The sun shines 300 days a year in Bend. This seems unlikely in a town that’s only 20 miles away from the Mount Bachelor Ski Resort. But Bend rests in a magical location, situated between the Cascade Range and Central Oregon’s high desert, that allows it to have the best of both worlds. The mountains are distant enough to buffer storms but close enough to provide an outdoor playground. This means year-round golfing, biking, and hiking—and in the winter, skiing and snowboarding. What’s more, Bend offers lodging for all economic levels, a charming historical downtown, more restaurants per capita than any other place in Oregon, and plenty to do off the piste. For the winter vacationer, it can’t get much better than Central Oregon’s largest town.
The timber industry initially brought people to Bend. But when the major sawmills began closing in the 1960s, the town turned to tourism. Golf courses and resorts were built and high-end retailers moved into downtown. Today, in spite of the trendy businesses spawned by tourism, Bend’s two main streets—Wall and Bond—recall the bygone days. Among the newer red brick storefronts, you will find historic buildings, such as the 92-year-old Allen-Rademacher house. One of the earliest craftsman bungalows built in Oregon, the restored shingle home now houses the Mirror Pond Gallery, where you can purchase works by Central Oregon artists and pick up a guide to all of Bend’s galleries. Adjacent to downtown, the area’s oldest and loveliest homes cluster around Drake Park and the Deschutes River. You can take a self-guided tour of Bend’s historical sites by picking up a copy of the "Heritage Walk" booklet at the Deschutes County Historical Society.
To immerse yourself in Bend’s past, stay at the Lara House, a creamy colored, craftsman-style home that overlooks Drake Park. Owner Bobbye Boger says when her bed-and-breakfast was built in 1910, its Congress Street address denoted importance. "This is where the owners of the town’s businesses lived," says Boger, whose inn was first inhabited by the owner of the Bend Mercantile. If you prefer more privacy than a B&B offers but still want to be within walking distance of town, the best option is the Phoenix Inn, where a room on the west side gets you a view of the mountain.
A visit to the High Desert Museum, located 31/2 miles south of Bend, will introduce you to the area’s desert genes. Interactive exhibits bring alive the historical, cultural, and natural heritage of the high desert that stretches from the Cascade Range to the Rocky Mountains. Within the building, which is made from lava rock and pine, walk through a maze of life-size dioramas that re-create the history of the people who settled the area—from the fur trappers to the buckaroos. Or explore the Hall of Plateau Indians, which presents a story rarely told—what happened to the Native Amer-icans after they were moved onto the reservation. Outside, watch the river otters play, walk inside a settler’s cabin, learn about forest succession.
But let’s be honest. It’s the snow that lures many of Bend’s winter visitors. Less than a half hour’s drive from town, Mount Bachelor is blessed with a continuous supply of storms. These gales sweep in from the Pacific Ocean and dump foot after foot of white gold atop the volcanic peak. The storms usually come in overnight and leave behind an intensely blue sky and heaps of downy white fluff that begs for the caress of skis.
"We get a lot of powder days," says Matt Janney, director of mountain operations at Mount Bachelor, "the kind of days when the powder’s deep enough that if you make a turn, the snow comes up across your face. A ‘face shot’ it’s called, and it’s unbelievable."
For the downhill skier and snowboarder, Mount Bachelor caters to all abilities—from the slow, winding Skyliner run for beginners and intermediates to the bowl at the top of the mountain for those who want to get vertical. But Bachelor’s most epic runs are in the Northwest Territory. "We’ve cut the runs narrow and left all the personality in them, so it’s like riding a roller coaster," Janney says. "This is a blast if you’re an intermediate-or-above skier and like challenging terrain." Winter sports, however, don’t stop at downhill descents. Mount Bachelor grooms 35 miles of cross-country trails; the local U.S. Forest Service office provides cross-country trail maps to its six snow parks in the area; Wanderlust Tours leads daily snowshoeing tours; and at Shevlin Park kids can ice-skate on a naturally frozen pond.
The two lodging options best geared to snow enthusiasts are Sunriver Lodge and Mount Bachelor Village Resort—both rent high-end and family oriented accommodations. Sunriver is a full-service resort for those who like to stay put, with ski packages, a kids’ camp, luxurious dining, and a never-ending list of planned activities. If you’re seeking proximity to the mountain minus all the organized goings-on, stay at Mount Bachelor Village Resort. At the end of a day on the slopes, you can slip into a steamy hot tub on your personal deck that hangs over the Deschutes River.
Although Sunriver and Mount Bachelor Village have worthy restaurants, you must head back to downtown Bend for cuisine that’s surprisingly innovative for a town that’s a four-hour drive from the big city—Portland. A single bite of Cafe Rosemary’s mixed-game sampler justifies the recent mention of the dish in Gourmet,and at Marz Planetary Bistro, fusion entrées, such as fish wrapped in rice paper and dressed in a soy-ginger sauce, tempt the palate. Even Bend’s oldest restaurant, the Pine Tavern, dishes up a bouillabaisse that’s overflowing with seafood so fresh you’d think the Pacific was right off the back patio.
If you want to eat where the local powder hounds fuel up, pull up a stool at the Des-chutes Brewery and ask for an order of chicken wings and an icy mug of the chocolate-like Black Butte Porter. No need to hurry to get in on this winter tradition. The snow seems to last forever atop Bend’s magical mountain. "We’re usually skiing ’til the Fourth of July," Janney says with a smile.
PLANNING YOUR TRIP
All phone numbers are 541 area code unless noted. Find your way around with AAA’s Bend/Redmondand Deschutes Countymaps. For further information on lodging, dining, and attractions, stop by the Bend Chamber of Commerce, 63085 N. Hwy. 97, (800) 905-2363.
Eating and Drinking
Pine Tavern, 967 NW Brooks St., 382-5581.
Deschutes Brewery, 1044 NW Bond St., 382-9242.
McGrath’s Fish House, 3118 N. Hwy. 97, 388-4555.
Toomie’s Thai Cuisine, 119 Minnesota Ave., 388-5590.
Yoko’s, 1028 NW Bond St., 382-2999.
Cafe Rosemary, 222 NW Irving Ave., 317-0276.
Marz Planetary Bistro, 163 NW Minnesota Ave., 389-2025.
Scanlon’s, 61615 Mt. Bachelor Dr., 382-8769.
Meadows at the Lodge, One Center Dr., Sunriver, 593-3740.
Lara House, 640 NW Congress St., 388-4064.
Phoenix Inn, 300 NW Franklin, (888) 291-4764.
Sunriver Lodge, One Center Dr., Sunriver, (800) 547-3922.
Mount Bachelor Village Resort, 19717 Mt. Bachelor Dr., (800) 452-9846.
Deschutes County Historical Society, 129 NW Idaho Ave., 389-1813.
High Desert Museum, 59800 Hwy. 97, 382-4754.
Mirror Pond Gallery, 875 NW Brooks St., 317-9324.
Mount Bachelor Ski Resort, (800) 829-2442.
Wanderlust Tours, 389-8359 or (800) 962-2862.
U.S. Forest Service,1230 NE Third St., 388-5664.
Shevlin Park, Shevlin Park Rd., 389-7275.
Photos by by Bruce Jackson/Gnass Photo Images, Christian Heeb/Gnass
Photo Images, Diane Kulpinski/Gnass Photo Images
This article was first published in January 2000. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.