Timberline Lodge, marvel of WPA
Where else can you channel the ghosts of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Stephen King's "The Shining" under one roof? The stories that Timberline...
Seattle Times staff reporter
If you go
Take Interstate 5 south to Clark County, then Interstate 205 south across the Columbia River to Interstate 84. Take I-84 east to the Wood Village exit, then south to Highway 26. Follow 26 east another hour to Mount Hood. Turnoff to Timberline Lodge and Timberline recreation area is just beyond the town of Government Camp. Follow the signs.
The three-story, 70-room lodge includes eight guest rooms with wood-burning fireplaces. Rates range from $99 to $285, depending on day. The cheapest are the "Chalets," bunk-bed rooms with shared bathrooms. For midweek and Sunday, find reduced rates on the Internet. Check timberlinelodge.com/reservations/internet_specials.php
800-547-1406 or timberlinelodge.com
Timberline Lodge pros and cons
PRO: Many sense-of-place touches — wildlife motifs, Native American symbols, artifacts and art collection — that showcase Timberline's and Oregon's history in the past century. The details give Timberline an aura of reverence.
CON: The walls are so thin, you can hear people snoring and talking in the next room and footsteps in the hallway. You know you're in for a long night when earplugs are supplied in each room.
PRO: Think of the ski area as the lodge's front yard. So close and convenient, with five dining options. Great family ski area.
CON:Advance-level skiers and snowboarders will find these runs too easy.
History, not just a hotel
Few ski resorts are held in such reverence as Timberline Lodge.
The lodge, built in just 15 months during the Great Depression of the 1930s, is considered an architectural masterpiece, with intricate details in hand carvings with wildlife motifs on walls, tables and beds. The building design was based on European châteaux and alpine architecture, Timberline historians say.
It was built as part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), the public-works program started during the Depression that put hundreds of thousands of people to work. President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated the lodge on Sept. 28, 1937, and Timberline opened for business in February 1938.
Due to neglect and mismanagement, the lodge closed after World War II, but the late Richard Kohnstamm saw its potential and outbid other businessmen to manage this facility starting in 1955. (The U.S. Forest Service remained the owner.)
Kohnstamm built new chairlifts, started summer skiing and built Timberline into a nationally known ski resort. His family continues to manage the lodge, which in 1978 was designated a National Historical Landmark.
Sources: Curator Linny Adamson and the book "Timberline Lodge, A Guided Tour"
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Northwest Weekend reporters pay commonly available rates for all services and goods and accept no special considerations from lodging operators. Impressions are based on a single visit.
MOUNT HOOD, Ore. — Where else can you channel the ghosts of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Stephen King's "The Shining" under one roof?
The stories that Timberline Lodge can tell. And only an hour's drive east from Portland.
This iconic alpine lodge sits on the south slope of 11,239-foot Mount Hood, where it was built in just 15 months at the hands of hundreds of blacksmiths, stonemasons and farmers who scavenged the area for its timber and stones. Wildlife motifs and Native American symbols were hand-carved or welded into every corner of this three-story, 70-guest-room lodge, helping to make Timberline as much a museum as a hotel. (How many other lodges have a curator?)
Last year, 2 million visitors came to ski, hike and hear the stories. Listen. There, in the ski lounge, by the three-story stone chimney and fireplace:
A waitress tells a family how Roosevelt ordered Timberline built so that hundreds of unemployed men would have jobs during the Great Depression.
A pack of teen snowboarders chants "redrum! redrum!" (murder spelled backward) in homage to King's horror classic, partially filmed here.
Pop culture and history lessons aside, there is another reason to come: The ski area outside the lodge door just added 220 acres of new trails, including one for cross-country skiers and snowshoers.
You can save money by renting a room with bunk beds and share a bathroom with other guests. In that case, you might as well stay in a hostel.
What you really want, after an afternoon of skiing in the cold mountain air, is to cozy into one of the eight deluxe fireplace rooms. (Don't you feel warm already?)
The deluxe room is filled with the lodge's original furniture, including the chair, wastebasket, couch, bed and pullout desk, all made from Douglas fir.
The king-size bed includes handmade bedsheets and a feather mattress pad, cushy though ill-fitting. There is also a single bed.
The Douglas-fir-paneled wall and floors add a nice rustic touch, especially with the stone fireplace with beaver motif.
The fireplace comes with two bundles of logs, enough to keep a fire burning throughout the night. (Great to dry your socks and ski pants, too.) The reflection from the fire makes the wall glow like a sunset.
The two wood-frame windows behind the blinds reveal a sweeping view of the snow-covered valleys. But in our room, a sheet of ice had formed through one cracked-open window and the window wouldn't close. Too cold to sit by the window and enjoy the view. (Couldn't tell if that window was broken or if someone was crazy enough to open it.) Draperies are handwoven. The signature gold draperies with blue triangle designs were being cleaned so staff hung solid gold-color draperies instead.
No minibar, but there is a Hamilton Beach coffee maker with bags of cocoa, spiced apple cider and organic Café Rojas coffee.
A small HDTV with Dolby Digital sits atop a drawer. You can borrow a DVD player at the front desk and "The Shining," of course, is available.
There's a full-length mirror, and the wood-paneled closet and two collapsible luggage stands provide ample storage space. Guests also get a locker near the front desk for storing skis and snowboards.
