Skiers line up for lift to the top of Mount Bachelor in Oregon. (Photos by Marlene Greer, Correspondent)
By Marlene Greer, Correspondent
Spring skiing – the very thought conjures up images of sunny days gliding down glistening mountain slopes in a light jacket and enjoying lunch outside on the deck of the ski lodge.
But spring skiing can be a bit of a crap shoot. The perfect combination of sun and sun-softened snow and you’re living the dream. Too hot and you’re mucking through slush. Too cold and you’re chattering over rock hard ice. Not quite cold enough with a storm, and the worst conditions possible – rain.
My daughter and I had mostly mucking and chattering at Oregon’s Mt. Bachelor over the three-day Easter weekend. And yes, even rain at the base, if only briefly. But we did manage to enjoy one glorious morning skiing mid-mountain and the summit in some nice, soft snow.
I’d been to Mt. Bachelor about 10 years before and loved the mountain – and still love it despite the not-so-ideal recent ski conditions. It’s a big mountain, 3,700 acres, with skiing on all sides, and it’s easy to navigate.
It has just two crossovers so it takes little effort to get around the mountain. Trails are well marked and mostly groomed.
Weaving in and out of trees, if that’s what you like, can be done off nearly every mid-mountain run. The barren northwest face of the Serengetti Plains and the East Bowls give experts multiple opportunities to blaze their own trail from the summit across challenging terrain. And the 360-degree views on sunny spring days of the snow-capped peaks of the Cascades and the high-desert valley below are worth a look from anywhere on the mountain
Our first day at Bachelor coincided with the tail end of a storm that shrouded the 9,000-foot peak in clouds. Though the chairlift to the summit was open, poor visibility forced the closure of the back side of the mountain. No problem for us since we are intermediate skiers and the entire back is double black diamond runs only.
On the ride up the chairlift, we met a friendly volunteer mountain guide. Once she learned this was our first day and my daughter’s first time at Bachelor, she let loose with a fount of information.
She gave us tips on the best areas to ski for the conditions that day, runs we might like, and what was groomed and what wasn’t. She and other helpful hosts can be found at strategic spots around the mountain to assist those needing directions, advice or just their picture taken.
We heeded the guide’s advice and headed to the east side of the mountain where the partial sun made for softer skiing. The summit, she warned, would be hard ice until late morning.
Morning skiing from mid-mountain to the base was nice but became slushy by noon when the temperature reached the mid-40s – our cue to head to the summit, which by then had softened considerably and offered good skiing.
By afternoon an inch of snow fell at the summit and light rain fell at the base. Fortunately the snow and rain lasted less than an hour and was not heavy. The next two days was all sunshine and full-on spring skiing, with a few people hitting the slopes in shorts, T-shirts and even tanktops.
Mt. Bachelor is located 22 miles west of Bend, Oregon. It’s mostly a mountain for experienced skiers – 60% of the terrain is labeled as advanced or expert – but has plenty of fun and challenging intermediate terrain, and a small area for beginners.
The east side of the mountain has so many intermediate runs we spent the entire day skiing just that part of the mountain. The next day we explored the west side where we frequently found ourselves the only skiers on a run and no lift lines.
Mt. Bachelor is known for its long ski season. Jamie, a 20-something local from Bend, says he expects to be skiing at Bachelor until May 31. Officially, the ski resort’s website indicates the mountain is open to late May.
Locals like Jamie and other Oregonians make up most of the mountain’s daily ridership. Portland residents Eleann, 7, and her father were enjoying spring break and Easter at Mt. Bachelor. The family, originally from Barcelona, Spain, moved to Portland two years ago. The software engineer says the family prefers skiing at Mt. Bachelor rather than Oregon’s other major ski resort, Mt. Hood Meadows, even though Hood is closer to Portland.
“The snow is better, and it’s less crowded,” he said. By better snow he explained that the snow at Mt. Bachelor is drier and stays better longer.
Mt. Bachelor’s current base depth is 100 inches, mid-mountain is 123 inches. All areas remain open, though three chairlifts serving those areas are now closed for the season. And with snowy weather and powder skiing back in the forecast for the weekend, you just might find your ideal spring skiing at Mt. Bachelor.