When Portland got buried under snow two years ago, Guy Trombley decided to get up before sunrise and go skiing. He didn't head to a resort. Instead, he just went to Mount Tabor. He wasn't the only one.

"I found my people," says Trombley, general manager of the Mountain Shop. "There were dozens of people on Mount Tabor skiing, and it was a blast."

Usually, Portland skiers and snowboarders have to trek out to Mount Hood to hit the slopes. But whenever there's more than a few inches on the ground, they can just hit the streets. The hours before sunrise are ideal, Trombley says. There are no cars on the road, and on a clear night, you can glide through a sleepy, snow-covered city underneath the moon and stars.

Urban skiing isn't as big a deal in Portland as it is in snowier cities, but there's still a small but dedicated scene. There's even an impromptu cross country-style race called the Stumptown Birkebeiner. Somewhere between a low-stakes race and a parade, Birkebeiner participants gather outside Powell's City of Books for a course that loops through the Pearl. It's held each winter the weather allows.

Still, urban skiing presents a unique set of hazards. Running over manholes or patches of bare asphalt can send you tumbling, while curbs, rocks and gravel can shred your skis. Trombley recommends buying a cheap pair of skis at a garage sale for your inner-city adventures.

"Don't rent skis if you ski in town," he says. "You'll end up having to own them."

There are plenty of hilly streets in Portland to careen down. But to limit the beating your skis take, look for grassy, open spaces. You'll also want at least 4 inches of snowfall. Obviously, there are no ski lifts in town, which is why many urban skiers opt for Nordic, rather than downhill, skis.

"You can Alpine ski off of the big hills, but then you have to walk up with your skis, which is kind of a pain in the neck," says Trombley. "Whereas you can Nordic ski to the top of any of the hills."

Thankfully, there are plenty of rolling green spaces within city limits. Here are some of the best.

Mount Tabor

Good for: Alpine skiing, Nordic skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing

Since it's a relatively short hike, it's not too difficult to drag some downhill skis or a snowboard up the Tabe. (Note: Please don't call it that.) Once you reach the edge of the park, you can keep gliding downhill along Southeast Lincoln Street. "Basically, you hit a street and you just keep going down toward the river until you run out of speed," says Trombley. "I've had friends snowboard off Mount Tabor and then another 20 blocks west."

Hoyt Arboretum

Good for: Alpine skiing, Nordic skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing

Not only is the arboretum scenic, grassy and hilly, it's also easily accessible by MAX. It does pose some extra challenges, though. "There's a lot of big trees up there, and they're going to prevent the snow from hitting the ground," says Trombley. Thankfully, the arboretum trails are grouped by species, so you can simply avoid paths through conifers: "A lot of them are younger trees, so they're not big huge canopy trees, so you should be able to pick a course through there."

(Joe Riedl)
(Joe Riedl)

Powell Butte

Good for: Nordic skiing, snowshoeing

Powell Butte may not abut a 20-block slope like Mount Tabor, but it does feel like more of an escape from the city. Its gentler slopes are ideal for soaking in the scenery. "It'd probably be the most beautiful place I could think of on the eastside," says Trombley. "The views up there on a starry, snowy night would be phenomenal, and it's kind of open and rolling. The hills aren't so big, so you wouldn't be going too fast."

Rose City Golf Course

Good for: Nordic skiing, snowshoeing

Since they offer large swaths of grass with minimal rocks and debris, you don't need that much snow before golf courses become skiable. "All around the Midwest, that's where a lot of Nordic skiing happens because they actually groom the golf courses," says Trombley. Rose City Golf Course is particularly popular with urban skiers because it's centrally located, large and open, but whatever golf course you're closest to will work just as well.

Springwater Corridor

Good for: Nordic skiing, snowshoeing

Bike paths are generally good spots for Nordic skiing, and the Springwater offers 40 miles of car-free terrain along the Willamette, past Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge and all the way out to Boring, Ore. For views of the Columbia, head to the Marine Drive multiuse path along the city's northern border. "The only thing you're really worried about is hitting bare tar," says Trombley. "If there's enough snow and the snow is heavy enough, usually you can glide a little bit. Just be cautious that if you bottom out, you're not going to be going so fast that you fall."

Recommended Supplies:

Cheap skis

Ski poles

Snow pants and jacket