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Hoodoo Ski Resort/Suttle Lake Resort
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What’s to Love
:  I’ve heard the accolades from several different families who insist, “Hoodoo Mountain Resort is one of the most family-friendly, skiing destinations in the Pacific Northwest.”  Therefore, we packed up the car and headed to Hoodoo to see if it could live up to the hype.  After being back a few days and carefully considering all the factors (i.e., lift lines, lessons, childcare, bunny hill, staff, food, accessibility, etc.), I’m happy to report that Portland Family Adventures’ strongly agrees with the hype.

Hoodoo is definitely is one of the best places to ski with kids.  Believe me, when you’re skiing with young children, as parents, you’ll need all the help you can get!  As I’ve reported in other articles on skiing, it’s not easy with kids – it’s a tremendous amount of work.  You’ll understand the difficulty factor after the 100th time you bend down to pick-up your kid.  However, watching your child rip up the slopes will put a big smile on your face, and it makes it all the work worthwhile.  Hoodoo has the terrain to make it all happen for beginning-level skiers with the feel of a family-run business.

The lodge at Hoodoo Ski ResortThe picture to the left shows Hoodoo’s lodge, which was built in 2001.  Most ski lodges seem a bit run down to me, but this one is bright and airy.  The rental shop, ski school, childcare, food, and sitting area are all located inside this building, which is definitely convenient when towing around kids.  Unfortunately, I did not eat at the lodge or use the childcare, so I don’t have much to report.  The lodge was definitely one of the better facilities I’ve ever seen at a ski resort, and there are few resorts with childcare facilities on the premises. 

Inside the lodge at Hoodoo Ski ResortIt was VERY easy getting my son’s rental gear.  They had it all mapped out in 4 easy steps, and we quickly moved through the process to have skis, boots and poles within 10 minutes!  I was having trouble with a boot, and one of the workers gladly came out behind the counter area to give me a hand.  Everyone working at this resort was super friendly.  Here is a quick clip of skiing and the lodge.

Our first couple of runs were on their delightfully-long, lift-served, bunny hill.  The slope is very gradual, and it’s perfect for teaching beginners.  Actually, I think without a doubt, it’s THE best bunny hill for beginning skiers I’ve ever seen.  It will give you plenty of time to practice with your kids before having to board the lift.  Many times, bunny hills are just too short to actually  let kids get in a groove.  Here, you’ll have plenty of time for the trial and error method of teaching skiing.

Speaking of teaching, if you need some assistance, leave it up to the professionals at Hoodoo!  They have a program just right for your family including a juniors program (ages 7 – 12) and a Mountain Cub Program (ages 4 – 6).  I personally witnessed one of their instructors working with a young child on his snowboarding skills.  I thought the enthusiasm and instruction were both excellent!

Ski Bikes at Hoodoo Ski ResortWhen you’re ready to progress from the bunny hill, make the Manzanita chair lift your next stop.  The Manzanita chair lift has plenty of beginner terrain.  Often times, “beginner terrain” amounts to green runs that are basically service roads.  These service roads are narrow with plenty of traffic.  It’s not uncommon for these “green” runs to get iced-up due to all the traffic.  Manzanita offers green runs with plenty of room for beginner turns.

After graduating from Manzanita, you’ll want to head over to the “Green Machine.”  The Green Machine has a blue run (intermediate) called “Showoff” that is perfect for kids who are really getting their turns down.  If you’re feeling adventurous, you may want to try-out one of their “ski bikes (picture on the left).  I saw quite a few people having a blast on these contraptions.

Hut at the Autobahn Tubing AreaWhen you get tired of skiing, or if skiing is not your family’s thing, you may want to head over to their tubing hill (The Autobahn).  A shuttle service is available throughout the day to bring your family from the main lodge over to the tubing hill.  It’s a quick 5 minute ride, and you’ll be in their warming-hut/yurt in no time.  It’s a little more than $1 per run (kids 6 and under are free) and the minimum amount of runs is 10.  I don’t recommend sending a kid that young out there by himself/herself, so you’ll spend at least $12.  Here is a video clip of “The Autobahn” tubing hill.

