Summer Skiing: Mt. Bachelor, Ore.

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I must confess. I feel a bit like Bill Murray in "Groundhog Day." Despite being an Easterner, I've skied Mt. Bachelor during the spring and summer dozens of times¿and I never tire of carving its summer slopes again and again and again. Skiing Mt. Bachelor in late spring and early summer is one of the most profoundly rewarding experiences the sport has to offer.

After being relentlessly pounded by storms from November through April (last year, Mt. Bachelor was buried under a record 573 inches of snow, and this season isn't far behind), winter takes a respite beginning in May, when blue skies begin to dominate. Skiers strip off bulky layers of Coolmax and Gore-Tex¿often just a T-shirt and shell pants suffice¿and suddenly, the mountain flexes its muscles and strikes its best pose of the year.

Truth be told, Bachelor tends to ski small during the height of winter. Until the Northwest Express storm track begins to ease, Mt. Bachelor's cone-shaped summit¿the terrain that really makes the place a big-time mountain¿is often shrouded by whiteout storms, fog and high winds.

When the calendar kicks over to May, the hulking volcano continues to freeze most nights, with the trails thawing daily in domino fashion from east to west. Swath after swath of perfectly cured corn snow warms up for the small crowds that bother to show up. Smart skiers make Cow's Face their early morning milk run, chew up The Cirque lines midday and finish by carving turns on the West Ridge cruiser.

Spring weekdays at Bachelor will make you think you've stumbled out of bounds. You'll wonder where everyone is as you roam the sprawling 3,200-foot mountain virtually alone. Astoundingly, when the best conditions of the year arrive, skiers have disappeared. The Northern Californians have halted their invasion of the Northwest, Portlanders are busy enjoying the bloom of the Rose City and Bend locals have turned their attention to mountain biking, hiking, river running, fishing, golf and windsurfing.

You'll probably do the same each afternoon when the corn turns to cream. To provide maximum turns before this daily meltdown, the lifts fire up at 7:30 am and close at 1:30 pm. That leaves plenty of time for a quick nine (there are nearly a dozen courses in the region, Broken Top being the glamour layout), mountain biking through a web of high-desert trails (the River Trail along the Deschutes remains a classic), bouldering or rock climbing at world famous Smith Rock, or simply enjoying a great meal in Bend. (Try the Pine Tavern for classic continental fare, Toomie's for some of the best Thai food in the state.) Bachelor makes a mockery of an old proverb: Here you will burn the candle at both ends.

Hot Facts
1999 Closing Date July 4, with uninterrupted skiing to the base.
Summer Terrain Bachelor shuts down in wacky phases. Beginning sometime in early May, the backside Northwest Territory, Outback and Sunrise lifts (and lodge) close, leaving about half of the skiable acreage open. In June, Sunrise reopens but the Pine Marten lift and lodge shut. All you really need to know is that the delectable Summit is open until the end.
Lift Ticket Adults, $33; kids, $18.50.
Don't Miss The Century Drive: the 100-mile scenic loop opens around Memorial Day and snakes past volcanic lakes, cinder cones, lava and pumice fields and immense calderas.
Contact (800) 987-9968; www.mtbachelor.com