Oregon

Mt. Hood Meadows celebrates 50 years of innovation

MT. HOOD, Ore. (KOIN) -- Mt. Hood Meadows has come a long way in 50 years, but even when it first opened on Jan. 26, 1968 with just 2 chair lifts, one T-bar and one rope tow, its potential was clear.

Now Meadows is one of the largest and most popular destinations in the Northwest for skiers and snowboarders with 11 chair lifts, 6 high speed quads and 6 terrain parks. 

Meadows has been celebrating its anniversary all season with deals and promotions, including giving away a Golden Ticket for a lifetime pass. 

More about the Meadows 50th anniversary 

Over the decades, Meadows has made major innovations in how you get up and down the hills, snow hauling and training. 

"Snow making, snow harvesting and hauling is really what set us apart from other places," spokesman Dave Tragethon said. "We are absolutely snow farmers."

He said in the 2014/2015, a trailer full of harvested snow really saved the season. 

Ski instruction has evolved over the years too and one of Meadows' most seasoned and active ski instructors, Jeanne Farwig, has been around for 45 seasons. 

"It's still as beautiful as ever and I guess I kind of worship Mt. Hood," Farwig said. "It reminds me of the Matterhorn, which I thought was the most beautiful mountain in the world until I came here."

Farwig has done as many runs down the mountain as she has stories of Mt. Hood Meadows' early days. 

She used to nickname her students after Olympic gold medalists and even trained one herself.

Photos: Mount Hood Meadows through the years


Farwig trained skier Bill Johnson at Meadows when he was just a kid. He went on to be the first American man to win a gold medal at the Olympics in alpine skiing at the 1984 winter games in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia. 

"I took him to the Candy Cup candajar over in Bend when he was 10 and he won the slalom and giant slalom and the combined and he got a 2nd in downhill and he got 4 trophies," Farwig said. "And I took his picture and I wanted him to smile. He would not smile for me and I said 'What’s the matter?" he said 'I got a 2nd in downhill.' He wasn't happy about all his other trophies." 

In an effort to make the learning experience less intimidating, Mt. Hood Meadows changed the technology behind chair lifts.

"When you think about the rope tow, it did so many things wrong. It wore out your gloves, you’re holding onto it in an awkward position, if you’re on a snowboard, you’re in a really awkward position," Tragethon said. "Now you get on the carpet and gently glide inside the tube and you’re ready for your first run. We’ve taken that technology and it's now on our new Buttercup lift."

Even snowboarding is a new thing within the last 50 years.

"Mt. Hood Meadows is one of those places where snowboarding blew up," Tragethon said. "We had the first terrain park and at that time we called them snowboard parks because who would want to go in there with skis?"

With the strong history and new technology together, Mt. Hood Meadows is looking forward to another 50 years of good times on the mountain. 

Video: Mount Hood Meadows archive footage by Dick Powers


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