When it comes to coping with winter in Oregon, there are two types of people.
The first hibernates hard to avoid the season’s wretched rains and frigid temperatures. These folks are essentially Indoor Cats—people for whom the term “shredding” more likely refers to creating scraps of fabric for a cozy crafting session—not attacking gnarly, backcountry terrain on skis. For an Indoor Cat, even the sight of a snowflake icon on a weather app is cause for panic.
The second type’s enthusiasm for winter and its bounty of outdoor activities knows no bounds. These are Sled Dogs—folks who count down the days to Mt. Hood Meadows’ traditional Thanksgiving weekend opening and pray for La Niña to extend their time in the snow. For them, hiking in winter may even be preferable. Not only are there fewer crowds on the trails, but astounding season-dependent views—from king tide waves to frozen waterfalls—await.
While planning Oregon Winter, Willamette Week’s first magazine directing you to all of the cold-temperature pleasures this state has to offer, I had to be reminded about the first category of winter people, as I tend to fall into the second. My working lineup of story assignments was filled with activities designed to expose readers to the elements, but offered little by way of warm retreats. So, I texted a friend who’s more into hygge than hiking for her thoughts.
“What would you want to see in an Oregon winter guide?” I asked.
“Good question,” she replied. “I hate snow and have no idea why people choose to be in it.”
Back to the drawing board!
Thanks to my friend’s response, this directory is divided in two: one section for the eager, outdoor-loving Sled Dogs, the other for languid Indoor Cats.
You’ll want to bundle up for the first half of Oregon Winter, which includes everything from a guide to dock crabbing on the coast to a primer on agate hunting and suggestions on where to find these semi-precious stones to expert advice on how to get into cross-country skiing. We had one contributor infiltrate a Beaverton curling league to find out why a frozen form of shuffleboard is actually fun. And since our travel writers are often asked, “Where can I hike in winter and not risk death?” we rounded up seven routes that don’t tend to ice over but still offer splendid views .
The second half of the guide is for those seeking winter solace inside. You should find our collection of Pacific Northwest lodge recommendations helpful—luxurious refuges where you can still appreciate the beauty of a wintry landscape but from the comfort of a fireplace-appointed lobby. We also discovered that Portland is home to a growing number of studios that offer on-site crafting workshops, materials included; some even serve beer and wine to help you unlock your creativity. Though maybe you just want to work your way through the city’s best warming bowls of pho, ramen and wonton soup—or all of Creo’s velvety varieties of hot chocolate. We’ve got you covered there, too.
No matter what type of winter person you are, you will benefit from an adult snow day. Get started with our morning-to-night itinerary to some of the coziest places in town.
Perhaps that will turn out to be the true purpose of this guide—encouraging individuals with very different approaches to the season to give the other side a shot.
Check the map below on where to pick up a guide (they are free!).