Mount Hood's unique economy

Mount Hood's unique economy

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Mount Hood is the source for five prominent rivers, including the Sandy River.
Just over 50 years after the first white explorers caught a glimpse of Mount Hood from the Columbia River, the area’s new locals began heading to the mountain for escape. Early climbers took to its slopes in the mid 1850s — the summit was officially tagged for the first time in 1857 — cross-country skiers sliced the northern reaches of the mountain starting in the 1890s and Summit Ski Area, the oldest ski area in the Pacific Northwest, set up shop in Government Camp in 1927. Post-World War II prosperity brought even more people to the mountain and its forest for everything from camping and fishing to climbing, skiing and, since the mid 1980s, snowboarding.

Today, tourism and recreation are key components to the economy connected to Mount Hood.

“We just have an embarrassment of riches that brings people from all over to Mount Hood,” says Jae Heidenreich, a spokesperson for Oregon’s Mt. Hood Territory, the branded name of the Clackamas County Tourism & Cultural Affairs Department. “It’s a very diverse region with year-round recreation opportunities.”

The 4.5 million visits to the national forest each year include 300,000 campers, 67,000 wilderness users and close to a million skiers at five ski areas around the mountain. According to a travel impacts study by Dean Runyan Associates, direct travel spending by visitors to Mount Hood and the Columbia River Gorge topped $260 million in 2009. Travel spending around the mountain generated $8.7 million in state and local tax receipts, as well.

“Not only do we benefit when our guests come for a day, but so do all the businesses in the corridor between Mount Hood and Portland or wherever else people may be coming from,” says Dave Tragethon, executive director of communications for Mt. Hood Meadows, the mountain’s busiest ski resort with an annual visitor count of between 450,000 and 500,000. Meadows also employs up to 1,000 seasonal employees every year.