A winter trek on Mount Bachelor offers a peek at the Three Sisters.
Mount Bachelor, a 9,065-foot-high dormant volcano roughly three hours southeast of Portland, has slumbered for 8,000 years. But in the winter the mountain's outer flanks are anything but tranquil. When covered in white, this massive mound is set upon by a multigenerational flock of snow lovers who swoop down 71 ski and snowboard runs and scramble along some 35 miles of cross-country trails. With its friendly mix of alpine and Nordic options, Bachelor is an appealing place for a family.
Most of this wintertime playground's attractions are based on the powdery snow that blankets the mountain's peak between November and July. Rising out of Oregon's Cascade Range, Bachelor is blessed with some of the driest snow in the West—almost on a par with Utah's—because of its location 150 miles inland from the damp Pacific coastline. That far from wet weather, the mountain averages two sunny days for every cloudy one.
In addition to its ideal blend of snow and sun, Bachelor is easy to navigate: The lifts are well spread out at the base. "I like the way the resort is set up," says Gary Rischitelli, who brings his family here several times each year. "Even on peak days, it never feels crowded."
Rischitelli's kids (ages 5, 8, and 10) like to ski, but many in the teen crowd prefer to rip through Bachelor's 400-foot-long Superpipe, one of the qualifying sites for the 2006 U.S. Olympic snowboard team. The Superpipe's 15- to 17-f00t-high walls tantalize the wool-cap-and-baggy-pants set. Another favorite with the younger visitors is the tubing park, where riders coast down an 800-foot chute of bumps and rollers. If your children have yet to find their ski legs, consider sending them to school—ski school, that is—to learn such basics as steering and stopping. (Adults in need of a refresher course are also welcome.) Those with tiny tots in tow need not despair—future skiers can play games and work on arts and crafts at the warm, inviting day-care center while Mom and Dad get in some time on the slopes.
One activity that's perfect for the whole family is snowshoeing. Between December and March, rangers from the U.S. Forest Service lead free nature tours in the surrounding Deschutes National Forest. (Watch for cougar and coyote tracks.)
A day at Bachelor doesn't necessarily require physical exertion. Let a team of hardworking huskies take you on a sled ride through ponderosa pines on either a 90-minute jaunt or, for the hardier, a 26-mile marathon that includes lunch—macaroni and cheese, grilled chicken, burgers—at the rustic Elk Lake Resort.
Back at the slopes, you can fuel up at any of Bachelor's nine restaurants. Two good family options are the Pine Marten Grill and the Lower Castle Keep Restaurant, both of which serve fresh salads, hearty sandwiches, and other comfort food.
What you won't find at Bachelor are overnight accommodations. To extend your visit, you need only look 22 miles down the road to Bend, a sporty mountain town that's a magnet for golfers, rock climbers, and fly-fishing enthusiasts during the spring and summer. There are also a few lodgings closer to the mountain, such as the Sunriver Resort, with free shuttle service to the slopes.
At night the mountain finally goes quiet. Under its thick white blanket, the dormant peak slumbers once again.
Photography by Jon Gnass
This article was first published in January 2005. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.
Area code is 541 unless noted. Pick up AAA's Oregon & Washington TourBook and map. Call Mount Bachelor at (800) 829-2442 or visit www.mtbachelor.com.
TO DO AND SEE Lift tickets $46–$49 (adults), $39–$41 (ages 13–18), $28–$30 (ages 6–12), free for age 5 and under. Dogsled rides $60–$75 (adults), $30 (children).
SLEEPS Inn of the Seventh Mountain $89–$275. 190 rooms. 18575 SW Century Dr., Bend, 382-8711, (800) 452-6810, www.seventhmountain.com. Mount Bachelor Village Resort $119–$395. 130 rooms and condominiums. 19717 Mt. Bachelor Dr., Bend, 389-5900, (800) 547-5204, www.mtbachelorvillage.com. Sunriver Resort $124–$199. 300 rooms. 1 Center Dr., Sunriver, 593-1000, (800) 801-8765, www.sunriver-resort.com.