This photo was taken on March 18th of the Palmer chairlift high up on Mt. Hood, OR at Timberline ski resort.
You can kind see why this lift isn’t open in the winter – it just gets too hammered by snow.
The Palmer chair is where they ski on Mt. Hood all summer. Timberline ski resort is generally only closed about 1 or 2 months per year…
This winter Timberline has already seen 461″ of snowfall and they’re sitting on a 146″ snowpack.
Why Isn’t Palmer Chairlift Open in the Winter?
by Timberline Lodge
The Palmer Express chairlift gives Timberline the longest ski season in North America. We wish it was possible to maintain the Palmer Chair during the winter – but frequent and heavy winter storms coat the lift towers in thick snow and ice. These storms often have wind speeds exceeding 100mph and brutally cold temperatures. These factors make de-icing the lift virtually impossible. In the spring, Palmer Chairlift gets a full maintenance check to prepare it for summer operations.
Also, as you can see in the photo, the Palmer Chairlift Upper Terminal is buried in the winter. Timberline uses Pistenbully SnowSAT to measure snow depth around the ski resort. SnowSAT uses satellite technology to help us manage snow levels safely and efficiently, so we can guarantee a full cover of snow throughout the entire season. Snow depth at the Palmer Upper Terminal (8500 ‘ elevation) measured in at over 25 feet this winter. We measured snow depth at about 7500’ elevation on Palmer Glacier to be over 50 feet this year!
Timberline offers the longest ski season in North America. In ideal years, lifts are open October through August, with maintenance scheduled for each September. Skiers, snowboarders, and sightseers ride up the Magic Mile chairlift to the Palmer Glacier and its lift, where most of the summer skiing takes place, particularly later in the season. In contrast to winter operations when weekends are the busiest, the lifts are the thriving during the summer ski season Monday through Friday, mostly due to ski and snowboard camps. Intermediate and more advanced public skiers and snowboarders are welcome on Palmer as well.
“In the summertime, everyone who is anyone in the ski business is on Palmer,” says Steve Kruse, Timberline’s GM of Mountain Operations, “It keeps it interesting. It appeals to a different level of skier or snowboarder.” In fact, Olympic ski and snowboard teams from around the world train at Timberline in the summer.
The original Palmer Chairlift opened for the 1978 summer ski season. Mt. Hood was quickly put on a global ski racing stage as THE place to train in the summer. The original lift was a fixed double chair in basically the same location as the present lift, with the base station near Silcox Hut. The current Palmer chairlift was completed in 1996, and is built to withstand wind gusts of over 100 miles per hour (160 km/h) and 200 inches (510 cm) of snow. Its construction time was less than six months due to a limited building season imposed by the local weather conditions.
In place of the lift, we offer our Palmer Snowcat Service for your snowcat skiing enjoyment during the winter season. This opens up 3,690 vertical feet of snowcat skiing and riding from the top of Palmer to the bottom of the Jeff Flood Express. Timberline’s Palmer Snowcat Service typically runs on weekends and holidays from 11am to 2pm when weather permits, and is FREE for lift ticket and season pass holders. Check the Conditions page for Palmer Snowcat operating hours. Conditions can change rapidly on Palmer. Snow conditions are often variable – skiers and riders are urged to use extreme caution. The Palmer Snowfield is recommended for advanced skiers and riders only.