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Carve Up a Big Corn Snow Cone

Skiing Mt. Bachelor and Bend, Oregon
By Kaj Bune - March 11th, 2004

In Central Oregon there is a place that closely resembles a spring skier's most elaborate dreams. Mt. Bachelor, situated a quick 22 miles southwest of the town of Bend, is a corn snow paradise from May into July. But don't go there with only one kind of toy; there are so many options for the athletically inclined that it's mind-boggling.

I'll get to the ski area in a moment, but first a note about the gear to pack. Because of the amazing backcountry skiing accessible from the area parking lot, you must bring your telemark or alpine touring gear - and don't forget the skins. Right across the road is Tumalo Mountain, a tree-skirted cinder cone that should not be missed. It's a mere 1,500-foot climb to the summit, but you better multiply that by three, 'cause you will want to do laps on this little gem. Don't miss the great tree skiing. And the backside bowl? Can't say enough.

For longer days or overnight backcountry destinations, look a few miles north. A succession of volcanoes rise along the spine of the Cascade Range begging to be skied, boarded, or just plain climbed. Broken Top, South Sister, and Middle Sister are covered with the same corn fields as Bachelor. The terrain between these massive cones is also great for lightweight Nordic skiing or snowshoeing. A day out cruising in the sunshine on rolling terrain is a great way to take in this country. The Nordic tracks are closed in June, but don't let that stop you from putting in some miles.

You might also load up the mountain and road bikes for some outstanding cycling, the rock climbing gear so you can hit world class Smith Rock State Park for an afternoon, the running shoes for some desert trail running, the flyfishing setup for dropping a caddis on the Deschutes River, and a canoe or kayak for some of the plentiful watery fun. A lot to do? I warned you of its dimensions.

And then there is Mt. Bachelor. I'd have to sum it up in one word: T-shirts. Every time I've been at Bachelor in June I find myself, at some point every day, cruising in short sleeves, sunscreen, and a firmly attached sun hat for the high-speed cruising. This is, for me, the definition of spring and summer skiing, and Bachelor rarely disappoints. In winter, the upper mountain, served by the Summit Express, is frequently windblown and cloudy, and occasionally shut down altogether due to raging storms. In spring and summer, clear views from the 9,065-foot summit are a more regular occurrence and the conditions less severe, and with a 3,300-foot drop to the base you can rack up some vert if that's what you are looking for.

Don't wait too long to get to Bachelor; July 4th is the target closure date this year, as it has been in the past. And don't sleep too long or you will miss the action totally. The lifts crank up at 7:30 a.m. and close at 1:30 p.m. Any later than this and the corn snow turns to slush in the hot sun. Best to start riding on Cow's Face at the east end of the area in the morning and move west with the sun to stay in the sweetest snow. This is a cruising mountain this time of the year, and you will find yourself doing top-to-bottom runs lap after lap. And always with that big smile on your face.

Once you have completed a day of multi-sport frothing at the mouth, fill up the tank at one of several excellent restaurants. Don't miss the good food and even better beer at the Deschutes Brewery. Sushi, Thai, and downright Central Oregon American fare is also readily available and within easy walking distance in old downtown Bend. After dinner, drop by Caf? Paradiso for a latte and some down time on an old comfortable couch.

Now get to bed early or you will miss the morning popcorn on Summit Express...


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