BEND, OR -- From the top of 9,065-foot Mt. Bachelor I
could almost see the golf course near Bend where I would be playing that
afternoon. Talk about a fantasy – skiing in the morning and golfing in
But those are just two of the countless recreational
attractions available in this outdoor jewel in central Oregon. I skied
with one local in the morning who planned to sail with his wife that
afternoon on nearby Elk Lake. A visitor from California told me she was
going to fly fish the Deschutes River after her ski legs gave out that
And a friend in Bend was going to rock climb Smith
Rock in the morning and speed around some of the 500 plus miles of
nearby mountain bike trails in the afternoon.
It was late May and the first business at hand was
skiing this spectacular volcanic snow cone of a peak called Mt.
Bachelor. The ski resort is the largest in the U.S. Pacific Northwest
with 14 lifts, half of them high speed, spread out across 3,683 skiable
Bachelor thrived last season when many U.S. ski
resorts were hurting with too little snow. I was skiing on a 12-foot
base after the slopes got more than 500 inches of snow. Some 667 inches
fell during the previous winter.
The resort is typically open through May, reopens for
the July 4 celebration and sometimes opens for the regular season as
early as October.
One can also golf year-round in the lower-level,
snow-free Bend area as a handful of the 25 golf courses in the area are
open all 12 months.
Several airlines, including United, Alaska, Delta and
Allegiant, all fly in to the Bend-Redmond airport.
The volcano called Mt. Bachelor is 25 minutes outside
Bend. It sits west of the high desert region in central Oregon which
means that the snow is usually dry and light after it hurtles across the
Cascades in Western Oregon. Bend brags about 300 days of sunshine a
There’s something magical and awe-inspiring about
skiing or snowboarding from the top of a mountain. Here, you slide from
the top in any direction.
There are groomed runs for every ability, fields of
untracked powder, cliffs for the truly skilled, terrain parks for
freeriders, tree runs and narrow chutes.
There is also this bizarre 7,000-foot cinder cone on
one flank of the slopes that provides a unique thrill. One skis down a
groomed run, gathers speed, skis part-way up the cone, then takes a
short hike to the top and finishes it off with a powder run down the
other side of the cone.
One caveat about Mt. Bachelor. On stormy, blustery
days, which can really pound the mountain, the wide-open upper slopes
are closed and the skiing and snowboarding take place on the lower runs.
Fortunately, many of them are well-protected by bands of trees.
Cross county buffs have their own playground at the
bottom of the slopes where 56 kilometers of groomed trails await.
Compared with other big-league ski resorts, Bachelor
is a bargain. Adult lift tickets range in price between $59 and $76
during the regular season, and children 12 and under with a parent ski
and snowboard free with multi-day tickets.
There is no lodging at the base. The closest place to
sleep is the sprawling Seventh Mountain resort some 15 minutes down the
slopes. And of course Bend, with its 80,000 residents, is teeming with
motels and hotels including the gleaming centerpiece of downtown, the
My week-long trip in May was designed to cram in as
much skiing and golf as possible every day. I had never golfed around
Bend so it was truly a happy discovery to play some of the 25 golf
courses in and around Bend.
One golf instructor told me that “we are the Palm
Springs of the Northwest.” Golf Digest magazine ranks the Bend area
among the “top 50 golf destinations in the world.”
Several of the courses are at Sunriver, the well-known
resort community just south of town. Anyone can play the courses, such
as the famed Crosswater course, even if one is not lodging at Sunriver.
One of the “must” courses to golf here is Pronghorn, a pristine place
with many challenges.
“Stunning” would be a good adjective to describe many
of the courses. On the tee box on the 16th hole at the Meadow course,
you line your shot up by aiming for the top of Mt. Bachelor in the
distance. Other courses have flowing rivers, quiet ponds, lava
outcroppings and the occasional bald eagle that floats by.
Some Bay Area residents fly up in their private planes
to the Sunriver airport, play 18 holes, enjoy dinner and fly home the
One can golf at any price here as mid-week green fees
typically range between $35 and $175. My partner on one round remarked
that “the real trifecta here is skiing in the morning, golfing in the
afternoon and fly fishing in the evening.”
Fly Fisherman Magazine ranks Bend as one of the top 10
fly fishing towns in America. Sections of the Deschutes are open to fly
anglers throughout the winter. Popular fishing holes can also be found
on Tumalo Creek and Fall River.
Brown, brook and rainbow trout are all just waiting to
be caught. For some anglers, the big prize is hooking a landlocked
Atlantic salmon in Hosmer Lake.
Bend is on so many national top ten lists of cool
outdoor things to do that it is difficult to include them all.
Mountain Bike Action magazine has named Bend “the best
mountain biking town in America.” Small wonder. There are hundreds of
miles of varied singletrack all around Bend for cross country riding.
The editors of Outside Magazine have named Bend the #1
trail-running town in the country.
During my one week in Bend, I do not think I saw one
overweight person. Everyone is either skiing, snowboarding, biking,
running, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, golfing, tubing, snowshoeing,
horseback riding, birding (Oregon has 487 bird species), water skiing or
Nearby Smith Rock State Park, with its formidable
basalt cliffs, is one of America’s rock climbing meccas. Smith’s
prominent pinnacle, Monkey Face, is one of the most photographed climbs
in North America.
All this activity can make one plenty thirsty. But of
course Bend has an answer for that also. The place boasts 15 breweries,
which gives it more breweries per capita than any place in the country.
Bend has become a staple on the international beer
tasting map. Tourists from beer drinking countries such as Belgium and
Germany travel to Bend to visit the breweries.
Deschutes Brewery, which opened in 1988, is the father
of the local brew business. Nearly everyone who founded the Bend
breweries that came along later seems to be an alumni of Deschutes.
I signed up for a breweries tour with an outfit called
Wanderlust Tours that included Deschutes, Boneyard, GoodLife and others.
Deschutes, the fifth largest craft brewery in the country, produced a
beer in 2010 that was judged the best beer in the world at the World
Beer Competition in England. The beer, Red Chair NWPA, was named after
Mt. Bachelor’s Red chairlift.
My favorite at Deschutes was Stoic, an ale with all
kinds of exotic flavors. The brewery also sometimes produces a brew
called Collage which must be outstanding as each 12 ounce bottled is
priced at $12.
Do you want to combine drinking with exercising? Look
into the Bend Cycle Pub. This is a large peddle contraption with seats
for 14 passengers. Thirteen people drink beers from the tap while they
peddle around town. The other passenger is, of course, the designated
Some call Bend an “under the radar” vacation stop. But
it still attracts about two million visitors a year.
Many come for the food. Bend has about 275
restaurants. One more list that Bend had made – Sunset Magazine ranks
Bend as “one of the top 10 foodie ski towns in the U.S.”
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