Travel review: Oregon - a state for all seasons
Jan 17 2012 By Sean Bradbury
IT'S HARD to recall the exact moment I fell in love with Oregon, but once the warm afterglow of a week of superb skiing, fantastic food and breathtaking scenery had finally dissipated, the pieces began to come together.
And the good news for Merseysiders is that getting over to the Beaver State couldn't be easier, with Dutch airline KLM and partners offering a direct flight from Liverpool to Portland, Oregon, via a quick hop over to Amsterdam.
Portland itself is not only the perfect springboard for an unforgettable skiing trip on the snowy peaks of the nearby Cascade Mountain range, but an essential stop on any holiday to the Western United States.
To visit the City of Roses is an experience unlike any other in the USA. Portland has channelled the pioneer spirit that brought about its origin into a rare and refined blend of civic pride and outward-looking experimentation.
Nicknamed the People's Republic of Portland, the parallels with Liverpool are there in number. Creativity abounds and the locals have a genuine passion to both show visitors a good time and learn everything about their guests.
Portland is divided into quarters and is easy to explore thanks to the city-wide light rail tram system. It is a foodie heaven with a distinct European edge; there are numerous cafes, bustling squares and wonderful delis seemingly on every corner.
Those who like their ale are at home here too, as Portland boasts more microbreweries than any other city in the world. You can also lose hour after hour at Powell's City of Books – a mammoth book shop occupying more than 68,000 square feet of space which has to be seen to be believed.
Green, friendly and progressive, Portland is a must on any trip to the Pacific Northwest – even if you don't plan on bringing your skis. But after my experiences on the rest of my stay, I would seriously recommend you do.
GALLERY: Oregon in pictures - Portland, Mt Hood and Mt Bachelor
The beauty is that Oregon is greedy: it doesn't just have one mountain perfectly primed for skiing within a couple of hours drive from Portland, it has two. Looking to the south-east from the city, the imperious peak of Mount Hood – all 11,249ft of it – dominates the skyline and the thoughts of many ski-happy Oregonians.
Heading to Mt Hood is worth it for the Resort at the Mountain ski lodge alone. After a recent $17m facelift, the resort glistens just as much as the snow on a powder day. The roaring fireplace in each room and the heated outdoor pool are perfect for post-piste rest and relaxation.
The food at the Altitude Restaurant and Lounge is suitably high quality – Dungeness crab followed by Oregon rabbit saddle anyone? – and the cozy bar area makes it the ideal place to unwind with a whisky or three after a session on the slopes.
And at Mt Hood's most popular skiing areas – Meadows, Timberline and Skibowl – there are no shortage of runs to explore..
As well as housing Timberline Lodge – one of the country's finest timber buildings and the inspiration for Overlook Hotel in Stanley Kubrick's film The Shining – Timberline is also renowned for being America's only 'all-year' ski area, usually in operation for 50 out of 52 weeks.
And for those who can't keep off the white stuff, Mt. Hood's Skibowl is open all hours and offers the largest night ski area in America. Skibowl is overflowing with runs – 65 in total – and is the closest piste to Portland.
One hundred miles due south of Mt Hood stands Mount Bachelor, the second largest single-mountain ski resort in the USA. While many Winter Olympians use the more challenging trails on Bachelor for training, there are plenty of green and blue runs for those who are still honing their alpine skills and aren't quite ready for international competition.
Bachelor also caters for snowboarders and freestyle skiers with a 400ft super pipe and has 12 trails for cross country skiing. The dog-sledding at the resort offered by Trail of Dreams is unmissable; run by Jerry Scdoris and his daughter Rachael who overcame blindness to became a professional sled dog racer, their story is almost as thrilling as their husky-led, high-speed expedition.
VIDEO: The beauty of Oregon
The skiing instruction at both Mt Hood Meadows and Mt Bachelor is first-rate. A complete stranger to the slopes before I arrived, one session of patient teaching at each resort saw me negotiating beginner green runs in no time and feeling confident enough to attempt a few blues before the après-ski beckoned.
And in Bend, the fun-loving city not far from the foot of Bachelor, there is plenty of après-ski to be had. Just don't try and take the natives on at karaoke.
So there you have it – what's not to love? And as if all this wasn't enough, I was repeatedly assured there are no end of summertime sporting activities to indulge in; that Oregon is a state for all seasons.
An endless amount of varied terrains comprise perfect trails for mountain bikers, one local said. Buried under white sheets of winter snow are some of the finest golf courses in the United States, insisted another.
It sounded too good to be true, so I had the same answer for everyone who sought to convince: "I don't believe you. I'm coming back to find out for myself."
Flights to Liverpool to Portland via Amsterdam by KLM/Delta: www.klm.com
Stylish Hotel Lucia has the ideal downtown location from which to explore Portland: www.hotellucia.com
Evergreen Escapes for bespoke travel and tours around Oregon and beyond: www.evergreen escapes.com