Caveats:  Biggest caveat for me is the bunny hill lift does not have a safety bar.  Just put your poles in front of your kids in lieu of the bar.  This is a pretty long chair lift ride (for a bunny hill), and you certainly would not want your kids to fall off the lift.  Please be careful on this lift, and don’t let go of your kids for one second!

Always, when skiing on beginner terrain, you’ll inevitably wind-up in a flat area where you’ll come to a dead stop without skating skills.  Little kids do not know how to skate, and they will get stuck in these slow areas.  Therefore, you’ll want to perfect your ability to tow while still in motion.  I usually drift by my son while he’s coming to a stop and offer him my ski pole.  As long as we’re both moving, he’s usually able to grab on without falling down.

WebsiteHoodoo Ski Resort –  Suttle Lake Resort  (Recommended Lodging)

Distance from Portland:  It’s about 150 miles, which is about a 2.5 to 3.5 hour drive depending on conditions.  We made it there in 2 hours and 30 minutes in good weather.  Coming home took a lot longer due to bad weather on Santiam Pass.  Here is a map of the area.

Recommended Ages:  Lessons start for kids at age 4.  We started our son when he was 3, and we had to do the teaching on our own.  Lessons are a great idea when kids are young.  It will help them learn good skiing habits.  This appeared to be a great ski resort for kids of all ages, and I bumped into many families who ski at Hoodoo on a regular basis, year after year.

Parental Stress Factor:  Medium to high – If you’re a bit paranoid about the lifts like I am, you’ll be stressed out a bit getting on and off.  I didn’t see many yahoos skiing like crazy here, and even on the weekend, there was plenty of room for my son to ski without being worried about traffic.  There is always potential for bad falls and/or getting hit by other skiers or snowboarders.  As a parent, there are times when skiing is going to be stressful simply because you’ll have to keep a watchful (i.e., hawkish) eye on your kids.  Hopefully, you’ll have some wide open terrain where your kid’s enthusiasm and progress will put a big smile on your face.

Physical Difficulty:  Hard work!  Skiing is very physical, and if you’re not in shape when you ski with your young children, you’ll definitely feel it the week after your trip.  You will have to continually pick-up a beginning skier, because it’s often too hard for them to get up on their own.

Family Fun Factor:  High!  Despite the hard work, skiing is fun!  For many families, it’s the ultimate getaway.  It’s THE time for their family to get outside together and have fun.  Hanging out and telling “fish stories” after skiing is one of my all-time favorite pastimes.  Skiing vacations are the trips your kids will remember forever.

Pet Friendly:  Not a good place for pets during the winter.  The resort is open year round for hiking and biking.  During these months of hiking and biking, dogs may be an option on certain trails.  Also, for lodging, I’m highlighting “The Suttle Lake Lodge and Resort.”  The resort offers rustic cabins and two historic cabins that are dog friendly.  See “Insider Info” and “Family Tips” for more information on Suttle Lake.

Chaining up on Santiam PassWeather Considerations:  As  you can see in the picture on the left, I had to put our tire chains on in order to travel over Santiam Pass.  I almost didn’t bring the chains, because we were traveling in mid March, and it seemed like such a great day when we left Portland.  I think I learned my lesson, and I’ll always carry chains no matter what time of year.  You never know when a late season snowstorm will strike.  Be prepared!

"Rustic" cabin at Suttle Lake ResortInsider Info: For skiing and tubing, ages 6 and under are free!  While skiing at Hoodoo, there are many lodging options within 30 miles.  If you want to be within 10 miles, at a first-class resort offering several lodging options for families, we recommend the Suttle Lake Resort.  Here is a short tour of the resort and the various lodging options for families.

The Suttle Lake Lodge has some very nice rooms, but children under 14 cannot stay inside the Lodge itself.  If you have kids under 14, you’ll need to take advantage of the resort’s cabins (Rustic, Historic and Waterfront), which fit different budgets.  To the immediate left of “Insider Info” is the “Rustic Cabin” option.  Rustic cabins are dog friendly, and by far the least expensive option for families or a cozy “parent” weekend.  The cabins have electricity and heat, but do not have running water or bathrooms.  The cabins can sleep up to 6 people, but it would be a bit crowded with that many.  Realistically, it’s the perfect fit for 2 adults and 2 kids, or split the cost with another couple for a weekend away from the kids!

