There’s no off-season in Bend. Storms pound Mt. Bachelor, 22 miles from town, while mountain bikers peddle dry singletrack in shorts. That’s the beauty of life in the high desert. Bend sits comfortably on the banks of the Deschutes River surrounded by ponderosa pines and sagebrush, while the Cascade Mountains line the western horizon with year-round snow. Here, the snow doesn’t stack up in the driveway, it accumulates where it’s more useful—at the ski resort. With one of the longest seasons in the country, Mt. Bachelor offers skiing from November through late May, while Bend’s lower elevation and mild climate keep multisport aficionados content year round.
Kirt Voreis and Tyler McCaul's explore Bend's singletrack. The town is a national destination for mountain bikers.
Bend’s population is up to more than 80,000, but stranded along in the middle of the state, a mountain range away from Oregon’s main populous, Bend feels much smaller. With a historic downtown, more breweries than you have nights to drink and some of the best restaurants of any ski town in the country, Bend has the amenities of Portland without the crowds. The town is surrounded by 2.5 million acres of Forest Service land and offers 484 miles of singletrack within an hour's drive. 48 miles of those trails are in town and 11 of them run along the Deschutes. Smith Rock State Park draws rock climbers from around the world with more than 14,000 climbing routes, the Deschutes offers world-renowned fly fishing, and many of the town’s 25 golf courses are open year round.
As for Mt. Bachelor, an isolated 9,065-foot dormant stratovolcano on the eastern flanks of the Cascades,it’s a storm magnet. While Bend sees less than a foot of rain annually, Mt. Bachelor receives an average of 400 inches of snow at the highest elevation you can ski in Oregon or Washington. When the winds are calm and the mountain is open to the summit, all 360 degrees of the peak are skiable. The winds that plague the area are also what add to its interesting terrain. As legendary surfer and Bend resident Gerry Lopez says, you “surf” Mt. Bachelor. Ancient lava flows created the mountain’s numerous natural halfpipes and unique wind lips while natural trannys and terrain features litter the resort. High–speed quads access 3,000 of the 3,683 acres and efficiently space out crowds—which aside from Christmas break and the occasional holiday weekend, are slim to none. Surrounded by wilderness, Mt. Bachelor’s base is devoid of condos, shops or even a scene. People are here to ski.
Unlike Mt. Hood, at Mt. Bachelor you can shred lift-accessed terrain straight from the top of the volcano. Just ask this dude - it gets good, and it's available all the way through May! Mt. Bachelor photo.
If Summit Express is open, head right to the top of the mountain. On a clear day, you might be able to see as far south as Mt. Shasta and as far north as Mt. Baker. The hike-to lines in between the rock pinnacles at the top of the bowl offer the mountain’s steepest skiing. Take your pick of the bowls’ corniced entrances and work the wide open volcanic feature all the way down. Next lap, drop off the backside. Traverse north for long enough and you’ll be atop some of the most fun and feature-laden alpine bowls in the Northwest. These lines offer the most vertical on the mountain, as they take you all the way down to Northwest Express.
Bachelor has a reputation as one of the more naturally jibby mountains in North America, producing locals like Lucas Wachs, above, who can jump and spin as well as they can shred lines. Pete Alport photo.
On a powder day, take Pine Martin Express and ski towards Outback chair. Choose any of the fun tree lines between the groomers, ski right past the base of Outback and ride Northwest Express. Exit looker’s right and traverse west for a seemingly endless line up of alpine bowls and old growth tree lines. Traverse farther and farther west for fresher and fresher lines. You’ll feel lost, but it doesn’t matter where you go. All the bowls funnel into perfectly spaced lichen covered Douglas firs and all the lines empty onto a cat track that marks the resort boundary and takes you back to Northwest Express. If there’s a lineup at Pine Martin, do as the locals do and ride nearby Red Chair, one of the resort’s last two remaining triple chairs. Ski the lift line for one of the best fall-line, steeper runs on the mountain. The other triple, Rainbow Chair, marks the eastern border of the resort and offers tons of snowboarder friendly surfy terrain. In between, Skyliner Chair accesses Bachelor’s main terrain park. Don’t miss the hike-to cinder cone in between Pine Martin and Outback where a 10-minute bootpack accesses a wind scoured sub summit from which fresh tracks are always possible.
Mt. Bachelor also has a mean park, and has hosted Snowboarder's Superpark at the end of the season the past few years. Here David Scaffidi models the local airtime. Pete Alport photo.
Your hardest decision will be where to après—Bend has the most craft breweries per capita in the country. The town’s first, Deschutes Brewery, is now the fifth largest craft brewer in the country. You’ll want to check it out, but save room for the dozen others that have helped create Bend’s beer town reputation. The food scene isn’t that of your typical ski-town (and thankfully neither are the prices). Bendites have sophisticated palates and the area’s eateries don’t slack off. On the snow, on a plate, or on tap, Bend offers no shortage of adventure.
Downtown Bend is loaded with breweries, coffee shops, and restaurants to match its hipster-cosmo cousin, Portland. City of Bend photo.
When it comes to food, here are some of Bend’s best bets:
Ski shop: Skjersaa's
Coffee: Backporch Coffee Roasters
Breakfast: Chow, The Victorian Café, Sparrow Bakery
Lunch: New York City Sub Shop, Parrilla Grill, Longboard Louie's
Dinner: Jackson's Corner, Kebaba: Brother Jon's Public House, 5 Fusion & Sushi Bar, Pizza Mondo
Food Cart: Real Food Street Bistro
Brewery: 10 Barrel Brewing, Crux Fermentation Project, Deschutes Brewery
Dive Bar: D&D Bar & Grill
Want to know more about your next shred destination? Check out:
-The Ultimate Dirtbag's Guide to Vail
-The Local's Guide To Aspen
-The Mountain Bike Guide to Revelstoke, British Columbia
-The Local's Guide to Leavenworth, Washington
From The Column: Local’s Guide
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