The Best Backcountry Ski Lodges in Oregon

By: Crai S Bower

February 24, 2014

Snowbound in the backcountry. The very thought of such isolation, an impassable road, snow covering up the windows, has spawned nightmares and horror stories (see below). Today however, it seems like everybody in the Pacific Northwest craves a backcountry experience. Perhaps Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge influenced this new paradigm when they chose to honeymoon in Alberta’s remote Skoki Lodge, albeit during the summer and with a special royal toilet.


Fortunately for those craving a deep wilderness experience, the options are not limited to Canada. Oregon is flush with remote lodges that require a ski or snow machine traverse and lead you out the back door into the Cascade Mountain.

The most infamous snowbound lodge in North America resides in Oregon. Sort of. Like many of the National Park Service’s great lodges, Timberline Lodge was built with Work Progress Administration (WPA) funds designated to employ workers during the waning years of America’s Great Depression. Forty years later, director Stanley Kubrick cast the lodge as the “Overlook Hotel” for Stephen King’s thriller, “The Shining.” Even though the award winning film was set in the Colorado Rockies, driving up to this 55,000 square foot behemoth still elicits a shudder. Fortunately, the cosy knotted pine bedrooms and one of America’s great lodge fireplaces will warm the chills away.


Ram's Head Lounge | The Best Backcountry Ski Lodges in Oregon

Ram’s Head Bar looks down on the cosy fireplace © Crai S Bower


The magnificent timber and stone National Landmark stands below 11,249-feet Mt. Hood, providing access to over 1,000,000-acres of national forest bisected by 1,200 miles of hiking and skiing trails. The lodge also serves as a hub for the only year-round skiing operation in America, so no “work all day” dull boys or girls are to be found here.


Barlow Butte Hut | The Best Backcountry Ski Lodges in Oregon

Cascade Huts in winter © Cascade Huts


Cascade Huts also access the glorious Mt. Hood National Forest backcountry, but on a much smaller scale, the huts vary in size from 160 to 256 square feet. Expert guides arrange European hut-to-hut traverses that range from two to twelve miles per day. Each hut is stocked with cooking utensils, bunks, sleeping bags and pads. Skiers and snowshoe enthusiasts explore Mt. Hood National Forest’s pristine White River Valley and Barlow Ridge.


Mount Hood | The Best Backcountry Ski Lodges in Oregon

The 11,249-ft Mt. Hood © Crai S Bower


Bend, Oregon often occupies the top spot as the best outdoor recreation destination in the U.S., so it’s no surprise that, not far away, backcountry lodges abound. Elk Lake Resort sits between Sisters, Broken Top and Mt Bachelor peaks, twelve miles from the closest plowed road. Skiers and snowmobilers travel well-marked trails into the resort. The resort, with accommodations that range from deluxe timber frame homes to rustic cabins, also offers a snowcat shuttle service.


The Best Backcountry Ski Lodges in Oregon

Knotty pine rooms, a backcountry lodge staple © Crai S Bower


Several other snowbound lodges occupy land grants in Central Oregon’s Deschutes National Forest. Paulina Lake Lodge serves as a snowmobile mecca. The eighty-five year old lodge accesses 200 miles of snow machine terrain. Odell Lake Lodge & Resort is a go-to for skiers and snowshoe lovers, providing five miles of groomed trails.


Wherever you lay your skis or snowmobile keys, Oregon backcountry lodges have you covered as deeply as the snow leading up to their doors.


Header photo © moodboard/iStock/Thinkstock


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Have you visited any of these backcountry lodges? Where’s your favourite place to ski in Oregon? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

Written by Crai Bower


Crai S Bower

Award winning travel writer, photographer and broadcaster Crai S Bower contributes scores of articles annually to more than 25 publications and online outlets including National Geographic Traveler, Journey, American Way magazines and T+L Digital.

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