written by Cathy Carroll
If you ask Oregonians how they spend their winter, you’re likely to elicit a range of reactions. Some consider beard-cicles while skiing in the backcountry the seasonal accessory of choice, while others head for fireplaces and hot toddies at the sight of the first snowflake.
Because Oregon delivers degrees of winter fun for revelers as well as retreaters—across a variety of climates—those in the two extreme groups and everyone in between can pursue their own winter destination.
Take to yurts in the vast backcountry to experience phenomenal skiing. Strap on snowshoes, pack a camera and embrace your inner Ray Atkeson on remote trails. Head to festivals that celebrate everything from ice carving, seafood, and truffles to jazz and film. Knock back some great craft brews and take in stunning views at fireside restaurants. Warm yourself from within while sipping local wines. Or, take in the warmth and healing properties of hot springs bubbling up from deep within the volcanic landscape.
Take your pick, and voilà—the dead of winter is suddenly alive.
Lake Creek Lodge
Camp Sherman | Lakecreeklodge.com
From remote backcountry lodging to exuberant winter festivals, an Oregon winter is no reason to stay huddled under the blankets, or is it?
Sisters | fivepinelodge.com
With Central Oregon’s Three Sisters Wilderness in its backyard, this lodge in Sisters is the ultimate rustic-chic base for any heart-pumping adventure, romantic or otherwise. Consider one of the luxury cabins designed for those matters of the heart. You’ll find a sunken soaking tub adjacent to the stone fireplace, an Italian-tile couple’s shower in an oversized bathroom, and a private patio amid the towering conifers of the Deschutes National Forest.
When you’re ready to emerge, you’ll find the Asian-influenced Shibui Spa, Three Creeks Brewing, Sisters Movie House and Sisters Athletic Club all on this destination campus.
For outdoor cardio pursuits, the Peterson Ridge trail is steps away, beckoning mountain bikers and hikers with the Three Sisters Mountains as the backdrop. The shops, restaurants and live music venues of downtown Sisters, with its Western frontier aesthetic, is just a short stroll from FivePine, too.
Overleaf Lodge & Spa
Yachats | overleaflodge.com
This oceanfront property with spectacular views offers a range of ways to stay warm, from fireplaces and guest robes to morning buffet breakfasts.
At the lodge spa, the expansive indoor hot tub with panoramic views of the Pacific melts winter stress away. Healing massages, therapeutic body care treatments, relaxing hydrotherapies and restorative facials help, too. Steam rooms and saunas are found in beautifully appointed locker areas.
The lodge’s calming atmosphere and décor is as restorative as the adjacent network of trails that weave among the tide pools.
Portland | hoteldeluxeportland.com
It began as the Hotel Mallory in downtown Portland in 1912 as a luxurious retreat even then. Today the property celebrates the golden age of American cinema— an only-in-Portland twist with Art Déco and Hollywood Modern design features.
Take in a curated selection of hundreds of black-and-white cinematic photos from goldenera Hollywood as you head for craft cocktails off the lobby at Gracie’s restaurant. The glamorous setting and retro-designed Driftwood Room draws locals for champagne cocktails and artisanal food at this popular happy hour spot.
The 130 guest rooms have amenities such as Portland Roasting coffee and Smith Teas, Provenance Hotels’ signature pillow, and a “Make It So” button on every hotel phone for whimsical desires or practical needs to stay warm this winter.
The Allison Spa
Newberg | theallison.com
At this wine country spa, you can indulge in warming, soothing treatments incorporating natural elements, including those from the surrounding vineyards. In the signature “grape seed cure,” you’ll be enveloped in organic honey and wine. The Pinot-inspired therapy employs grape seed extracts to infuse the skin with antioxidants. “Our treatments and amenities were specifically designed with warmth in mind to complement the chilly winters in the Northwest,” says spa director Tara Calton.
There is the hot oil herbal “wrapsody,” and other services involving warm, moist towels, heated neck and foot wraps and warm essential oils. Biodynamic blends of chamomile, peppermint and rose hips nourish the skin. Hydro-tubs, eucalyptus steam rooms and whirlpools ease muscles. The 15,000-squarefoot spa lounge enhances the experience with fireplaces, blankets, hot tea and views of the garden and terrace.
Bonneville Hot Springs Resort & Spa
North Bonneville, WA | bonnevilleresort.com
In the Columbia River Gorge in Bonneville, Washington, the hot springs water at this spa naturally contains sulfur, silica, calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, sodium, and carbonate—a combination touted as the perfect remedy for things such as inflamed joints and allergies. The spa offers invigorating and relaxing individual soaking tubs with the bath oil of your choice. In winter, try a chamomile soak as an excellent moisturizer that nourishes dry skin. Rosemary eliminates toxins in the body by improving blood circulation. Other baths are prepared with sachets of botanicals, all natural essential oils and crystallized salts, which create luscious suds for the ultimate bath.
The Cannery Pier Hotel Spa
Astoria | cannerypierhotel.com
On a pier extending 600 feet into the Columbia River, dozens of spa treatments await. The spa at the Cannery Pier Hotel deploys chocolate ginger wraps, with organic cocoa, ginger root and cacao butter to impart anti-aging properties, and soften and protect skin. This calming and detoxifying treatment is aimed at diminishing stress, unless you spend the session wanting to lick it all off.
