Backcountry, slackcountry, sidecountry. Whatever you call it, whilst skiing outside of the resort boundary you are on your own. The snow is not managed and can be very unpredictable depending on conditions. So when introducing newbies to the backcountry, you should choose terrain carefully, based upon conditions and group dynamics.
Disclaimer aside, the historic Glade Trail, on Mt. Hood, OR, is an incredible trail to introduce little ones to the backcountry. The trail connects the historic Timberline Lodge to the quaint mountain village of Government Camp on the South side of the peak.
The Glade Trail was originally cut in 1937 as part of the Timberline Lodge ski complex. More indformation on ski trail history on Mt. Hood can be found in this ShredHood story. From the top, The Glade is accessed from West Leg Trail in Timberline Resort, just west of the base of the Storming Norman lift base. Simply drive up the Timberline Road, park in the main lot and proceed to the Wy’East or Timberline Lodges to click into your skis. No hiking required.
I highly recommend a hot chocolate in the Blue Ox Bar on the first floor of the Timberline Lodge before making this descent. This bar has served as a meeting place for climbers and tourists since the lodge was built. Its only open Saturdays and Sundays, and can be crowded. Such a cool little bar!
I first took my oldest daughter and her two friends down this trail when they were 6, 7 and 8 yrs old. Below is a video I put together of that maiden voyage. They still talk about it.
The following year, my youngest joined the tribe and skied down amazing fresh snow on New Years Eve. The group’s ages were 4, 7, 8 and 9. That was a pretty magical run with the sun setting on 2014.
We repeated this past year with a midday run down the Glade under windy, cold conditions. Snow was soft and forgiving for little bodies.
I find myself drawn back to these trails by myself and with friends and family for a number of reasons.
1) Now I may be a simple man, but its pretty mind-blowing to ski from a resort at 6,000’ to a ski village at 4,000’, some 3 miles away. This is especially rad for a little kid in the state of Oregon where slopeside lodging is very limited due to resorts sitting on National Forest land.
2) If you are staying in Govy, its one of the only ski-in, ski-out opportunity in the state of Oregon due to the fact that all ski resorts are on National Forestlands. The other is Ski Bowl, situated across Hwy 26 from Government Camp.
3) Its easy, low angle terrain. While its not groomed, its quite forgiving for lightweight, novice skiers to navigate the trails. If there is fresh snow, the flatter sections can require a little parental assist.
4) The biggest challenge of getting people in the backcountry is the climb. Equipment and fitness can be a barrier for kids of all ages. This is where the Glade trail shines. You can set up a shuttle by driving the Timberline Road. That way, nobody has to skin or hike up to access the goods! For those interested in the workout, we often drive one vehicle up and ski down. The kids head off for hot chocolate while a couple of the parents skin up the trail to retrieve the vehicle. Everyone wins.
If leading you most precious cargo down a 3 mile trail without support seems outside your comfort zone, listen to that inner voice. That said, it doesn’t get much more friendly than these trails.