2006 | Beyond Bachelor: Plenty to see and ski in Oregon

October 29, 2006 

SANTIAM PASS, Ore. – There’s more to Oregon skiing than Mount Bachelor, and there’s no better way to figure this out than a trip to Mount Bachelor.

Just take your time getting there.

“Most people from the Tacoma area drive by here but never stop,” said Chuck Shepard, owner of Hoodoo Mountain Resort. “But when they stop – even though we are so much smaller – they realize we are worth the stop.”

In March, I decided to sample Oregon skiing on my way to meet a friend for a few days at Bachelor. Along the way I managed to take two days to cover a five-hour drive, and before I knew it, my Bachelor trip was a five-day, six-resort road trip.

DAY 1 TIMBERLINE LODGE

The best skiers and boarders in North America visit Timberline on Mount Hood in the summer because it’s the only year-round ski area on the continent.

In the winter, however, Timberline caters to a much mellower clientele: families. Timberline is a beginner’s wonderland. Even the diamond runs are manageable for intermediates.

While the skiing is enjoyable, the biggest draw is the historic lodge. Timberline Lodge, which was one of two lodges used for the 1980 Jack Nicholson movie “The Shining,” is famous for its architecture and the artwork contributed by regional artists.

Every guestroom is furnished with handmade draperies and bedspreads as well as original watercolor paintings and hand-carved furniture.

“Some people complain that the skiing isn’t steep enough,” said Timberline marketing director John Tullis. “But it’s a great family place, and there’s more than skiing to this place.”

MOUNT HOOD SKIBOWL

After a few hours on the flats of Timberline, I headed down the hill to Mount Hood SkiBowl – which boasts America’s largest night ski area, with 34 runs and two terrain parks.

And unlike many night ski areas, SkiBowl lights up a number of challenging advanced runs, although on this night they were closed because of high winds.

“There is a lot of good skiing around here,” said SkiBowl manager Troy Fisher. “But our night terrain is pretty special.”

DAY 2 COOPER SPUR

With a few hours to kill before Mount Hood Meadows opened, I decided to check out the little 350-foot hill near my room at the Cooper Spur Resort. The only problem was, the hill is open only on weekends.

So, just to check another ski area off my list, I threw my skis over my shoulder and hiked to the top.

“Most people don’t ski there because it’s tiny,” said resort manager Ivonne Pacheco. “But it’s a good place for beginners.”

MOUNT HOOD MEADOWS

I’d planned to ski only a few hours at Meadows before hitting the road, but after three straight intermediate stops at intermediate hills, that was easier said than done.

Nine hours and 50,000 vertical feet later, I was finally able to pull myself away.

Meadows is easily second only to Bachelor in Oregon.

The lodge looks out at advanced bowls that are lit for night skiing, but the locals directed me to speedy cruisers under Cascade Express and the plethora of double-diamond runs in Heather Canyon.

“Heather Canyon is a beautiful drainage with very steep terrain,” said Scott Kaden, a Hood River resident and president of the Pacific Northwest Ski Area Association. “It’s a remarkable ski.”

DAYS 3-4 MOUNT BACHELOR

OK, maybe there’s more to Oregon skiing than Bachelor, near the Central Oregon city of Bend. But there’s nothing better.

As I’m standing on Bachelor Butte’s 9,065-foot summit in the middle of a panorama of Cascade peaks, a 3,000-foot ski runs unfurls below me and my friend, John Osmundson of Boise, Idaho.

We smiled and dropped into a double-diamond slope called the Cirque. After 1,700 feet of excellent high alpine skiing, I followed Osmundson as he ducked into the trees.

“I call this special effects,” Osmundson shouted as he dodged trees.

I gritted my teeth and tried not to close my eyes as we swerved along, eventually launching off a small jump and landing on a neatly groomed cruiser run.

“That might be the best day of skiing I’ve ever had,” Osmundson said. “There aren’t many places where you can experience so much different terrain on one run.”

DAY 5 HOODOO

After I had skied for two days on Bachelor’s advanced runs, a morning at Hoodoo was all I needed to realize why Hoodoo faithful call Bachelor “Flat-chelor.” Hoodoo’s double-diamond runs – in particular, Chuck’s Backside – seem steeper than Bachelor’s summit runs.

“It’s step-to-step skiing,” Shepard said. “It’s steep enough that we don’t really tell people about it because if they got hurt back there it would be hard to get them out of there.”

A nice run for sure, but hardly enough to put Hoodoo in Bachelor’s league. Still, Hoodoo and its mostly intermediate hills – and a rental fleet that includes ski bikes – is definitely worth the stop.

“You won’t find many places where the owner buses your table,” Shepard said. “You never know what you’ll find at the smaller local resorts, but you’re probably going to have a good time. You’ve just got to make the time for a side trip.”

Craig Hill: 253-597-8497

craig.hill@thenewstribune.com

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