From the top of the stratovolcano of Mt. Bachelor, you get spectacular 360-degree views of the Cascade Mountain Range – on clear days you can see not only the "in-your-face" views of the Broken Top crater and the Three Sisters but also Mt. Hood and Washington’s Mt. Adams and Mt. Thielsen to the north, and California’s Mt. Shasta to the south.
Mt. Bachelor also boasts one of the longest ski seasons in North America. You can ski and ride from November through May, and you can also ski around the entire mountain. It’s the Pacific Northwest’s largest ski area and the second-largest single-mountain ski resort in the country. Eleven chair lifts – eight of them high-speed quads – give you access to the 3,365 vertical feet and more than 4,300 skiable acres.
In addition to an annual average of 462 inches of snow, Bachelor (as it’s known to locals) stays focused on the skiing and riding. There’s no overnight lodging or shopping beyond the Gravity Sports gear shop on the mountain, which means that it’s a skier’s paradise without crowds or traffic. Lift lines are rare and mid-week, it’s like having your own private mountain.
Mt. Bachelor is known for its great ski and lodging deals and its family-friendly ski and snowboard experience. Small kids can learn to ski on the Magic Carpet, a covered moving sidewalk that makes it easy for tykes to make their first turns. Then there’s a kids-ski-free program that offers free multi-day lift tickets for children, when parents purchase a three-or-more adult lift ticket at least four days in advance.
Also, Carousel Lift, accessed from the Sunrise Lodge, is free. You pick up a lift ticket at Guest Services and ski free all day – a great opportunity for beginners, parents with young children or people who want to strengthen their ski legs before heading out on the more difficult terrain. Better still, it’s a real chair lift, nearly a half-mile long, and rarely is there a line.
The learn-to-ski-and-snowboard program (Ski or Ride in 5) provides five days of lessons, plus lift tickets, at one low price, and is recognized as the country’s best beginner program by the National Snow Sports Association.
With Mt. Bachelor being a volcanic peak, the mountain "flanks" out with the steeper, more advanced terrain off the summit, leveling out to more moderate and consistently-pitched terrain toward the base of the mountain, so the experts can run loops off the higher-elevation lifts while first-timers can keep close to the mountain base.
The classic beginner run is Marshmallow, off the Sunrise chair, which extends up the mountain’s southeast slope. The long, dog-legged green run has gorgeous views and mellow terrain. Little rippers won’t want to miss Dilly Dally Alley, a classic zigzag chute that’s more like a skate park with swoops, bumps and mini-me terrain.
When the wind and weather play along, the Summit Lift is opened, which takes skiers above 9,000 feet. From there, you have 360 degrees of options, all way above the tree line. The backside is classic off-piste – you can find maps online, but it is adventure skiing all the way down to the "get back" that takes you to the Northwest chair. The steepest terrain is The Pinnacles – you can either cut over to the steep outcrops from the top of Summit, or hike a few hundred yards to Bachelor’s true summit, and drop into the steep gullies. The terrain quickly opens out into a wide bowl with some of the best powder skiing west of the Rocky Mountains.
You can rent gear and access nearly 37 miles of groomed trails for classic and skate skiing. Non-ski activities are bountiful, from guided snowshoe and cross country ski tours to dog sledding. There’s also a Nordic lodge with a big fireplace, scrumptious Mexican food and great coffee drinks for midday and après.
Mt. Bachelor may be perfect during spring season, in part because the snow base is typically plentiful by March and because the rest of the surrounding high desert isn’t as snow-covered. You can ski a few days, then head to Smith Rock State Park for world-class rock climbing, visit one of the region’s alpine lakes for fishing or stand-up paddleboarding or hook up with a local outfitter for road or mountain biking tours. Then hit the town for a few pints while sunning on a brew pub deck. Or just stick on the mountain and have a sunset dinner at Pine Marten Lodge.
Regardless of how you spend your days, chances are you’ll end up in Bend, only a half-hour drive from the resort. This quintessential town is defined by the winding Deschutes River, and boasts more craft breweries than any one place should have. It makes for ADD-level decision-making when it comes to après options, but a host of beer-centric tours help you get to most of ‘em.
The pull of Bend – with its copious breweries and locavore cuisine – is hard to resist, so preemptively plan on at least one night at Pine Marten Lodge. Their Sunset Dinner Series serves globally inspired cuisine with different themes each week, along with beverages from local breweries, wineries and distilleries – all at a dizzying 7,800 feet.
Bend has plenty of hotels, from chains to boutiques, but skiers and riders looking for a more personal, affordable and manageable experience should consider a house rental. Alpenglow Vacation Rentals offers a variety of options, from small houses close to downtown to more plush environs throughout the larger Bend area.