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Skiing the Volcano: Mt. Bachelor, Oregon

by Vicki Andersen, photos courtesy of Mt. Bachelor   December 1, 2009


Packed into the back seat of the station wagon, I thought I was pretty special stuff. Not only was I playing hooky from school, but I was in the company of my best ski buddy - my Father - and a handful of his fellow ski instructors. 

From Portland to Mt. Hood things were too routine to register what awaited me. It was when we zipped right past the turnoff to our usual ski destination that the real excitement started to set in. 

  Mt. Bachelor   Mt. Bachelor  
Downhill trails circle halfway around this cone-shaped extinct volcano
Ten chair lifts access nearly 3700 acres of delectable terrain

Bachelor Butte, as it was known in the early day before gaining “Mount” status, had opened a half-dozen years earlier. I had learned not to whine when Dad and his friends took off for what seemed to me to be exotic ski destinations. They worked hard all week, taught skiing every weekend from November to April, and if they scrounged up a few days or a week to explore unfamiliar terrain, they certainly deserved it. I don’t recall how I snagged an invite on this trip, but I found myself finally permitted into their hallowed club. 

Still, I tried to be as inconspicuous as possible. I was afraid somewhere along the route they’d realize they had a teenager -  and a GIRL to boot - in their midst, and drop me off at the closest bus station. Forty-plus years later I don’t recall much else about that day. It was pretty much white-out conditions, but since it would be another decade-and-a-half before there was a lift to the summit accessing above-treeline slopes, we had no problem weaving powdery tracks down forest-lined runs. 

Since the first lift fired up in 1958, Mt. Bachelor has become one of the West Coast’s favorite ski destinations. Because,
despite the notoriety the Cascade Mountain Range has for “Cascade Concrete” conditions, Mt. Bachelor is tucked into the eastern slopes of Oregon’s Cascades. Blessed with a lighter and drier snowfall than most of the Pacific Northwest resorts, big-time variety, first-class amenities and phenomenal views combine to make this a hard-to-beat destination.
Mt. Bachelor  
  Most of Mt. Bachelor’s terrain is advanced-intermediate, with wide open slopes on the upper mountain and most of the lower portion sheltered by forest. A variety of black diamond descents plunge into old-growth glades in the Northwest Express territory and meander nearly the full length of the mountain. Sparks Lake Run, named for a gorgeous alpine lake I like to frequent, defines the western edge of developed trails.   
  Mt. Bachelor   Mt. Bachelor  
With slopes perfect for linking big turns, intermediate-ability snowsliders enjoy the entire mountain
Seemingly endless fall line cruisers are particularly abundant in the Outback and Northwest Territory regions

Just east of the Northwest territory, a kaleidoscope of somewhat mellower runs undulate off the Outback Express, providing a bit of relief to my over-indulged legs. I avoid Down Under, often ungroomed and carpeted with moguls, and cruise my way along Kangaroo and Bushwacker. 

The Pine Marten Express whisks riders from the West Village to a stunning base lodge situated on a plateau just above timberline, with a variety of green, blue and black runs cascading down the mountain. 

Beginners are charmed by the gentle slopes at Mt. Bachelor, with green-level runs descending from every lift except the Summit, Northwest and Outback chairs. The Sunshine Accelerator chair is heaven for neophytes.

Mt. Bachelor
Mt. Bachelor
The lava rock outcropping of the Pinnacles mark the entrance to the double-black diamond Cirque bowl
Storms move in from the Pacific, make their contribution to a typically 370-inch annual snowfall, and move on leaving visitors to enjoy an average 300 days of sunshine each year 
  Occasional high winds and/or lack of visibility can close down the Summit lift, but if it is open, a trip to the top is a definite must-do. To the west sits Mt. Washington, seemingly endless wilderness, and countless high alpine lakes as far as you can see. 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 sit Paulina Peak, Mt. Thiesen and Crater Lake, and Mt. Shasta just across the California border. The view has been described as “one of the most spectacular photo ops in North American skiing.”   
  Mt. Bachelor   Mt. Bachelor  
The summit can be windswept at times, but under the right circumstances the western side often doles out amazing powder or corn conditions

Fortunately seldom called into service, Makita, Wyatt and Kenai (left to right) are ready if avalanche conditions do occur


From the Summit Express, it seems you can point the boards in almost any direction onto boundless open runs of consistent grade. Cow’s Face, on the eastern perimeter, is especially steep and smooth and seems to flow forever. Healy Heights and Beverley Hills are invitingly wide and groomed runs. 

