While not as dramatic as sneaking up on the Tetons, the effect is equally hypnotic. Coming in from the south, Mt. Bachelor appears as a shining point on the horizon some hours before you actually arrive. Its white, conical peak, and those of the nearby Three Sisters, hold the increasing promise of refuge as they grow to dominate the dry, sagebrush, upland desert filling the in-between distance.
Twenty minutes west of Bend, Oregon, Mt. Bachelor is a regional ski hill that doesn’t get the respect it deserves. There’s nothing wrong with its numbers: 3,365ft vertical, 3,683 acres of terrain, an average base between 150 and 200 inches, a 360° alpine experience around its volcanic peak, acres of no-name glades.
But Bachelor is another Wayback Machine mountain. There’s no base lodging so most skiers hole up in Bend, although Sunriver Resort is a relaxing, secluded alternative about the same distance away on a much less traveled road. The après scene at the Rock, the base lodge’s Clearing Rock Bar, dwindles as quickly as the winter afternoon’s light. And the overall ambience at the base is one of no-nonsense: people getting changed, buying tickets, booking ski school, doing the rental dance and, well, just going skiing and riding.
And that — unadorned, un-hyped skiing and boarding — is Bachelor’s allure. Poseur’s need not apply; there’s no audience for the beautiful people at this ski hill. No one cares what you’re wearing, no one cares what you’re riding. Just get up there and let’er rip.
Skiing at Bachelor is as straightforward as a mountain this size can be. Everything is downhill, fall-line from the top. Subtlety and nuance play no part; such is the beauty of skiing a volcanic cone. Treeline runs out about two-thirds of the way up and the Summit Express chair takes it from there to 9,065ft, top o’ the world. The panorama from the summit is limitless with high pine desert stretching to the east and the sweep of the Cascade Volcanic Arc stretching to the horizon. Whatcha see is whatcha ski from here; it pretty much all follows a blackish pitch and plunges into your choice: trees or runs.
On a busy holiday weekend, the front side of Bachelor seemed crowded, though the automatic ticket scanning gates at the Pine Marten Express added to the illusion with people hung up in the turnstiles. But the northwest side of the mountain was another story. Swept by winds rushing uphill, the tops of the Outback and Northwest Express chairs were inhospitable and scoured… and virtually empty. All the better. Melanie, in charge of Bachelor’s mountain hosts, guided us through laps alternating between well-spaced trees off of Devil’s Backbone, down narrow, steep, fallaway groomers that transition from black to blue, and into an endless chain of bowls that, she explained, pretty much circle the mountain running counterclockwise from the top of Northwest.
In a long morning and short afternoon of skiing — with weather rolling in to white out the upper reaches of the mountain — we skied apart from the crowds, skied our fill and were only disappointed the wind shut the summit down before we really had a chance to explore the alpine possibilities of this Pacific Northwest sleeper of a ski hill.
A day or a week, there’s more than enough terrain to explore on Bachelor to keep things interesting.
Check it out:
Stay: Sunriver Resort, a scenic 25-minute drive. sunriver-resort.com
Eat: Scapolo’s Italian Bistro in the Pine Marten Lodge. Chef Mark’s lasagna bar offers a quicker, filling alternative than ordering one of his delicious turkey & pesto paninis.
Après: The Rock at Bachelor’s base lodge, or… the Rock.
Dine: Meadows at Sunriver’s stunning lodgehouse.
Peckkerwood, it's called Peckerwood.
Coming out of the trees.
Eat my tube.