Ask ski town denizens why they moved to the mountains and most will quickly answer, "I came for the skiing but I stayed for the summers." Not in Bend, Ore., Mt. Bachelor's bedroom community. Here, many came for the summer skiing and stayed for the summer skiing.
While much of the country racked up disappointing snow totals this winter, the Northwest was incessantly blessed by storms. That means July 4th festivities in the region¿as they have for the past four consecutive years¿will most likely be marked with both fireworks and 2,800-foot snowy descents. Unlike most resorts, Bachelor doesn't merely hope for late-season skiing, it plans for it. It may be the only ski area in the nation that sells a season pass that starts in April.
If you come to Bachelor in late season, be prepared to maintain military hours. The bullwheels start cranking at 7:30 am to take advantage of the firmer snow conditions, then shut down at 1:30 pm when the snow is often baked to the consistency of whipped potatoes.
Be sure to work your way from east to west on sunny days. If you don't hit the eastern boundary of Cow's Face before 9 am, you may find yourself slogging down 1,700 vertical feet of crud back to the lift. Up high, look for the sun-sheltered lines in the Cirque and along West Ridge. Crews use bags of solar salt to keep select runs firm, so check the daily salt reports on warm days.
Even when the lifts shut down for the season in mid-summer, that doesn't mean visitors stop bringing skis. Once the Cascade Lakes Highway opens up (usually in late May) the natural bowl on nearby South Sister is a superior ski. But the beauty of Bend extends beyond the snow zone. By early April the golf courses are verdant (try Broken Top), the rivers are runnable (raft through Big Eddy on the Deschutes) and the web of mountain bike trails is fully accessible (River Trail along the Deschutes is a classic). Plan to stay a week. You'll need every minute.
1998 Closing Date: July 5
Summer Terrain: Beginning in May, the Northwest Territory, Outback and Sunrise lift (and lodge) close, leaving about half the area's 3,686 acres open. In June, the Sunrise lodge and lift reopen but the Pine Marten lift and lodge shut. Most significantly, the delectable Summit is open until closing day.
Lift Ticket: $31 for adults and $18.50 for children.
Don't Miss: Make the 5-minute hike into the Cirque bowl from the top of the Summit lift. It's the finest summer terrain on the hill.
Contact: (800) 829-2442; www.mtbachelor.com