Tucked into the eastern slopes of Oregon’s Cascade Mountains is a snow sports area that offers snow sliders a treasure-trove of discoveries. Mt. Bachelor is blessed with a lighter and drier snowfall than most Pacific Northwest resorts and that and big-time variety, first-class amenities and phenomenal views make this a hard-to-beat destination.
Downhill trails circle halfway around this cone-shaped extinct volcano. Terrain is generally advanced-intermediate with fall line cruisers everywhere, but experts delight in the steep offerings of the Northwest Express. The gentle, forested lower slopes charm beginners, with green-level runs descending from every lift except the Summit and Outback chairs. The Sunshine Accelerator chair is neophyte heaven.
Intermediates are drawn to the Summit Express, which provides wide-open runs of consistent grade above the timberline. Thrill to the upper slopes plunging into gladed runs, or a kaleidoscope of changing terrain off the Outback lift.
Hard-chargers looking for an adrenaline rush should check out Cirque Bowl off the Summit Express, plunging through the area where the volcano collapsed in upon itself millennia ago, or the Pinnacles Chutes, where you perform a delicate dance through lava rock outcroppings.
The Summit Express might be the only disappointment Mt. Bachelor can serve up, but only because its open exposure means it can be closed down by occasional high winds and/or lack of visibility. But if it is open, a trip to the top is a definite must-do. To the west sits Mt. Washington, extensive wilderness as far as you can see, and countless high alpine lakes. Marching northward are Broken Top, the Three Sisters, Mt. Jefferson and Mt. Hood. To the east unfolds the high desert country of central Oregon. To the south are Paulina Peak, Mt. Thiesen, Crater Lake and Mt. Shasta, which is just across the California border.
Snowboarders are welcomed with a huge clothing and gear store, rentals, lessons, clinics, year-round camps and numerous competitions. Free riders particularly love the Outback area with its trees and fall line runs. There are also two terrain parks, a slopestyle arena, a superpipe and a halfpipe.
Cross-country enthusiasts will find an outstanding Nordic center offering food and beverages, a full-service repair center and retail shop, rentals and lessons. For a $17 adult all-day trail pass (weekend/holiday price), you’ll be challenged with deciding among machine-groomed track laid out in over a dozen choices of 1 kilometer to 12-kilometer lengths, or unlimited backcountry/wilderness opportunities. A number of warming shelters along the trails provide a hospitable respite. The Nordic offerings are so diverse that cross-country teams from around the world have come here to train.
Ski lessons are available for children 3 1/2 and older. The instructors are wonderful with young folks, and the reasonable prices make a family ski/snowboard outing very affordable. State-licensed daycare facilities are available for infants as young as six weeks.
Blessed with an average annual snowfall of 370 inches, Mt. Bachelor’s slopes, trails and bowls usually carry a delectable covering of white. An adult all-day lift pass runs $49, $59 or $69 depending on how much terrain is open and the weather conditions. The pricing is set the day prior.
In addition to the cross-country center, day lodges are located in three base areas and mid-mountain. The Sunrise Lodge features food and beverage service, a repair and rental shop, ski school, restrooms, lockers, first aid and a small parking lot. The Junior Race Center houses restrooms, lockers and some parking. West Village Lodge offers a ski school, restrooms, lockers, daycare, first aid, and food service, including Cocoa’s Cafe, and the popular Clearing Rock bar with lunch and après options topped off with a great view of the mountain.
Also in the West Village are the Ski & Sport Center with shops, food service, rentals and repair, the Guest Services Building with tickets, restrooms and lockers, and the Mountain Medical Clinic. The mid-mountain Pine Marten Lodge is a stunning structure with an 11,000-square-foot sundeck, phenomenal views, two food centers, a lounge, shops, first aid facilities and ski school. Ski corrals are located at all lodges except the cross-country center.
For a change of pace, head to the Snowblast Tubing Park, where two tows transport you and your tube to the top of an eight-lane arena. Both adult and child-size tubes are available for rent. A fun and informative way to learn about the local flora and fauna is by joining a U.S. Forest Service naturalist for a complimentary one mile Snowshoe Nature Walk, snowshoes included. Or glide over the snow and through the woods on a dog sled ride with Trail of Dreams.
New this season is Wi-Fi availability in the West Village and Sunrise lodges, a new avalauncher cannon to control avalanches, a new groomer, and a new parking lot snow remover. An especially great deal is the “First Timer Ski or Ride in 5” program which consists of five lessons including rentals and lifts for $199, plus a 12-day lift pass for those who complete the course.
Mt. Bachelor’s calendar brims with events catering to all ages and types of snow sports devotees. A few of this season’s standouts include the Bend Winterfest celebration of local art, culture and winter sports (Feb. 14-15); the Great Nordeen commemoration of Central Oregon ski history with cross-country and ski-joring competitions (April 3), and the Oregon Cup Big Air competition, where free riders battle for brag and swag (April 17).
Ski season runs from mid-November into May, conditions permitting. Lifts operate from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. seven days a week and include seven express quads, three triples, a Wonder Carpet and two tubing lifts. Vertical drop is 3,365 feet, base elevation is 6,300 feet and top elevation is 9,065 feet.
The longest run is 1.5 miles, and there are 71 runs on 3,683 lift-served acres, with 1,600 acres groomed daily. Alpine terrain is rated 15 percent green-novice, 25 percent blue-intermediate, 35 percent black-advanced and 25 percent double-black-expert. Cross-country trails are open from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays (from 8 a.m. on weekends). Nordic terrain is rated 5 percent green-beginner, 69 percent blue-intermediate and 26 percent black-expert. n
Vicki Andersen is a writer who lives in Portland, Oregon, and is an officer in the National Snowsports Journalists Association.
IF YOU GO
From Bend it’s 20 miles on the well-maintained Cascades Lakes Highway/Century Drive/Highway 46 (same road, just different names). Follow it until you reach the end of the road. In the winter this highway is only plowed as far as the West Village.
If you’re bringing your RV, head to the West Village parking lot and watch for directions to the designated RV parking area or ask the security or parking staff. Apply at the Security Department for an overnight parking permit. If you don’t want to stay on the mountain, there are a half-dozen RV parks in Bend. Seventh Mountain Resort is the nearest lodge, 14 miles away, and there are other lodges nearby.
Mt. Bachelor takes the hassle out of getting to and around the mountain. The Super Shuttle operates daily from the Park and Ride lot on Columbia Street between Simpson and Galveston streets in Bend and the West Village. A complimentary inter-lodge shuttle runs between the West Village, Blue Lodge, and Sunrise Lodge on weekends and holidays.
For more information, call (541) 382-2442 or visit www.MtBachelor.com. Other numbers: (541) 382-7888 for snow conditions, (800) 829-2442 for reservations.