Historic Cabin at Suttle Lake Resort"The Point" - historic cabin at Suttle Lake ResortThese two pictures feature two of Suttle Lake’s “Historic Cabins” (left to right: Falls Cabin and The Pointe).  These Historic Cabins were built in the mid-1920s but have been updated with many modern amenities including full kitchens and updated bathrooms.  Both these cabins are literally right next to the water, even closer than the “Waterfront” cabins.  “The Point” has its own boat dock and has enough room for 10 people to sleep comfortably, which makes it a perfect option for family gatherings.

Inside the Suttle Lake LodgeThe picture to the left highlights the inside of the Suttle Lake Lodge.  It took about 2 years to built this beautiful structure – the woodwork and hand carvings are striking to say the least.  Enjoy a complimentary glass of wine during their evening social.  If you’re without kids, enjoy a romantic night out in one of the Lodge’s guest rooms.  There are 3 room options available:  Deluxe Suite, Standard Guest Suite, and Lofted Guest Room.  The resort has an ADA compliant cabin, and an ADA compliant room inside the Lodge.  During the summer, you’ll definitely want to walk out the back of the Lodge to enjoy their gazebo overlooking Suttle Lake.  For meetings, the Lodge also has an upstairs conference room available for rent.  Here is a clip of the Lodge.

"The Boathouse" restaurant at Suttle Lake ResortWhile staying at the resort, we highly recommend eating dinner at The Boathouse.  It’s tucked away right next to Suttle Lake with outdoor dining options during warmer months.  While definitely a “fine dining” experience, it is certainly casual enough to bring the whole family.  Our 5 year old loved dipping into the lobster fondue and gourmet-style, macaroni and cheese.  Our 10-month old son just enjoyed eating his baby food and crawling around near the windows.  I’m sure your kids have had “eating-out-melt-downs,” and our kids were on the verge while we were there.  However at the Boathouse, their staff was so kind, humorous and friendly that our kids were entertained and distracted just long enough to make it through a nice evening meal.

New York Steak - local and delicious!Grilled Salmon SaladWhile I’m not a food critic per se, I have to comment on the quality of our meal.  My New York steak was cooked perfectly with crunchy leeks, sauteed vegetables, and a slightly sweet sauce.  My wife had a salmon salad featuring a citrus dressing that she absolutely loved.  We cleaned every plate they brought us including some delicious homemade bread and an amazing chocolate cake.  The servers were very knowledgeable about the food preparation and wine list.  This was a very friendly place and even the chef himself came out to visit with the guests.  I have to say that eating at The Boathouse was one of the highlights of this adventure.

Bear Hollow Riverside CabinFamily Tips:  Finally, while I’ve mentioned both the Historic and Rustic cabin options, I highly recommend one of Suttle Lake Resort’s “Waterfront Cabins.”  If you’re budget conscious, these beauties could be shared between 2 families.  They are more like luxury, vacation homes than “cabins.”  If the cost is shared between two families, the Waterfront cabins become a more affordable option.  These cabins come fully equipped with everything your family needs and more.  Plus, you get the benefit of overlooking Suttle Lake from your porch!

Entryway and KitchenThis picture is the entryway into the cabin, which leads into the kitchen and dining area.  There are two things I would recommend bringing to supplement their fully stocked kitchens:  oil and a large stock pot for soups or boiling water for several helpings of pasta.  We had to use both of their smaller saucepans to cook enough pasta for our family of four.  There is no dishwasher or garbage disposal.  Guest are responsible for cleaning all dishes before check-out!

Upstairs loft at Bear Hollow CabinTwin beds upstairs loft of Bear HollowThe Waterfront cabins all have lofts with 2 twin beds.  The living rooms have sleeper sofas and master bedrooms on the main floor with queen-sized beds.  Cabins do not have a washer and dryer, and there are no laundry facilities at the resort.  The nearest place to do laundry is in Sisters, Oregon, which is about 14 miles.

