why it’s great: If the powder feels especially fresh along this Mt Hood National Forest ski trail this winter, there’s good reason. Closed since 2011 due to construction on Highway 35, Pocket Creek Sno-Park officially reopened in December, just in time for some impressive pre-Christmas storms. At 3,800 feet in elevation, the foothill-like terrain just southeast of Mt Hood Meadows’ HRM parking lot typically holds good snow through February, and offers some of the most accessible backcountry near Hood River. After a one-mile cruise on a nearly level trail, skiers can ascend 5,800-foot Gunsight Ridge, where a series of clearings provides a private ski hill. From the ridge top, iced-over Badger Lake lies just to the east, adding an alternate destination. For the more timid, a wooden bridge barely a quarter-mile up the trail makes a scenic backdrop for next year’s holiday card.
Don’t forget: Backcountry travelers should check in with the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center for the current forecast and avalanche warnings. nwac.us
Post-hike watering hole: Pfriem Family Brewers Opened in 2012, this upstart Hood River brewpub from former Full Sail brewer Josh Pfriem sits within a bottlecap’s toss of the town’s waterfront. Take in the whitecapping Columbia from the warehouse-like space, while Belgian-inspired ales like the chocolate-noted Strong Dark gird against the chills. The food menu’s helpful beer-pairing notes will spare your trail-worn mind any decision fatigue. 707 Portway Ave, Suite 101, Hood River; 541-321-0490
Trailhead directions: From Hood River, go south on Highway 35 for approximately 30 miles and look for the Sno-Park on your left. Sno-Park permit required.