Summer Lake Hot Springs
Paisley | summerlakehotsprings.com
In an area known as the Oregon Outback, among the few truly unspoiled places on earth, is Summer Lake, an area of ancient artesian 106- to 118-degree hot mineral springs. The cabins here were built as a model for educating people about the attributes of green building and design practices. They are heated geothermally by the surrounding waters and incorporate passive solar principles, natural products, fine linens, and interior design principles using environmentally conscious materials. The resort on 145 acres has an indoor pool and outdoor rock pools filled with the soothing water. The resort is located along the National Scenic Byway known as the Oregon Outback Highway 31, about a two-hour drive south of Bend.
Breitenbush Retreat and Conference Center
Detroit | breitenbush.com
In the Willamette National Forest about ten miles above Detroit, this cooperative on 154 acres is surrounded by hot springs, mountains, a glacier-fed river and offers guests an atmosphere for connecting with the natural world. The warming waters that geothermally heat its cabins, lodge, yoga studio and, by extension, its guests, make it perfect for winter. The pools are lined with smooth river rocks, and the sauna is a tiny cedar cabin perched above steaming waters. The clothing-optional etiquette is offered in a spirit of respect. The communal dining room serves organic meals, and has a robust schedule of concerts, dances, readings and workshops throughout the year.
Belknap Hot Springs
McKenzie Bridge | belknaphotsprings.com
The pools here may look standard, but the mineral waters filling them are Mother Earth at her liquid core. Scores of minerals are packed into the tepid waters, from lithium, sodium and potassium to manganese, iron and strontium. Located in the Willamette National Forest, Belknap could be the place to head after a day of family skiing nearby at Hoodoo. This resort in McKenzie Bridge, off Highway 126, offers day rates for the pools and showers, but also has lodge rooms, cabins, and RV and tent camping on the McKenzie River. A mile away on Highway 242 is Camp Yale’s RV and tent campground and seven new rental homes. Bring your bathing suit. Open 365 days a year.
Alvord Hot Springs
On the western edge of the Alvord Desert, a system of pipes cools and regulates the flow of water so that the temperature is maintained at about 112 degrees in the small, man-made rectangular concrete soaking pool, part of which is covered by rustic, corrugated sheet metal and wood. The day use fee is $5.
Cougar Hot Springs
Search Terwilliger at fs.usda.gov
Terwilliger Hot Springs are also known as the Cougar geothermal pools in the Willamette National Forest and are 53 miles east of Eugene. Walk a quarter-mile trail to the six soaking pools separated by rock walls. Clothing is optional here.
Bagby Hot Springs
Estacada | bagbyhotsprings.org
The advantage of heading here in winter is that you won’t have to wait your turn for the cedar log tubs in private rooms as you would in summer. Getting there can be a trick, as the roads are not maintained. These natural hot springs in the Mt. Hood National Forest are about 67 miles southeast of Portland, and about 41 miles east of Salem.
Applegate Wine Trail
The Applegate Wine Trail enjoys some of the state’s warmest weather for sipping tempranillo. Enjoy the warmth of Spanish varietal grown here while taking in the astounding beauty of the area.
The Applegate Wine Trail (applegatewinetrail.com) consists of nineteen wineries in the warmer growing region of Southern Oregon. Most of these wineries are open through winter and many offer personal tours and events throughout the season.
To really do the Applegate Wine Trail the right way, plan a two- to three-day stay in Jacksonville or Grants Pass. Head to Red Lily Vineyards, Dancin Vineyards, Valley View Winery or Cowhorn biodynamic winery, to name just a few. Jacksonville also has six wineries with tasting rooms within a mile of town. applegatewinetrail. com
On the eve of Valentine’s Day, head to the Land of Umpqua for a Chocolate Wine Walk in downtown Roseburg, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Shops stay open late for strolling guests to sip wine and taste sweets at this family friendly event. visitroseburg.com
The Three Sisters Wilderness Yurts
Sisters | threesistersbackcountry.com
In the Cascade Range, amid old-growth hemlocks at the base of Tam McArthur Rim, are two wood-fire heated yurts and a sauna, beautifully handcrafted by skiers, for skiers. The twenty-foot diameter huts each have six bunks, full kitchens and space for strategizing with your Three Sisters Backcountry guides about touring 280,000 snow-covered acres. Tam McArthur Rim rises 1,500 feet and stretches two miles offering options for all levels. There are open bowls, treed glades, couloirs, gentle meadows and steep chutes. The wilderness stretches over spectacular ridges, glades, lakes, and buttes leading to the 9,000- to 10,000-foot peaks of the South, Middle, and North Sister and Broken Top.
