Passing Through: Bend

Ski at Mount Bachelor for an old school Cascadia experience. Stay in Bend for the breweries and the apres.

PHOTO: Brian Becker

When I think about Bend and Mount Bachelor, the area’s friendly vibe is the first thing that comes to mind. You know, the stoke of the local tribe and the smiles in the parking lot as people gear up at their cars, rocking tunes and letting their dogs play. Mount Bachelor offers an old-school kind of ski resort experience, where the atmosphere is defined by the camaraderie of the skiers and the hope that Summit Chair might just pop today.

A thirty minute drive from downtown Bend, Mount Bachelor Ski Resort sits in the middle of the glorious 1.8 million acres of Deschutes National Forest, at a vantage point with magnificent views of the Three Sisters Wilderness and Broken Top Mountain. On clear days, you can spy peaks with revered names like Jefferson, Hood, Washington, and to the south: Diamond, Bailey, and Thielsen. All these giants in the Central Oregon Cascades are wilderness areas and backcountry ski destinations. The terrain here could fill a lifetime of ski tales for the strong and willing adventurer.

Bachelor boasts 3,700 acres of pure skiing, more than 3,300 feet of vert, and an average snowfall of 462 inches. Built out of volcanic basalt and andesite, surrounded by lakes, and covered with massive Douglas Fir and Cinder cones, Mount Bachelor thrives with a lot of snow and often feels like a backcountry experience served by a few smartly placed chairlifts.

The mountain itself resembles a very large pyramid with the top cut off flat. Long high-speed, if antiquated, quad chairs flank most aspects, with the famous Summit Express shuttling skiers to the alpine terrain at the top of the mountain. The staggered chair openings at Mount Bachelor make it pretty easy to feel like a seasoned vet. Get off Pine Marten and go west toward the Outback and Northwest Chairs for choose-your-own-adventure romps through glades of tight steep trees, narrow streaks of banked turn “groomers,” wide open speed tunnels, and rollover powder stashes that can last through the entire day.

The days when the Summit Chair actually spins are when the mountain truly comes alive. Summit accesses the terrain above treeline, wide bowls, Cows Face on the East flank, and the vast and wild 1,800 acres of backside schralping. If you are lucky to get a Summit day, grab a local and go into the backcountry for a tour to find snow ghosts, rime ice, The Wall Of Voodoo, knee-deep pow in the chutes, blue ice on the ridges, and turns forever.

One of the coolest features of Mount Bachelor are the absence of condos and hotels on the hill. It’s one of the few ski resorts left that solely exists for the skiing. The apres scene exists mostly in the parking lot, and back in Bend. Head down the mountain for a burgeoning bar scene replete with more breweries than you can count (there are 16 on the famous Ale Trail), great restaurants on every block, and plenty of lodging to bed down, dry out gear, and power up. (Wall Street Suites is locally owned and dog friendly). Speaking from experience, don’t stay at Deschutes Brewery too long if the forecast says snow. And take it easy on those Crux and Boneyard beers. Also, drink some water in between those heady IPAs. If you do wake up hungover, go to Chow and order the eggs benny.

Come spring, Bachelor offers up plenty of opportunity to party. Corn season is the best kept secret. Days of sunshine, boot-top glory, and beers on the sundeck. Most weekends have live music and events sponsored by our local breweries. A favorite tradition is the Gerry Lopez Big Wave Challenge. One last thing—the spring pass is usually around 130 bucks and you can usually ski until its time to start mountain biking.