The Mt. Hood Skiway Tram is arguably the most creative mode of skier transportation ever utilized. The tram was constructed to connect Government Camp, OR to Timberline Lodge 2,000+ vertical feet above.

When it was first planned in 1948 by Dr. J. Otto George, the road up to Timberline could be quite treacherous. The Skiway was as an alternative way for skiers to reach The Timberline Ski Area, and avoid danger on the road.

As you can tell from the video above, the Skiway was not your typical tramway. The cars were old city buses that could seat roughly 40 people, and were self-powered.

Yeah, you read that correctly. Rather than being pulled by a moving cable, The Skiway buses each had a 185-horsepower gas engine that was used to climb the cable.

Courtesy: Portland History

According to, the buses were suspended by sheaves from 1.5″ suspension cables. Two 1.75″ cables wound around 3 drive sheaves for the cars to pull themselves up the mountain- crazy.

The Skiway opened for business in January of 1951 to fanfare and anticipation. However, the ride was less than ideal. Reporters suggested that the ride took 20 minutes, twice as long as the 10 minutes originally advertised.

One journalist, who was a WWII vet, compared the loud grinding and rubbing of the cables in the Skiway to sitting in the tail gunners spot in a B-17 Bomber.

The Lower Terminal. Courtesy: Portland History

The tram also suffered from inefficiency. It could only transport 72 skiers per hour.

The Skiway didn’t last long. A new road opened to Timberline Lodge, and skiers opted to pay for a bus trip up the new road, or drive themselves. The entire Skiway Tram was scrapped for parts by 1960.

The Upper Terminal At Timberline Lodge. Courtesy: Portland History

I doubt a modern-day Skiway Tram could ever pass an OSHA inspection, but god I wish it could.

What else could we retro-fit to ferry skiers up and down a mountain? Here are some of my crazy ideas…

  1. Boats. Let me ride up the slopes in the once luxurious hull of a 20th century yacht.
  2. 18-wheelers. Big truck, big fun.
  3. Jet Skis. Imagine hopping on to a jet ski suspended by cables to ferry you up the mountain. You can’t tell me that wouldn’t make for some awesome photos at least.
The Skiway Tram path can still be seen today. Courtesy: Portland History