Tall, snowy white and handsome, Central Oregon’s most-eligible ski gem, Mt. Bachelor, rises impressively above the high desert’s lava beds and pine forests, gazing longingly north to the Three Sisters’ playing-hard-to-get peaks. With seven high-speed quads serving the highest-elevation ski runs in Oregon, at over 9,000 feet, Bachelor’s world-class, inviting expanse reveals that this family-friendly resort boasts more than just rugged good looks.
It’s a surreal canvas — untamed Central Cascades contrasted with classic bluebird skies and arid, crisp, high elevations. Here you’ll find some of the lightest, driest snow west of the Rockies, soaked in desert sunshine. Yep, ski and snowboard heaven.
My own Bachelor memories run deep, beginning at the age of 8 with a family trip that transported me from the blue ice of the Adirondacks to Bachelor’s vastness. Back then my smaller skiing self struggled to keep moving through seemingly bottomless powder that had miraculously arrived overnight. What I didn’t realize then was that Bachelor’s sunny disposition and signature skiing would have me returning again and again over the years.
In college I’d road trip over Willamette Pass and endure cold-night campouts in the back of my Subaru to catch first chair. In my 20s, as a ski buyer, I tested new telemark gear here. My 30s found me falling in love with my future husband among friends, face-plants and snowy grins. And, in my fabulous 40s, I returned for good to this sunny, whitewashed beacon with my own two kids in tow as a permanent resident of Bend. I think my inner 8-year-old feels a sense of satisfaction as she floats over rolling drifts of shimmering powder and relishes cold face shots. Metamorphosis complete.
After an effortless drive from Bend, smiles in the parking lot and lift lines come easily thanks to this ski area’s relaxed approach. As a mom, where I start my day depends on whether I’m with or without kids. For an unrushed day where I can ski with both my guys, I park at the Sunrise lot. From here I can do laps on the Carrousel beginner lift with my younger son until he feels ready to tackle the “big” lift — Sunrise. Then we can all access the rest of the mountain via intuitive get-backs and beginner-friendly runs. Many days, though, West Village’s main parking lot offers me the best option. Once I hook the kids up with their Mighty Mites instructor at the yurt (a multi-weekend ski-lesson program), I’m a free-skiing mama.
I head straight up the Pine Marten lift, where I meet up with three of my favorite shredding buddies. From the top, we skate past the mid-mountain lodge, where we’ll grab lunch on the fly and catch epic Cascade views later on. Instinctually, I glide down and far right of the Outback lift to hit my favorite tree run: rhythmical, linked face shots through indulgent VW-bug-spaced trees, top to bottom. I tuck the bottom run-out trail, which can be slow if there’s new snow or later-season warm temperatures.
We could enjoy a few more iterations of Outback trees, but we can’t escape the pull of the coveted Northwest lift; its high traverse gives access to best-in-the-West bowls above and magical terrain below. Even after years of exploring, I find new lines every time. With a giddy cheer, we turn our tips to the fall line. There’s nothing like hearing the echoes of our joyful hoots through these protected glades, feeling totally alone even on the busiest day. We meet up for high fives on the well-marked cat-track boundary, and follow the fun, rolling traverse to the lift. And … repeat.
In locals’ tradition, whenever the mood strikes, I head back to the front side of the mountain, under Pine Marten lift, and follow the often-missed fun runs under the Red Chair to “The Cone.” It’s a popular, easy bootpack to the top of a small, open cinder cone above the tubing area. Big grins do come in small packages, especially when overnight snow on the stick measures more than 6 inches.
For more off-piste adventure, lift ride conversations are abuzz about the new “Low East” terrain — a culmination of Bachelor’s development plan. Not for the faint of heart, this soon-to-be-lift-serviced area below the Sunrise lift is natural terrain park meets snow silo, with deep powder caches hidden from the higher mountain’s windier conditions. When I drop in here from the Summit runs, I’m rewarded with playful steep and deep turns. For now I’m committed to a 20-minute hike out to the bottom of the Sunrise lift. The hike out inevitably leads to conjectures about when the new lifts will be in — hopefully within the next two seasons.
Ultimately, what I love about Bachelor is that snowy fun comes in many forms, with something for everyone. For me, if I haven’t blown my reserves on the slopes, I swap equipment to head to the Nordic Center’s 56 kilometers of groomed trails, where I can train for my next race alongside Olympians. Sufficiently fatigued, I order from their cafe’s savory food menu (the best on the mountain) and savor a bowl of homemade chili on the bench by the crackling wood stove.
A perfect end to yet another perfect day. As I coast back to town, I count my blessings, sunshine emanating inside and out.
More About Bachelor:
Snowblast Tubing Park
On weekends, check out this family-friendly fun at the base of West Village.
Those are real, barking sled dogs you hear – Oregon Trail of Dreams sled dog tours out of the lower lot at Sunrise Lodge.
Ski Lessons and Daycare
At the West Village Lodge you’ll find full- and half-day kids’ Gravity School and the Ski or Ride in 5 Learn to Ski program. Mighty Mites offers multi-week and weekend lessons for kids.
U.S. forest service staff lead free 90-minute naturalist-guided tours for ages 9 and older daily during the Christmas holiday, weekends and school vacations. Snowshoes are provided.
Visit Central Oregon
Find more things to do during your visit to Oregon’s high desert.