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Staff changes at Mount Hood Meadows highlight resort’s shift toward bike recreation

Staff changes at Mount Hood Meadows highlight resort’s shift toward bike recreation

Images from a Timberline Mountain Bike Park
brochure. A lawsuit has stalled that
plan, but Mount Hood Meadows says
biking is on the upswing regardless.

Fun in the snow remains huge on Mount Hood. But there’s growing consensus that the mountain’s future is likely to be elsewhere.

With average snowpack levels ebbing and mountain biking booming in popularity, Mount Hood Meadows is reorganizing its team to emphasize this new market, among others.

The company recently dropped “ski resort” from its official logo. On Monday, it followed that up with an announcement of that three new company vice presidents have been tasked with focusing on new facilities, programs and staff for year-round — that is, non-snow — recreation.

“Meadows is established as a successful and popular winter recreation center, primarily offering snow sports activities,” the company said in a news release. “The company is actively developing products, services and experiences to complement this traditional business.”

The release also mentions children’s rafting as a new program on the mountain.

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The new vice presidents are Steve Warila (“mountain operations and planning”), Jeremy Riss (“resort and commercial operations”) and Matt Troskey (administration). All three were promoted from within.

“We feel biking (mountain, road, cross country and events like cyclocross) will be very important to expanding our year ‘round appeal and activities,” Mount Hood Meadows spokesman Dave Tragethon wrote in an email Monday after we asked about biking’s role in the resort’s future plans. “We are waiting to see what happens with the current litigation going on regarding the Timberline Bike Park, but we don’t see the our opportunity for biking will be constrained by or dependent on a bike park at Meadows. That includes trail riding – we currently have some great trails at Cooper Spur and will be hosting a CycloCross event October 4.”

Though it’s hard to clap for the endangerment of snow, it’s good news that Mount Hood’s institutions are moving to make biking a bigger part of their offering.

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Stars aligning for a bike tourism boom in the Mt. Hood area

Stars aligning for a bike tourism boom in the Mt. Hood area

Sandy Ridge loop-5

Riders scope out routes at Sandy Ridge, a popular trail-riding
destination built specifically for mountain biking.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Nobody in Oregon gets more of its tourist dollar from bikes than the Mount Hood region, and people in eastern Multnomah and Clackamas counties are taking notice.

Whatever happens in the controversy about a planned mountain bike park near Timberline Lodge, the area seems to be thinking more and more about biking. Consider a few elements:

— Back in May a splashy Travel Oregon study grabbed the attention of city leaders by finding that 15 percent of travel expenditures in the Mt. Hood/Gorge area are bike-related:

Mt. Hood wins big with bike-related tourism.
(Image by Dean Runyon Associates for Travel Oregon)

— As reported by KATU-TV, the Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce has now pulled together $169,000 from Metro, Travel Portland, Gresham and Troutdale for an “assessment of all the trails in the area — where do they stand, where do they have gaps, where do we see the needs, where are the connections?” The idea is to prime the area for even more bike recreation.

— As we wrote this spring, the Oregon Department of Transportation is leading a $650,000 project to fight congestion on U.S. 26 by improving shoulders, trailhead access and other bike amenities that help people get to Mount Hood on two wheels.

— A $2-to-$3-per-ride express bus that’s connected the Sandy Transit Center to Mount Hood for years is preparing to add twice-a-day service to Government Camp, Timberline Lodge and Ski Bowl, starting in October. From May through early October, it’s currently expected, the buses will haul trailers designed to accommodate between four and 10 mountain bikes up to these recreational joints.

In an email, Jae Heidenreich of Clackamas County Tourism and Cultural Affairs called that last development, funded by $460,400 from the U.S. Department of Transportation, “an exciting move in the right direction for folks wanting to get up the mountain year ’round” and mentioned that “numerous parties calling out existing/growing demand” for ways to haul mountain bike equipment up the mountain in all seasons.

I joined my first own bike trip up the Gorge last month as part of Pedalpalooza, and I could swear those views are 20 percent more beautiful when fueled by eggs and toast. It’s exciting to see bike recreation being recognized as a powerful force that can draw visitors to the Portland area’s geographic treasures — without further clogging the roads for people in cars.

Oregon’s strategic focus on bike tourism was started by a dedicated coalition of advocates, business owners, and Travel Oregon staffers back in 2006. Now it looks like years of work is really starting to pay off.

Read more of our bike tourism coverage here.