Front Page, Outdoors

Rob DeHarpport’s outdoor report: Skiing is great, but we still need more snow

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Parking lot of Willamette Pass Ski Resort on Friday Rob DeHarpport photo


By ROB DEHARPPORT/ For The Herald  —  As we enter the third week of the new year, the impact of the Covid 19 pandemic is still being felt by many businesses. The outdoor recreation industry has not been immune to the lingering effects.

Recruiting full staffs can always be a challenge to seasonal outdoor recreational businesses. Quite often the main stumbling block is affordable housing availability for employees in these more remote areas. The Crescent Lake/Willamette Pass area within our Highway 58 corridor is no exception to the staffing dilemma facing seasonal operations.

Currently, Willamette Pass Resort and Manley’s Tavern are two examples. Manley’s has been closed on Tuesday and Wednesdays due to staffing challenges.  Willamette Pass staffing levels are currently inadequate to open all of their ski lifts and maintain and groom all ski trails for guests.

Status of Willamette Pass Ski Area

As of today, Thursday Jan.14th only two lifts are operating. Twilight Lift and the Eagle Peak Accelerator lifts are running Wednesday through Sunday. They will also be open this Monday on Martin Luther King Day. This year, Willamette Pass is open 5 days per week until further notice.

The word I gathered from my recent visit is that the understaffed crew is working to open the Peak Two Lift. It continues to remain buried with the heavy snow from our December snowstorms. If, and when, they open up The Peak Two Lift is entirely dependent on hiring more staff to man the lifts.

More personnel will also be needed to properly groom and patrol the opening of the “back side” of the mountain, accessed by the Peak Two chairlift. Willamette Pass offers an employee bus to transport employees as well as free skiing for employees. You may give the resort a call for employment opportunities at 541-345-7669.

The restaurant inside Willamette Pass Lodge is offering a reduced menu selection on Wednesdays through Fridays due to staffing shortages. The full menu is open on weekends.

Staffing challenges are throughout the West

Unfortunately, these challenged are being seen at ski areas and resorts throughout the western states. From Steven’s Pass in Washington to Park City Ski resort and into the ski areas of the Sierra Nevada mountains of California. All these resorts are dealing with variable levels of staffing challenges and the impacts of Covid 19 and now the Omicron variant.

Despite these challenges ski conditions have been generally fantastic, thanks to the big snowstorms that dumped all the needed snow in December.

Unfortunately, what many, including this writer, welcomed as the possible “drought ending” storms in December, may not hold out to be entirely true. Most areas in the west have seen better than average snowfall in December. Water content from this snowfall has been well over 100% of average for this time of year. However, the extended forecasts through January are looking bleak for any substantial snowfall in the Oregon Cascades.

Is there still time for more snow?

Might we get another good dumping of sorely needed snow in February? Only time will tell… As we enter mid-January, and soon February, each passing day without additional snowfall lessens the odds for a full recovery from the drought that has plagued the West.

In the meantime, consider crossing your fingers and doing a snow dance to encourage the weather. Bring the sunscreen and get out and enjoy the Spring-like conditions on the mountain, whether that includes downhill skiing, cross country skiing, snowmobiling, snow shoeing or simply playing in the snow and sledding.

We are lucky to have so many year-round outdoor opportunities within our Highway 58 corridor. So, stay safe and enjoy.

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