This week we travel to the 8,000-foot level to see a snow-covered landscape that is out-of-this-world gorgeous at the “Friendliest Little Ski Area in Oregon,” Anthony Lakes Mountain Resort.
When you drive west from Baker City and head into the Elkhorn Range of the Blue Mountains, the sun breaks through, the air is clear and you leave all your troubles behind when you reach the snowy Anthony Lakes. “We’re really small, but we like it that way,” noted longtime local skier Chelsea McLagan. “Our size makes it pretty neat for a lot of people who come up here because their kids can just come out here and play – all of the ski runs funnel right back to the same place.”
Kim Metlen, a ski patrol member and longtime area resident, began skiing at Anthony Lakes in the late ’60s and knows the site’s history well. He said that the ski area was born of local ranchers and farmers and business people who had a need for speed on the snowy slopes. “This is – in the truest sense – a community ski destination. Back in the early days, the local ranchers would get up at dawn, go feed their livestock and they’d have nothing to do for the rest of the day. Well, many of the locals got together, formed a corporation and then created the lifts and built the lodge and Anthony Lakes was born.”
Anthony Lakes Mountain Resort opened for business in the early ’60s with a rope tow and poma-lift. The one and only chair lift was installed in 1967. “This is our home and it has been since we were all wee-high, so we do everything and anything we can to keep this running as a family area,” added Metlen. A day-use lodge soon followed and today it offers all the comforts that a family might need for a respite from the ski runs.
But it’s the snow that really makes the difference across the 1,100-acre snowy playground. “Eastern Oregon high alpine powder that is lighter, drier and fluffier than Oregon’s west side snow,” said McLagan. At 7100 feet, the base elevation at Anthony Lakes is the highest in Oregon, and that means dry powder throughout a season that runs from November through April.
When you ask the locals what sets Anthony Lakes apart from Oregon’s many other ski sites, it’s the “down home” feeling and the friendly smiles that keeps folks coming back for more. “You can’t replace the down home feel, ’cause everyone knows each other,” added McLagan with a beaming smile. “And it’s infectious, so our newcomers find it a place to relax and enjoy within minutes of their arrival.”
Metlen agreed and added, “You can pop this mountain and come back for another run all day long. In fact, you can do close to 30,000 feet a day here on the best powder in Oregon – cold, dry, fluffy – great stuff.”