Pros: Massive vert & acreage, fast chairs w/ no lines, sweet trees, long season
Cons: Weather, not easy to get to
Tuesday 2/26/13 is travel day. Planes, trains, and automobiles. Okay, maybe just an airport train, but three of us make the trip to Mt.Bachelor, OR from Phoenix, AZ. Although connecting flights are available to Redmond, near the resort, we plan to meet in Eugene and take the two hour drive from there. Ron A. gets a head start and takes United through San Francisco. He grew up in Eugene and raced at Bachelor for his high school ski team back in the ‘70s. Ron L. and I take USAirways to Portland where you can connect with numerous 30 min. shuttle flights to Redmond or Eugene. After a bite to eat and groceries in Eugene, we hit the gas pedal and head for the high country.
Sitting in the Cascade Range just west of Bend, Mt. Bachelor is actually an active volcano with numerous steam vents that can be seen around the runs. It is basically a 3,365’ high cratered cone, about 60% above timberline, with a very consistent fall line. According to wikipedia, with a total lift-accessible area of 3,683 acres, it is the second largest single-mountain ski resort in the US behind Vail, and the sixth largest of all ski resorts in the nation. The resort boasts a lift-served vertical drop of 3,300’ with ten chairlifts, seven of which are express quads with slick electronic scanning systems.
The Summit Lift rises to 9,000 feet, just 65 feet below the volcano’s summit, which is accessible via a short hike, and provides some of the best open skiing in North America. As one of the tallest mountains in the vicinity, Mt Bachelor often experiences high winds, poor visibility, and avalanche danger causing the chairlift to be put on standby. While most of the area faces north, there is 360 degrees of skiing off the summit.
The steepest descent is through The Pinnacles, a jagged rock formation reached by a 150’ hike from the top of the lift, then across the broad ungroomed expanse of Cirque Bowl. The west side is often wind scoured, but can be prime for massive 3000’ vertical laps of powder or corn through an alien landscape of ghost-like ice sculptures under the right conditions.
Bachelor’s Northwest Express Quad serves 400 acres of tree skiing and open-bowl terrain in an area called the Northwest Territory. With the upper half of the mountain obscured in a cloud on this day, and the Summit Lift on hold, this is where we pointed the sharp ends. We missed a foot of fresh by one day, but with virtually every square foot of this massive area being skiable, we had no trouble rooting out great stash lines all day long. Doing laps on the high speed NW Express chair nets about 2000’ continuous vertical starting just above tree line. While the ski runs are fine in this area, the real attraction is off piste in the perfectly spaced trees that divide the runs. The same thing applies to the higher angle terrain under and around the Pine Marten and Red Chairs. Cool undulations and gulleys in this natural terrain park make for some very creative lines
The day is not finished without “earning a turn” with a hike up the Cinder Cone. Looking like a pimple on the main volcano, sitting between the Outback and Red chairs is an unusual geologic feature, a lone 500’ cinder cone. It’s not lift-served, so powder lasts until it’s eventually wind-packed. The MO here is to take a running start up its south side and hike the rest of it to grab some quality tracks.
Although not the easiest place to get to from Phoenix, with one of the nation’s longest ski seasons, Mt. Bachelor’s greatest relative advantage over virtually any other ski area in North America comes in the spring, when the full vertical is skiable well into June and the Summit lift is less likely to be closed for weather. So with the season nearing its end and your ski fix still not satisfied, consider a trip to Bachelor as the perfect remedy.
DSJ would like to thank Ron Alderson for completely organizing the trip. Also his cousin Corey for putting us up at his beautiful home, providing great hospitality, and some mighty fine sipping whiskey. And finally Andy Goggins, Director of Marketing at Bachelor, for hosting DSJ and making us feel welcome at his superb mountain.
John "fritzski" Fritz
EpicSki Special Correspondent