Easy to access off-piste
Summit lift often closed because of wind
Since I had a business trip to Portland Oregon, my wife and I spent 4 days (5 in my case) skiing Mount Bachelor, near the beautiful town of Bend, starting February 26. The first day we caught the tail end of a moderate storm, and it was still quite windy, with fairly heavy snow a good part of the day. I had stupidly left my goggles back in our room, and didn’t want to waste time driving back, so I tried skiing in just my glasses. Not ideal, since my eyes tear up pretty easily, but I don’t think I would have been able to see much better in goggles, since it was close to white out! The Summit lift was closed for wind, and we quickly figured out that the place to be was the northwest side of the mountain, since the wind was from the south, so we headed over there. This is where the Outback and Northwest Express lifts are located. We spent most of the day skiing off the Outback, which has a lot of very nice blue groomers. Of course, with all the recent powder, there really wasn’t much difference between groomed and ungroomed. The conditions were not what any western skier would call deep powder – probably no more than 8 or 10 inches – but (don’t laugh) this frankly was a bit of a challenge for those of us mid-Atlantic skiers who seldom get the chance to ski in powder of any depth. But we had a lot of fun and got some good practice using those powder skiing techniques I’ve been reading about. And it was great to have whole runs that were almost private! At the end of the day, we got stranded on the Outback lift for 10- 15 minutes, and just about froze our patooties. But when they finally got the lift started again, and we dropped into the Pine Marten cafe, even though they were technically closed for the day, they gave us a couple of cups of the best hot chocolate I’ve ever tasted. That’s real Oregonian hospitality!
The second day was bluebird, and the Summit was open, so that was our first destination. At the top of the lift, the windblown snow formations were surreal. This was a Saturday after a storm, so there were a LOT more people than the first day, but of course by eastern standards, it wasn’t exactly crowded. I have to say that even on a day like this, which I suppose was “crowded” by local standards, there were hardly any lift lines. Most of lifts at Bachelor have predominantly blue groomers, which -- with the uncrowded conditions -- were ideal for putting the pedal to the metal and letting her rip. The exception is the Northwest Express, which has all blacks, some of which were groomed and some not. Over the next few days, we logged a lot of time skiing off the NWX, as they call it.
I mostly skied trails with my wife, but did a few runs off-piste, including one memorable one from a point that is a long (for me) hike from the top of the Summit lift. There were a couple of other guys hiking ahead of me, and at one point where the trail divided, I asked them where each of the two trails led. They said they didn’t know, but trusted that hard work would pay off, so we kept going on the steepest -- and less frequented -- one. (Robert Frost would have approved :-) )And we definitely ended up on the highest point on the mountain. From something I read in an article about the history of Bachelor, I think this is the top of a volcano cone. I skied more or less straight down, and ended up at the top of the NWX lift. It was an especially exciting run because I ran into some strange kind of surface condition, which looked like the snow had been semi-melted, then windblown into little horizontal points and re-frozen. Skiing that stuff was a real adrenaline rush, even for someone with a lot of experience skiing ice in the MASH (Mid-Atlantic Snow Hell)!! But once I realized I was in it, I was able to ski out of it by turning and backtracking a few hundred meters, where the surface conditions were a much more pleasant chalky consistency – a real lesson in the importance of exposure. I also did a run or two in an off-piste area off the Summit lift called ‘’Cow’s face”. This was a very nice, wide open bowl area that eventually dumps into a ski area boundary trail that apparently runs all the way around the mountain. This is a great feature of Bachelor – you can ski 360 degrees off the Summit lift, safe in the knowledge that you won’t end up somewhere you can’t get back to a lift. Anyway, we had 3 bluebird days. By the last day we were skiing, surface conditions were suffering a bit from a bluebird hangover, but it was still good.
The 4th day, we watched a hang-glider swoop around for quite a while. We happened to be only about 50 meters away as he came in for a landing, and we watched in horror as his chute snagged in a tree and he dropped about 20 feet onto some pretty hard-packed snow. We didn’t stick around for the medic’s arrival, but when we left, he was conscious and moving, so I guess there wasn’t serious injury.
We liked Bachelor a lot, not only because it’s got excellent runs and layout, but also because the general feel is low-key and laidback – more akin to A-Basin than Vail. The multiday lift tix are only $50/ day, and if you want to save a few $$$ on lunch, they’re brownbag friendly—they have an area designated for brown-bagging in the main lodge, including microwaves to use, and we saw people brown-bagging in the Pine Marten cafe. But we generally ate lunch in the sit-down restaurant or the self-serve cafe in Pine Marten, and the food was quite good, with generous servings and reasonable prices for a ski resort.
We stayed in Bend, at the 7th Mountain Resort, which was really nice. The resort has several heated outdoor pools and hot tubs, and a skating rink, as well as an on-site restaurant. We had a spacious 1-bedroom, 2 bath condo unit, with a view of pristine forest from the deck. The resort runs a shuttle to and from Bachelor, once a day during the week and twice on weekends, but since we had a car and road conditions were fine, we drove ourselves . They are in the middle of a renovation of the place, so there was quite a bit of construction noise, but we had been forewarned (and were getting a great deal), so we didn’t mind, especially since we wanted to get up early to ski anyway. We didn’t avail ourselves of the nightlife in Bend, which I understand is quite lively, but we did visit the Deschutes brewery, where we enjoyed a free tasting of their very interesting assortment of beers, and bought a couple as souvenirs to take home. The dark Jubilale is outstanding! There’s also a small winery in town, which has some nice wines. Bend is a very picturesque town, with a beautiful park along the Deschutes River, so if you visit Bachelor, be sure to budget some time to take a look around. We were also thrilled to find that it has a Trader Joe’s. We had a great time, and we'll definitely try to get back to Bachelor sometime.