with the trip to the mountain, the car load of clothing, the exorbitant costs, carrying all that equipment while walking in ski boots, and crowded slopes. I don’t want to be a downer here, but a ski trip is not easy! The real stress at Summit is riding the lift, but if you’re careful, you’ll be fine. The staff is very helpful with parents and little kids.

Physical Difficulty: Hard – if you’re not a regular skier, be prepared for some serious work! You will get a tremendous workout lifting your kid on and off the lifts, and of course, picking them up every time they fall, which will probably be a lot! Most little kids will poop-out after a few runs.

Family Fun Factor: High! -Despite the stress and the physical activity factor, let’s not forget that skiing is FUN! If it were that bad, people would not do it. You simply have to accept all the peripheral annoyances that come with skiing and focus on the thrill of riding a hill with your kid. Plus, outdoor adventures are always a plus when shared with other kids, parents and families.

Pet Friendly: No dogs; however, I did see people snowshoeing with their dogs on some of the peripheral trails.

Weather Considerations: This area can suffer some of the same lower-altitude problems as Ski Bowl; however, Summit has snow making capabilities so they can keep good coverage throughout the season.  When we were there last year, it was raining, which is not exactly ideal weather for skiing. Check the forecast, if it’s raining at Summit, you may want to head up to Timberline. Weather information is available on their website.

Summit Ski AreaInsider Info: Even though the ski slope may not be crowded, the tubing area may be rockin’.  Is a young child really going to ski all day? It’s doubtful. Save some money and go with the 1/2 day afternoon pass.  Also, the tubing is extra, so plan accordingly. The lift ride is a longer than most bunny hill lifts.  Bring extra clothes for the ride – I can almost guarantee they will get cold.

Summit offers a $15 learn to lesson – information is available on their website. Not many schools will give lessons to kids under 4, but this might be a good idea for kids 4 and older.  Finally, if you have to get rental gear, you can get it in Sandy for $5.00 less.  Hey…anything to save a buck or two always helps!

Summit Ski AreaFamily Tips: It’s inevitable – you’ll park the car, get everyone dressed, grab your gear, and someone will have to go potty, right? It happens every time! If your kids are toddlers, I would have them go right by the car, BEFORE putting on all their ski clothes. That will save you so much time and energy.

The lift is run slowly to accommodate beginning-level skiers, so please be patient!  Ask for assistance getting on the lift – the attendants were the absolute best here.  They take time to help you with every aspect of boarding the lift. After you get on, reach around the middle bar and hug your child the entire time you’re on the lift. Don’t let go…you don’t want them to fall off the lift. They will slow down the lift even more when you’re getting off – be careful not to knock your kid over! If you ski with poles, use them as a pseudo-safety bar.

Summit Ski AreaMany parents teach their kids to ski by putting them inside their own “snow plow wedge.” Don’t do this! It will break your back. Luckily, a parent saw me suffering and handed me a harness. With this setup, your child skis out in front while you ride behind with the reigns. My only advice with this is not to pull too hard, because your kids will learn to put too much weight in their heels. Also, do not ride directly behind them! When they fall, you may end up skiing right into them – it happens.

Long runs are nice – your kid can really start to get the feel of skiing. When they are tired, just take a break right on the slope and enjoy the view. Don’t plan on taking more than 3 or 4 runs. We only took 2 runs, but it took us 30 minutes each time to get down the hill. At first I thought I wasn’t getting my money’s worth, but then I saw the huge smile on my son’s face while when I started skiing next to him. It was all worth it!

Technorati Tags: summi ski area, Government Camp, Mt. Hood, Mt. Hood skiing, kids’ skiing, skiing with kids, toddler skiing

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  1. Really helpful post, thanks!

    • Thanks! If you go, please leave a comment about your trip. I haven't been up to Summit since I wrote the article a couple of years ago. Hopefully, things haven't changed much.

  2. Helpful post. Thanks for sharing

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