[myebay]ski gear[/myebay]

Technorati Tags: Hoodoo, ski, area, family, friendly, beginners, first-timers, kids, downhill, skiing, school, central, oregon, sisters, Suttle Lake Lodge, Suttle Lake Resort, cabins, rustic, historic, waterfront, The Boathouse, marina

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  1. Hoodoo has been a family favorite for years (we have a ten and three year old). The staff is very friendly and always willing to help your little skier. The family vibe extends to the trails as well as the ski/snowboard culture seems to be a little less rowdy. Also, if you are staying for the weekend, Hoodoo allows you to take your rental with you that evening so you don't have to re-rent the next day!

    Thanks for reviewing Hoodoo…as alwyas, Portland Family Adventures has the inside scoop!

  2. As Rhys says Suttle Lake looks like an "awesome" place for both families and adults to enjoy. The cabins on the lake were lovely as was the lodge. Staff on your tour was friendly and the food looked. Delicious. A place to think about staying on our next trip to the Northwest.

  3. Hoodoo Ski Area to open 2009-2010 season on Friday

    Sisters, Ore. – As recent winter weather has left several inches of snow across the mid-Cascade region of Oregon, Hoodoo Ski Area will commence its 2009-2010 season on Friday, Nov. 27.

    In preparation for the rest of the season, four of Hoodoo's five ski lifts will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on opening day. The Autobahn — Hoodoo's popular tubing park with more than a dozen 800-feet runs, 250+ tubes and an automated tube tow — will also be open on Friday from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

    As one of Oregon 's oldest and most centrally located ski areas, Hoodoo continues to be a popular winter destination for skiers, snowboarders and winter sports enthusiasts throughout the Pacific Northwest . With a base of 4,668 feet, a summit of 5,703 feet and a vertical rise of 1,035 feet, Hoodoo offers a fun and challenging environment for skiers and snowboarders of all ages and skill levels. Since opening in 1938, Hoodoo has evolved into a full-service mountain resort with more than 800 skiable acres, 30 alpine trails, 15.8 km of Nordic trails, three quad lifts, one triple chair and one double chair. Hoodoo also offers also offers air board, snowbike/skibike and snow scooter rentals. Night skiing is held from 4 p.m. – 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday evenings from Dec. 18 – March 27.

    Hoodoo's spacious lodge includes a rental and repair shop, ski shop, restaurant, full bar, lockers, showers, as well as overnight car and RV sites. Parking is free for Hoodoo guests and Snopark permits are available for the nearby snow parks. Overnight parking is by Hoodoo parking permit only. Hoodoo is known for its many, family friendly events and activities, including our upcoming New Year's Eve party, complete with demos, live music, fireworks sponsored by Ninkasi Brewing Co. of Eugene, and night skiing. For a full list of upcoming events, go to

    For more information about daily ski conditions, visit or call the Hoodoo Snowphone hotline at 541-822-3337. More specific questions can be answered by calling Hoodoo main office at 541-822-3799. For current road conditions along the Santiam Pass and other parts of Oregon , visit or call the Oregon Dept. of Transportation (ODOT) toll-free at 800-977-6368.

    Hoodoo Ski Area is a family-owned mountain resort operated on federal land by agreement with the Willamette National Forest , McKenzie River ranger district. Located on the summit of Oregon 's Santiam Pass 20 miles west of Sisters, Hoodoo is one of the state's most centrally located, economical and family friendly winter sports destinations. Visit us online at and see why Hoodoo is "The Mountain in Your Backyard"!

  4. Love it! Family time is hard to come by for us these days. We are already planning our first ski trip of the season.
Some friends recently gave us a can of Batter Blaster organic pancake mix, after taking some on a camping trip. Seems like it would also be prefect to pack on the ski trip! Nice way to start the day, hot breakfast with all the family together!

    Now let’s all pray for SNOW!!

    • Don’t think there is going to be much of an issue with snow this year at Hoodoo. Hope you have a great trip. Please leave some additional comments here after your trip. Thanks! Vince

    • SarahJane did not you gone for a trip? We are waiting for your review about the trip about which the author has requested. Thanks


  1. Portland Family Adventures – Hoodoo Ski Resort/Suttle Lake Resort | Skiing Leisure Knowledge

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