I’d been at Goose Hollow Inn for five minutes of the snowstorm, and inquiries about renting a room for the night were pouring in.
No, fellow drinkers at the pub weren’t slurring requests to the barkeep for a darkened corner to sleep it off. Instead, stranded motorists were calling and pleading for boarding, clearly thinking the term “inn” meant “bed and breakfast,” not “bar.”
If you were in Portland that day—Dec. 14, 2016—you surely remember the blizzard that blew through, dumping as much as 3 inches of snow in some areas. When it became clear by late afternoon that this was going to be more than a flurry, everyone hit the road at the same time, creating a citywide traffic jam: Skidded-out cars and pileups clogged major highways, trapping drivers. After idling for hours, some simply ditched their rides and walked.
Watching the crippling event unfold from the comfort of a barstool at Goose Hollow Inn, I felt like I had been placed in a snow globe, as the world around me came to a standstill except for the frenzy of flakes in the sky (and the bar’s ringing phone).
What’s always stuck with me since then is that our coldest season is also the most erratic. Sometimes we’re walloped by a weather system that buries us in snow and shuts down the city; occasionally, we’ll get so much rain the rivers burst their banks; and then there are windstorms so powerful they’ll topple an entire forest’s worth of trees and have folks talking about the event for decades to come.
I’ve learned that the best way to ride out this period of uncertainty is actually pretty simple: Be prepared.
So, consider Oregon Winter, Willamette Week’s second annual directory to the fun to be had from December to March, your room at the inn. In this preparedness guide, we’ve listed a wide range of activities suitable for whatever conditions Mother Nature throws at us. You can find it next week in more than 650 locations—newsstands, bars, restaurants, hotels, grocers and convenience stores—across the Portland metro area. Look for it to be added to our website in the coming weeks.
For those who eagerly embrace the Scandinavian maxim “there is no bad weather, only bad clothing,” we’ve rounded up the best slopes for sledding, both in Portland and on Mount Hood.
Looking for a weekend getaway that is a remote hiking hub yet only steps from a pub? There’s a little cabin in the woods, on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge, where you’ll find two trails that reward with views of stunning waterfalls—as well as Backwoods Brewing, where you can fill up on beer and smoked meats post-journey.
When the numbness in your fingers tells you it’s time to come in (or, if you try to avoid the outdoors altogether), these pages have plenty of suggestions on how to warm up inside. We spent weeks working our way through the city’s soaking pools and hot tubs, sampling what seemed an Ulta Beauty’s supply of body scrubs and bath salts (yes, we’re still smooth and lustrous). You’ll find detailed descriptions of 11 experiences.
We also discovered that wine country is working wonders with whiskey. Yamhill County, just an hour southwest of Portland, now boasts six distilleries—so we provided a Whiskey Trail report to help you plan your trip. Cannabis consumers should turn to our summary of the best indoor recreational venues to navigate while high. And during those particularly dreary days, escape the soggy Pacific Northwest by dining at one of our recommended restaurants that will whisk you away to the beaches of Hawaii, Mexico and Thailand when a plane ticket isn’t in the cards.
No matter where your explorations take you this season, we hope Oregon Winter helps inspire at least a few itineraries. Just remember the next time the forecast calls for a chance of valley-floor snow, it’s probably best to leave the car in park (we’re Oregonians, after all, and don’t know how to drive in that slop). And, if you do find yourself helpless in the elements, Goose Hollow Inn has a beer with your name on it.
Look for our free magazine all over Portland this week!