Anthony Lakes Mountain Resort Yurts
North Powder | anthonylakes.com
In the Elkhorn Range in the Blue Mountains just west of the tiny town of North Powder, Anthony Lakes is a classic family ski hill, with two yurts just a quarter-mile from the main and Nordic lodges and Starbottle Saloon. After a long day of making laps on the sole triple chair, skiing the cross-country trails, or snowshoeing in Angel Basin, get warm in sixteen- to twentyfoot diameter yurts, which sleep five to eight. They are stocked with split wood for the stove, have a propane cooking stove, a small kitchen with cookware, lanterns, bunks with comfy sleeping pads and outhouse access.
This primitive mode of transportation has evolved into an increasingly popular way to get out and enjoy snowy landscapes, or get your heart rate up. Oregon has no shortage on scenic routes, including these:
Pacific Crest Trail
Portland-based author Cheryl Strayed’s bestseller Wild draws increasing numbers of people to the trail. The movie adaptation filmed here with Reese Witherspoon promises to make it that much more of a destination.
From near the Siskiyou Summit in Southern Oregon to the northern border, the trail offers a landscape punctuated by one glistening volcano after another. Now that you’ve recycled the holiday cards, you can walk through the real-life version, sparkling with snow-robed firs.
Crater Lake National Park
With no traffic and crowds, as in the warmer months, and an average annual snowfall of forty-four feet, trails and unplowed roads offer snowshoers access to open slopes, dense forests and breathtaking views of America’s deepest lake, amid boundless solitude. The Rim Drive around Crater Lake is closed and unplowed during the winter and is a popular ski route through the spring thaw.
Keep in mind that no trails in the park are groomed. Bring your own snowshoes. You’ll find twenty kilometers of groomed and tracked trails in the Willamette National Forest and more than 300 acres of backwoods terrain within the Willamette Pass ski area, seventy miles east of Eugene.
Snowshoe Racing Mt. Hood and Bend
The White River 4K and 8K is set for January 19 at the White River West Sno- Park on Mt. Hood. In Bend, Super Dave’s Snowshoe Race is February 2, and the Bend 5K and 10K Snowshoe Races are February 22. xdogevents.com
To start on the extreme end of the spectrum, head to the Wallowas, or northeastern Oregon’s “Little Switzerland” surrounded by peaks just shy of 10,000 feet. Expect more than 400 inches of fluffy powder blowing in on Alaskan winds. Venture here with guides from Wallowa Alpine Huts (wallowahuts.com) for backcountry skiing in wide open bowls, old growth glades and classic couloirs. With the north-facing powder slopes, fresh tracks and the two-story yurts here, anyone who hasn’t done this leads an unfulfilled life.
Typically covered by snow with paths carved to its doors, the twenty-foot diameter yurt at Norway Camp at 7,000 feet sleeps ten upstairs on five bunk beds, essentially wooden platforms for bed rolls. The chimney of a wood-burning stove runs up from the lower level to heat the small space. The lower level, with a primitive kitchen and table is the place for telling tales of adrenaline-fueled skiing. Afterward, the guides sleep on cots around the stove, which they stoke throughout the night for their guests above.
The outfitter also shuttles by snowmobile gourmet fare such as Alaska king salmon, rice and asparagus, and Terminal Gravity IPAs just in time for happy hour. Lest good food, libations and accommodations aren’t enough, there’s even a tent converted into a wood-fired sauna.
The Portland Fertile Ground Festival | fertilegroundpdx.org
Portland | January 23 – February 2
This ten-day, city-wide event focuses on new work in the arts from the Portland creative community. Offering fully staged world premieres in theater, dance, comedy, visual art and film, this festival spans the spectrum of creative endeavor and seeds the next generation of creation through artist conversations, workshops, author readings and more.
Newport Seafood and Wine Festival | seafoodandwine.com
Newport | February 20–23
A perennial palate pleaser since 1978, the festival features Pacific Northwest wineries pouring their finest and chefs serving delectable seafood dishes. It is also a showcase for fine art, sculpture, photography, pottery and jewelry.
Oregon Truffle Festival oregontrufflefestival.com
Eugene | January 24–26
This annual weekend of culinary events dedicated to this rare, buried treasure in season in its native soil draws guests from around the world. The first of its kind in North America, the truffle festival draws nearly 1,000 participants. Some come to savor the pungent, aromatic mushroom as prepared by acclaimed chefs. Some bring their dogs to train them to hunt truffles. Others come to meet with the experts about cultivating the truffle, one of the world’s most expensive foods.
Eastern Oregon Film Festival
La Grande | February 20–22
The fifth annual weekend of independent film and music in La Grande. Exciting, educational, and dynamic cinematic experiences are promised by this community showing its commitment to the arts.
Oregon Winterfest oregonwinterfest.com
Bend | February 14–16
Bend’s largest festival celebrates all things winter. An expanded number of snowbound activities include a massive, redesigned rail jam and snow and ice sculptures being crafted by chainsaw-wielding artisans. Head for the Bend Polar Plunge or the Snow Warriors Extreme Obstacle running race through mud, snow and ice. Warm up with local craft brews and distilled spirits around elaborate artisan fire pits. Take in music from headliners such as New Orleans jazz heavies Dirty Dozen Brass Band. And for some, the festival Wine Walk is a match made in heaven – shop at Old Mill District shops where they’ll be pouring lush syrahs, Pinots and more varietals. Food booths, and family activities, too.