A 150-foot hike from the top of the Summit Express accesses the Cirque, a massive bowl with 1,000 feet of vertical, created when the volcano collapsed in upon itself about 6,000 years ago. It starts with a 50+ degree drop between the spires of the Pinnacles, then levels to a mere 30 degrees: an adrenaline junkie’s delight. 

  Mt. Bachelor   Mt. Bachelor  
  The Superpipe is site of the Chevy Truck US Snowboard Grand Prix and a 2006 Olympic Qualifier   

The largest tables, rails, step-ups and step-downs on the mountain are found in the Slopestyle Arena





Adjacent to the Pine Marten lift is the Slopestyle Arena and a 400-foot long Superpipe with 18-and-one-half foot tall walls. Off the Skyliner chair are Upper and Lower Chipper terrain parks, the former geared toward intermediate riders with boxes, rails, jumps, hips and a wall ride. 

Small to medium sized jumps and rails are located in Lower Chipper. Intermediate to advanced riders head to iPark and Pats Way off the same lift. Folks just starting to test their mettle test themselves in Sunshine Park, accessible from the Sunshine chair. 

Mt. Bachelor
  Mt. Bachelor  
  Cross country enthusiasts are challenged to decide among miles of machine-groomed track or unlimited backcountry and wilderness opportunities  

Over a dozen trails range from 1km to 12km in length 



A number of warming shelters along the cross country trails, stocked with firewood, provide a hospitable respite. The nordic offerings are so diverse, cross country teams from around the world have come here to train. 

Lift passes are priced on a sliding scale depending on predicted weather conditions combined with how many lifts and how much terrain will be open. The price is set the day prior, which means an overnight dump that opens more trails or a weather system that diverts around the mountain is an unexpected bonus to the pocketbook.

Mt. Bachelor
Mt. Bachelor

The mid-mountain Pine Marten Lodge has an 11,000 square foot sundeck, phenomenal views, two food centers, a lounge, shops, first aid facilities and ski school

The Nordic Center welcomes with food, full-service repair and retail shop, and rentals and lessons


Day lodges are located in three base areas and mid-mountain, and all except the Junior Race Center offer food and beverage service. The Sunrise Lodge features repair and rental shop, ski school, restrooms, lockers, first aid and a small parking lot. The Junior Race Center contains restrooms, lockers and some parking. West Village Lodge houses ski school, restrooms, lockers, daycare, first aid, and among its foodie offerings is the popular Clearing Rock bar providing 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. Ski corrals are located at all lodges except the Cross Country center. 

  Mt. Bachelor   Mt. Bachelor  
The backcountry around Mt. Bachelor beckons snowshoers and snowmobilers
Glide over the snow and through the woods on a dog sled ride with Trail of Dreams

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, with adult and child-size tubes available for rent. A fun and informative way to learn about the local flora and fauna is to join a U.S. Forest

Service naturalist for a complimentary one mile Snowshoe Nature Walk, snowshoes included.  

A lot has changed in the decades since my first introduction to this mountain. I returned to attend regional instructor clinics and ski writer meetings, to ski with friends and family, and snowmobile the trails surrounding the mountain. I discovered new treasures as additional lifts were added, expanding the boundaries of the resort far to the east and the west. And although each trip has been memorable in its own way, none hold quite the magic of that first road trip with a carload of ski teachers on a busman’s holiday. 

  Mt. Bachelor   Mt. Bachelor  
Can après-ski get any better than this? 
Alpenglow tops off another perfect day

411: Ski season runs mid-November into May, conditions permitting. Lifts operate 8:30-4:00 seven days a week and include seven express quads, three triples, a Wonder Carpet and two tubing lifts. Vertical drop is 3365’, base elevation 6300’, top elevation 9065’. Longest run 1.5 miles, 71 runs on 3683 lift-served acres with 1600 acres groomed daily. Alpine terrain is rated 15% green-novice, 25% blue-intermediate, 35% black-advanced and 25% double-black-expert.

Cross country trails are open 8:30-4:00 weekdays (8:00am on weekends), 56km machine-groomed track. Nordic terrain is rated 5% green-beginner, 69% blue-intermediate and 26% black-expert. Information 541-382-2442, Snowphone 541-382-7888, Reservations 800-829-2442, web site

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