The deluxe room includes a shower — no tub. But keep in mind that some of these historic guest rooms don't even have a private bathroom. The bathrooms were remodeled in the past five years. The drainage system still needs work. It took about 10 minutes for water to clear the drain in our shower.
Toiletries by Tarocco, with facial soaps, shampoo and body lotion, along with a canister of cotton balls and cotton swabs.
Towels were thicker, fluffier and bigger than those in the cheaper rooms.
The bathroom door includes the original wrought-iron latches and handles, but the rest of the bathroom includes standard tile.
Common areas are the showcase of Timberline, a National Historical Landmark. To appreciate the craftsmanship theme, think "hexagon." The lobby's six-sided stone chimney towers 80 feet, rising three-stories high, and includes six fireplaces, three each on the first two floors. Each giant fireplace features andirons fashioned from old train rails bent to resemble rams' horns.
A hexagonal wrought-iron chandelier hangs above, and there are hexagonal Ponderosa-pine columns. Even the Douglas-fir coffee tables follow the six-sided theme.
A must-do is to sit by a cozy fireplace with a cup of the lodge's signature hot chocolate made with Dutch processed cocoa, English toffee bits and European cocoa powder and topped with whipped cream.
All the wood-frame furniture and wrought-iron details such as latches, door handles and lamps are original. Seat cushions and draperies were handwoven to match the original patterns. The goat-hide lamp shades get replaced every three years.
The main entrance is an 1,800-pound Ponderosa pine door, featured in "The Shining."
The newel posts and table legs feature hand-carved beavers, owls, rams and other Mount Hood-area wildlife. The walls are lined with major artwork by C.S. Price, Howard Sewall and Darrel Austin.
The bottom floor features a museum, the Rachael Griffin Historic Exhibition Center, with exhibits including the armchair built for Roosevelt for his visit in 1937.
The Mt. Jefferson Room is the best-kept secret, reserved usually for parties and weddings but open to the public when no events are held. The room features a jaw-dropping southward view of 10,497-foot Mount Jefferson, another of Oregon's major Cascade peaks.
The Barlow Room includes a handmade wooden ping-pong table and a shuffleboard table. Guests can borrow from a bookcase of paperbacks.
Timberline officials estimate that craftsmen built 820 original pieces of Douglas-fir and wrought-iron furniture for the lodge, the majority of which is still in use.
An outdoor heated pool is popular with teens. The outdoor hot tub is popular with couples, especially at night when less horseplay occurs around the pool. Both stay open year-round until 11 p.m. No full-service spa, but an indoor sauna is available. The gym is underwhelming, with only three exercise machines and a barbell set.
Five dining options: one high-end restaurant, plus two pubs in the lodge and two across from the lodge.
Plenty of pub food to showcase the beers brewed here. Food is expensive. The Blue Ox bar, where large pizzas cost under $20, is the cheapest meal for a couple or large groups.
The Cascade Dining Room remains the best dining option, but entrees cost nearly $40. Reservations are needed on weekends.
Blacksmiths built the wrought-iron gates in front of the Cascade Dining Room to impress Roosevelt during his visit. Note the details: designs of moon, sun, pine cones, Indian symbols, coyote heads and the gate handle in the shape of a rattlesnake.
Cascade offers a $34 four-course tasting menu, but go for the featured entrees. The best entrees: lobster-stuffed filet of flounder with risotto ($38), dry aged Oregon lamb chops with truffle mashed potato ($39) and the juniper-infused Cervina venison roulade with apple sausage ($38). The portions are huge. You won't need an appetizer ($12 to $14) or soup or salad ($10 to $14) — or dessert for that matter.
Cascade offers an impressive wine list, including many by-the-glass options ($6.75 to $17). You can splurge on a 2003 Quilceda Creek cabernet ($240), Bordeaux Chateau Mouton Rothchild Pauillac 2001 ($425) or the Louis Roederer Cristal 2000 ($575). But this is Oregon, home of the famed pinot noir of Willamette Valley, and Timberline offers a wide selection of this valley's famous red.
Tuesday through Thursday, Cascade offers a buy-one-get-one-free lunch deal. Download this coupon, valid through May 26: timberlinelodge.com/current_news/great_deals.php">timberlinelodge.com/current_news/great_deals.php.
Timberline isn't just a lodge, it's also a major ski area. With lifts reaching as high as Mount Hood's 8,500-foot Palmer Snowfield, visitors ski or snowboard almost year-round. This season, Timberline expanded its runs and now also offers cross-country skiing and snowshoe trails. It's an intermediate ski area, with mostly green and blue runs.
The lodge sits next to the slopes. You can rent snowshoes, ski and snowboard gear. Lessons are offered twice a day. The best deal is called Discover 1-2-3 (includes gear rental, lift ticket and three lessons for $123).
Adult lift tickets range from $23 (evening and night) to $54 (all day). If you plan to ski several days, the "5 point Flex Pass" will save money.
Timberline's new runs are on the lower mountain, in an area called Still Creek Basin, with an additional 220 acres of skiing. Included are eight new alpine trails, about six miles total.
A new chairlift, the Jeff Flood Express, is popular, but a malfunction caused some delays on our recent visit. Caution: This is a high-theft area for snowboards; during our visit, five were reported stolen in one afternoon.
The new Snowshoe Trail starts at the lodge and goes through woods down to the bottom of the new chairlift. Snowshoers may also take this trail down to the community of Government Camp via a connection with West Leg Road.
Tan Vinh: 206-515-5656 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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