Mountain steepness for a once-a-year, barely intermediate skier: A
On-mountain food: A
Lack of Crowds: A
Mt Bachelor, southeast of Portland, Oregon, is my all-time favorite ski mountain, because it has all the features that I crave in one resort. There are easy enough greens to warm up on, and cruising blues too. The runs aren’t that long from top to bottom, so we don’t tire out. We found the lifts neither too slow nor too fast, but they are well-placed, because on our last day, we criss-crossed the frontside of the mountain from one end to the other in just a few hours.
The elevation at Mt. Bachelor is lower than Colorado, and the town of Bend is at 3,600 feet, a nice, low elevation to help one acclimate. Bend, Oregon also has a cute downtown, with some nice restaurants and art galleries. We were fortunate enough to be there one year for their Spring Art Fling, or something like that, where the art galleries stay open late on a Friday night, and have refreshments and open houses. There was a bonfire in an open area surrounded by people, which was something I’d never seen, living in Florida.
We have skied Mt. Bachelor twice, and had the experience both times of skiing in a blizzard, which, as Floridians, we thought was fun. It is the only place I have experienced total white-out, with fog so thick you couldn’t see much in front of you. The first year, we were up on a lift when it started snowing very hard, and getting breezy. It was one of the few times I remember being cold (wearing appropriate thermal skiwear, I rarely get cold), and noticed icicles hanging from my husband’s beard. When we got off the lift, it felt like we were in a blizzard scene in the movies, and it was hard to even hear each other because of the howling wind. But once we skied down just a little, surrounded by trees and out of the wind, it was so beautiful. About 6 inches of fresh powder covered the ground, and any tracks I made were immediately covered by fresh snow. I was skiing through the snow, not on it. Powder really slows you down, and it was a beautiful, slow, smooth last run down, in falling snow surrounded by towering evergreens.
The second year we were at Mt. Bachelor, it again snowed so much that I remember heading back to the base lodge through a green run. My skis were straight and pointed downhill on enough of a grade that I would’ve had some speed if the run were freshly groomed. Instead, a gust of wind blew me UPHILL, while I was facing downhill, and I came to a stop. I actually had to pole-skate downhill!
We have also caught sunny, bluebird spring days at Mt. Bachelor with some awesome views. The mountain goes so far around, almost 360 degrees, that even in a heavy snowstorm, you can move to the other side and still ski, since the bad weather is usually heavier on one side. There’s also a lift to the summit at the top, which is only open on clear days, and our kids got to make a run down that. Snowboarders also have a blast on a mini cinder cone to the right on the map. They fly down Leeway, the blue run that’s adjacent to it, and soar off the trail to this cone. So if you take Leeway, hug the right side of the trail as you get closer to the cone, because snowboarders will literally fly by you at high speed. They need that speed because they are jumping into a valley, and need the speed to climb up the other side. If you’re not expecting them though, it can be a little terrifying to have someone go whizzing by you at such a high rate of speed. So beware if you take these runs.
We have never seen crowds at Mt. Bachelor like we’ve seen at Park City. We have always just walked up to a lift and gotten on. At other times, we were the only ones on a run. The mountain has a natural layout where the easier runs are on the left, and get progressively steeper as you move to the right. This creates a natural separation for the beginners, which is great.
I cannot praise the ski school at Mt. Bachelor enough. They managed to teach a knock-kneed 40-something woman how to ski, when all others had basically failed. You can read my glowing review of my lesson in the choosing a ski resort section.
I was pleasantly surprised by the food at Mt. Bachelor. I never know what to expect, because I’ve had gourmet-type meals, to food that tasted like it was heated up from a can at the various ski resorts. They served good, healthy food, and had vegetarian options like a tasty lentil soup available, and really tasty, good, black bean burritos. I’m actually not vegetarian but know that fiber gives you better slow-release energy, so chose these types of meals there. They also had a nice pizza place at the top, with gourmet type toppings. So there’s a variety of dining options, and all were good. We even had the Easter brunch one year, and it was a good value with a decent variety.
This is the easiest resort we’ve ever driven to. One straight (no switchbacks) road takes you from the city of Bend directly to Mt. Bachelor, and eventually you turn left into the resort. The first left will take you to the beginner’s area, with ample free parking, and the second left will take you to the main area, also with ample free parking. The snow was so deep at the end of one day, that we skied right to our car in the beginner parking lot, because there was over a foot of snow surrounding all the cars. If you take your skis off at the car, is that what you call ski-in, ski-out?
There are two ways to fly to get to Mt. Bachelor: land in Portland and drive for 3+ hours over a 2-lane road that can be dangerous if icy, or fly into the much smaller Redmond airport, which is less than a half hour away. We flew into Portland the first year, and made a sightseeing trip out of the drive over and back. The second year, we flew into Redmond, which saved us a day each way of driving and having to overnight in Portland. Because the drive to and from Portland passes some scenic areas with waterfalls (Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area and Silver Falls State Park), it’s a nice addition to your vacation, if you can add a few days to your trip. Otherwise you will have to subtract a few days from your normal skiing time.
The snow forecast this season says the Pacific Northwest is the place to be, and we might just return to Mt. Bachelor again.