Mount Bachelor literally stands alone in the Oregon landscape. The volcano is named for its location set apart from a group of three other volcanic peaks known as the Three Sisters. Located 22 miles west of Bend, Ore., the 3,683-acre ski area on the slopes of Mount Bachelor also stands alone with its unique character among U.S. resorts.
The layout permits 360 degrees of skiing off the summit, but most skiers and boarders stick to the north side of the mountain where the lifts are located. The south side offers an immense expanse of backcountry-like skiing that empties into a runout coming back around to the north side.
The top third of the mountain rises above the treeline with wide-open skiing off the Summit Express lift. Although bad weather tends to shut down the highest chairlift in the Pacific Northwest, the lift has spectacular views on a bluebird day. The choices off the Summit chair range from the rugged backside or steep Cirque on the front to more mellow blue runs coming down under the lift.
On storm days, the terrain off the Northwest Express chairlift is much more protected and likely to be open. With 2,365 feet of vertical, the Northwest Express offers more vertical feet of skiing in one chairlift ride than the total vertical of many other resorts. The terrain includes tree-lined advanced runs and a huge area of somewhat dense glades below the West Bowls that are skier’s left off the lift.
With a summit at 9,065 feet, Mount Bachelor has a lofty elevation by Pacific Northwest standards. Therefore, the snow-- averaging 462 inches annually-- tends to drier than at other resorts in the region.
Spring skiing, however, can be rather warm with the season generally extending well into May. At the end of balmy spring days, skiers can see golfers playing on the courses along the highway back to Bend.
Although no slopeside lodging is available at Mount Bachelor, the town of Bend is considered one of the attractions of a trip to the area. The town is known particularly for its microbreweries. While the road between Bend and the ski area is not especially treacherous, public transportation is an option for those who do not want to make the drive.
- For beginners: The Sunrise Lodge serves as an excellent home base for novice skiers. The Rainbow Chair and Sunrise Express chairlifts serve tame terrain.
- For intermediates: Featuring blue runs such as Coffee, the middle of the front side is good starting point. The intermediate trails off the Outback Express are also good choices. For both the mogul-averse and mogul-hungry, take note of the grooming schedule in that the resort sometimes lets the bumps on blue runs grow more than at many other ski areas.
- For experts: The Cirque off the Summit Express requires a short hike. The first entry point serves the steepest slopes of Chute 1, 2, and 3. A second entry point a little farther up and around accesses the slightly less intimidating Chute 4 (labeled as Hourglass on newer trail maps). Of course, the entire backside of the mountain is also an expert playground. The backcountry flavor of the backside means that skiing with a partner there is strongly advised.
Disclaimer: Lift ticket was provided during visit to Mount Bachelor.