Last year was a tough one for skiers—and even worse for ski resorts that simply don't have the luxury of chasing snow. (Um, duh, they are mountains and sort of rooted where they are.). Hoodoo, one of Oregon's first ski resorts, was hit as hard as anyone.
But, Hoodoo Ski Area has a history of bouncing back. Forest fires in the late '60s threatened the area and, in 1968, the lodge burned down. But with the same pluck and community spirit as a ski bum's equivalent of an Amish barn raising, Hoodoo was back in business the very next year.
Last year was equally frustrating, and is demanding the same sort of comeback this winter. With a lack of snow last December and January, the resort struggled to open. Even after staff shoveled what snow they could find onto the trails, a massive rain storm washed away their efforts.
But, General Manger Leif Williams tells the Source, that is just part of the business.
Source Weekly: Last year was tough. How do you bounce back? Emotionally? Financially?
Leif Williams: "Hope for the best, plan for the worst" is how most weather dependent businesses operate. It is tough to have a bad season because we obviously want to provide the best product possible to our guests, but when that doesn't happen we have to stay optimistic.
SW: The ski industry is really a roller coaster—good years and bad years. Is there a pep talk that you give the staff at the beginning of each season? Or, is it sort of known that this is "the business?"
LW: Optimism is contagious. Yes...last winter was devastating, but summer operations were fantastic. Hoodoo Recreation, which manages all the campgrounds in the Deschutes National Forest experienced a record camping season.
SW: What encouraging trends do you see in the ski industry?
LW: Barrier to entry is becoming easier and easier. It no longer costs tons of money to learn or even try the sport. Amazing learn-to-ski offers are popping up all over the United States. Hoodoo offers what I believe is the best and most affordable learn-to-ski or ride package on the market. We call it 1, 2, 3 Rent for Free. If you are brand new to the sport, for only $149 you receive three lessons, three lift tickets and unlimited rentals for the rest of the season. The program starts after winter break and only caters to people seven and older.
National Ski Area Association sees the concern of aging Baby Boomers dropping out of the sport. Baby Boomers are a generation that helped to build the industry into what it is today. NSAA has established nationwide initiatives focused on attracting newer, younger participants, such as National Learn to Ski and Ride Month.
SW: How did you get involved with Hoodoo?
LW: I worked with the owner for a long time as a media account executive. I have always loved Hoodoo. In fact, I proposed to my wife at Hoodoo while staying in a '79 campervan in the parking lot.
SW: Thoughts for the upcoming year? Changes?
LW: A new snowcat puts Hoodoo in a class of its own amongst Oregon ski resorts, a Pisten Bully 600 Snowcat. Hoodoo is the first ski area in Oregon to acquire the top-of-the-line snowcat, which will make grooming on the mountain better and faster, with some exciting benefits for Hoodoo skiers, boarders and riders.
The new snowcat is the first new piece of grooming equipment at Hoodoo in nearly four seasons (Hoodoo also has three other older PB snowcats and a Bombardier, for a total of five groomers). The new PB-600 snowcat has double the fuel economy of previous Hoodoo machines, with more power and less required maintenance.
We also have an Aebi tractor that mows the slopes and we've mowed to the point where we can open the lifts with just 24 to 36 inches of snow on the ground. We did lots of summer grooming and fell about 300 hazard trees on Nordic trails and race trails.
Hoodoo also purchased a new track-setter for use on its 18 km of Nordic trails, which will complement the increased amount of summer grooming.
Hoodoo Kickoff Party
7-9 pm, Sat., Nov 22.
Three Creeks Brewing Company, 721 S Desperado Ct., Sisters