By Nicholas Nerli
Neatly tucked between the Oregon Coast and Cascade mountain ranges, Portland’s unique geography has long supported a thriving culture of outdoor enthusiasm. During the winter, the Pacific Northwest’s frequent rainfall provides ample snow at higher elevations, sustaining numerous ski resorts across Western Oregon. The popularity of snow sports is evident throughout Portland and the Lewis & Clark community, though LC lacks a meaningful effort to incorporate these sports into everyday athletic activity. Instead, neighboring Reed College has established a reputation as Portland’s premium institution for snow sports.
Sources such as ESPN.com, Time and Arctica have all published rankings that recognize Reed College as a worthy institution for the passionate ski bum. BestColleges.com, a website dedicated to ranking colleges across numerous factors, annually includes Reed in its list of the 25 leading colleges for snow sports. Other regional schools that make the cut include Western Washington University, Gonzaga University and The College of Idaho, but Reed is the only college representing the state of Oregon. Despite the absence of an NCAA competitive ski team, Reed has other qualities that makes their passion for snow sports a significant attraction to prospective students.
Located adjacent to Mt. Hood’s Ski Bowl and Summit resorts, Reed College operates a private ski cabin open to students, faculty, staff and alumni. According to Reed’s webpage for the ski cabin, a cabin manager lives on-site and serves as a host, information guide and maintainer. During the snowy season, the cabin sits minutes away from access to both alpine and Nordic skiing, though many also utilize the cabin for weekend sledding trips. Instead of shutting down once the annual snowpack melts, the ski cabin is open throughout the year to take full advantage of Mt. Hood’s incredible hiking, biking and camping opportunities.
The precise position of the cabin is unknown to the public since Reed makes a considerable effort to keep the location secret. Directions and access to the cabin require communication with either the cabin manager or college athletic administrators, and maps to the location are kept strictly secured.
Except for the information provided on Reed College’s website, little knowledge of the ski cabin is available to the public. A 2011 renovation of the cabin, completed through the donations of alumni, gave the cabin a necessary facelift, adding room for ski waxing and increased entertainment.
The mystery associated with the ski cabin makes Reed College’s property especially attractive. Members of the public are unable to view the cabin, compelling them to appreciate Reed’s effort to provide their community with an exclusive outdoor sanctuary.
Reed College’s ski program becomes more fascinating when studying its association with Emilio Pucci, the Italian fashion designer and Florentine politician. According to Reed Magazine, Pucci, who received a graduate degree in social science from Reed in 1937, began his fashion career by designing the college’s first ski uniforms. Before skiing for Reed, Pucci represented Italy at the 1932 Olympics in Lake Placid, New York, though he never raced. After leaving Reed, the name Emilio Pucci soon became synonymous with Versace, Armani and Louis Vuitton, emerging as the world’s premier athletic and women’s wear label. Pucci’s legacy is far from spotless, however, due to his close relations with the family of Benito Mussolini and his lifelong support for fascist regimes.
On Palatine Hill, most access to snow sports is run through either College Outdoors (CO) or the Ski and Snowboard Club. Throughout the winter months, CO leads excursions that include Nordic skiing, winter camping and snowshoeing. The LC Ski and Snowboard Club advertises itself as a student organization devoted to the needs of our college’s rippers and shredders, often coordinating transportation to and from Mt. Hood.
However, history suggests that skiing at LC has not always been limited to club sports or College Outdoors. Pamplin Sports Center displays a trophy recognizing LC as the Northwest Conference Ski Champions in 1949, though little information is available that describes the achievements of LC’s former ski team.
Although no Portland college has a sponsored ski team, Reed College has made a significant effort to preserve its fascinating and historic ski culture. Both Reed and LC are in close proximity to Mt. Hood, Mt. Bachelor to the south and Washington’s White Pass to the north. This rare geography allows for the opportunity to expand snow sports as a staple of outdoor life for all Portland college students. Northwest Oregon’s appreciation for outdoor engagement and interesting ski history nearly demands a collegiate ski culture supported by frequent shredding of the gnar.