There is no question that this snow season has failed to be as epic as the last, but have no fear, there are plenty of options for winter sports enthusiasts well into April. A short one to three-hour drive from Corvallis holds endless possibilities for adventure with a variety of activities to keep you busy in the powder. From jaw-dropping views to back country adventures and dog sledding, a slice of heaven is not far away.
The Central Oregon Cascades get some of the most snow in all of the continent, but the nearby mountains are also known to be extremely unpredictable. For those that have skied and snowboarded here their entire lives, there is an expectation that resorts and back country areas can be plagued with 70 mile per hour winds, rain, fog, and inconsistent snow pack.
For this particular rundown of winter destinations, we look to the areas due east of Corvallis in and around the Willamette and Deschutes National Forest.
Mt. Bachelor Ski Area is truly the mother of all destinations for skiers and boarders in the state of Oregon. Located 22 miles west of Bend and 150 miles southeast of Corvallis, the drive to Bachelor is not short, but the pay-off is often worth the drive if you plan carefully. This mammoth, snow-covered strato-volcano allows skiers and snowboarders to enjoy a 3,365-foot descent, from the summit to the base.
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Mt. Bachelor is one of the largest ski areas in the entire Western U.S., and consistently is the leader of annual snowfall in all of North America, with an average of 462 inches a year. With over 101 runs on 4,318 acres, Bachelor has a good variety of terrain, from moderately difficult mid-mountain runs through the glades, to double black diamond bowl faces. On a good day, with the help of 11 chair lifts, six of which are express, you can make it to the 9,065-foot summit that features a stunning 360-degree view of the Cascade Range.
Although Mt. Bachelor offers arguably the best dry powder skiing in Oregon, lift tickets are as steep as the terrain. An average daily lift ticket will set you back $96 for adults or $176 for a two or three-day pass, but kids under 12 ski for free. If you plan ahead, early bird tickets and specials begin at $43 when you purchase them before the ski season starts. There are also a variety of deals offered through local ski shops and hotels. Season passes also offer a cut in prices, but are still competitive compared to most resorts in the West (from $900 to $1100). Also, to save money, I would pack a lunch! Facilities at Bachelor are adequate, but food is expensive.
For more information on lift tickets, current snow conditions and other conditions go to mtbachelor.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 541-382-1709. Mt. Bachelor is located at 13000 SW Century Drive in Bend, Oregon.
Other Activities at Bachelor
Dog sledding is another cool winter experience at Bachelor. The family operated, Oregon Trail of Dreams allows participants to travel alongside a professional musher through the backcountry snow-scape. With views of Broken Top, Three Sisters, and Mt. Bachelor, the hour-long journey costs $129 for Adults over 80 lbs. and $49 for youth under 80 lbs. New twilight trips beginning at 3 p.m. are available so riders can enjoy the Cascadian alpenglow. For an all-day mushing 26-mile trip to Elk Lake with lunch included, the Marathon trip runs $600 per couple.
For reservations, which are required for all dog sled trips, call 541-382-1709.
Believe it or not, there are also FREE activities at Mt. Bachelor. The U.S. Forest Service offers a free, 90-minute-long interpretive snowshoe tour to learn about the natural history of Central Oregon in the Deschutes National Forest. Snowshoes are provided, and no experience is required to participate. Special tours are available for schools and other groups.
The free snowshoe tours are available December 16 to March 3 from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. For more information, email Karen Gentry to register at email@example.com.
Hoodoo Ski Resort is the cheaper and closer alternative to Mt. Bachelor. Much smaller of a mountain than Mt. Bachelor, Hoodoo offers also a slightly less difficult terrain, but it is only 92 miles from Corvallis. Operated since the late 1930s, Hoodoo has 800 acres and 34 runs with five chair lifts. Although the mountain at Hoodoo only tops out at 5,703 feet, the resort features a less complicated experience with a single lodge and an equivalent amount of snow. More importantly, daily lift tickets are only $53-58 for adults and $31-34 for kids and seniors. Kids under seven ski free.
Aside from lift tickets, the advantage of Hoodoo is clearly the night skiing available on weekends. Night skiing, which starts at 3:30 p.m. and lasts until 9 p.m. ranges from $16 to $27 for a single ticket and only an extra $4 on your ski pass if you ski all day. Season passes typically range from $450 to $600, and other deals are available throughout the year. Thrifty Thursdays feature $20 lift tickets!
For a little family-friendly excitement outside of skiing, Hoodoo also has a fantastic tubing hill called the Autobahn Tubing Park. The 800-foot-long tubing run is accessed by a tow rope and is open most of the ski season. For 10 runs, kids under 12 pay $17, and for the 13 and up age group, it’s $21. You can also tube all day for $25 to $34. Check Hoodoo’s website for availability.
If you don’t want to be constrained to a tubing chute, and freestyle is more your thing, the Snow Bunny Sled Hill opens when the ski area opens. Sledders can pay $5 for access the entire day and you can bring your own sled if you want.
Sno-parks and Backcountry Skiing
Santiam Pass in the Willamette National Forest along US 20 offers numerous opportunities for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, and snowmobiling at various Sno-Park sites. Although a winter season Sno-Park permit is required, they can be purchased at any Oregon DMV for $4 for a day pass and $25 for the year. Places like Lava Lake, Tombstone Pass, Little Nash, and Ray Benson Sno-Park offer a variety of terrain and pristine surroundings.
For more information go to www.fs.usda.gov/willamette.
There are many backcountry skiing sites around the Cascades, but one of note is Tumalo Mountain directly across from Mt. Bachelor. For the more advanced skier willing to take some risks, or for folks that just want to avoid excessive lift ticket prices, backcountry is a great departure from the well-groomed ski resorts. Accessible at the Dutchman Flat Sno-Park, avid powder seekers can hike or snowmobile a relatively short three miles to the summit, and take a 30-degree descent down the eastern facing wall of the cinder cone. This terrain is not marked and is prone to avalanches, so ski at your own risk.
Getting There and Where to Get Gear
Driving to any of these sites requires having a vehicle with either four-wheel drive, snow-chains, or snow tires. The conditions across Santiam Pass can vary depending on the weather, although the route is plowed regularly. If you cannot afford a new set of snow tires, there are options:
Peak Sports in downtown Corvallis offers a special deal to transport you to Mt. Bachelor via shuttle for $112 per day, which includes a lift ticket. The only hitch is they leave sporadically due to demand, or lack thereof, and you need to call in advance to get on the bus. They leave downtown Corvallis at 6 a.m. and depart at 4 p.m., but it can take some of the stress out of driving and parking on your own. Similar to the Peak Sports shuttle, you can catch a shuttle to either Hoodoo or Bachelor from Berg’s Ski & Snowboard shop in Eugene for $25 and $29, respectively.
Peak Sports can also sell you gear, whether you want to ski, board, or snowshoe. Ski and snowboard packages range from $25 to $40 a day or $90 to $100 per week, which includes boards, skis, boots, helmets, and poles. You can also purchase equipment at resort ski shops for more convenience, although it can be more expensive.
By Chris McDowell