If you are looking to come to Bend and Mt. Bachelor for a ski vacation it can be a bit overwhelming wading through the internet noise to filter out the correct needs for your trip. In this post, we’re here to give you some clarity as to the logistics as you plan your trip.
You can literally spend hours creating your itinerary and whether you are traveling solo or as an east coast ski club, the logistics can be tough. I have seen and heard from many people that have made the journey and while most are incredible success stories, there are a few pitfalls to watch out for. This list hopefully helps guide and make your trip planning a lot easier!
1. Get to know Central Oregon and Mount Bachelor
Whether you are driving from Portland or traveling from the east coast, there are a few things you need to know when traveling to Central Oregon.
First, unless you are driving locally or flying into a surrounding airport and drive/shuttle in you will be flying into the Redmond international airport, about 25 minutes outside of downtown Bend, Oregon.
Second, Mt. Bachelor itself is an actual stratovolcano atop a shield volcano in the Cascade Range reaching an elevation of 9,068 feet (2,764 m). It is named such as it “stands apart” from other nearby cascade range volcanoes. The Mount Bachelor ski area has been operational since 1958 and you can now literally ski down the volcano from any side, arriving at a catch line to bring you back to the south/north chairlifts.
It is worth mentioning that if you have never been to the Pacific Northwest, the entire Cascade Mountain Range is a sight to marvel. It extends from British Columbia all the way into Northern California.
Third, keep in mind Mt. Bachelor is not ski-in/ski-out, it requires about a 25-45 minute drive from downtown Bend, Oregon, depending on your location and road conditions. I have gotten feedback from many a skier that they had not anticipated the transportation needs necessary for the trip.
The special part about Central Oregon and Mount Bachelor, in particular, is the unique high-desert environment and the long abundant ski trails with ample opportunity for all types of skiers. The snow is lighter, the skies are bluer, there is more sun, and you are surrounded by tall peaks and volcanos.
2. Booking tickets to Central Oregon and Mt. Bachelor
As mentioned, you can plan a trip to the area and arrive via a large city and travel in, but this is not recommended. The Bend/Redmond (Roberts Field or RDM) airport is a very pleasant travel port. There are direct flights in and out of many west coast and mountain towns and the lines are almost always short.
Unless you are looking for a scenic drive from Seattle or Portland, you should fly directly into RDM. Winter travel in the pacific northwest can also be a struggle, so take note and fly direct.
Here are some flight times from surrounding cities, if you are heading from east of the Rockies, you should look at flying into Denver, Salt Lake City and Phoenix and lastly Seattle or Portland to get a direct flight into the area:
Denver International Airport (DIA): 2 Hours 43Minutes
Phoenix International Airport (PHX): 2 Hours 28 Minutes
Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC): 1 Hour 50 Minutes
Seattle International Airport (SEA): 1 Hour 5 Minutes
Portland International Airport (POR): 40 Minutes
If you do choose to drive in for a scenic tour or to cut costs, rental cars are easily acquired at all of the above airports. Keep an eye on the Oregon Department of Transportation website to ensure safe travel.
If you are traveling with a large group and need larger transportation needs, see the options below in #5.
If you know ahead of time, the days you will be visiting the mountain, you can buy your tickets online and avoid the lines and often get discounts as well.
3. When should you plan your visit?
Depending on what your goals are, what level of skiing you and your group are, the ski season does have some variability, below are some suggestions:
Early Winter (Including Thanksgiving):
Pros: Low crowds on the mountain and in Bend. Unique lodging and dining specials.
Cons: Snowpack is generally lower, Mount Bachelor generally opens on Thanksgiving weekend.
Pros: Both Mount Bachelor and Bend have unique events surrounding the holidays. This includes the local Christmas tree lighting and the Santa on the slopes. The snow has usually had a good chance to accumulate by now, so generally, the more technical terrain is opened up by this time.
Cons: Local in town crowds can be high, the mountain can be busy on the holidays as well. Lodging options can book up quicker as well.
Pros: January and February tend to be prime time for the more advanced skiers. If you are looking to ski the summit and are a storm chaser, this is your most likely time to get it.
Cons: Weekends and holidays are crowded. If you are a fair-weather skier, take note, you will have to plan for storms, although, often we get weeks of bluebird days between storms.
Pros: Low crowds, sunny days, bbq in the parking lot, often large storms will create powder days on the upper mountain.
Cons: Conditions can be variable and “spring-like”.
4. Finding the best place to stay
Mount Bachelor, Bend and Central Oregon are a popular area for tourists, skiers, outdoor lovers and sports enthusiasts.
That said, the region has no shortage of excellent places to stay. You can rent a ski chalet, an ultra-modern cascade dwelling, an in-town bungalow, and many other options abound for hotels and resorts in the area.
Here are some options that work well for a ski trip at different price points:
5. Getting Around
When traveling to ski at Mount Bachelor, as mentioned in #1, Mount Bachelor is not a ski in ski out resort. Thus you will need to have or arrange transportation to and from the mountain for your ski days, here are a few options:
Ride Share: Bend and Redmond all have Uber and Lyft rideshare services, although this may not be an economical way to get to and from the mountain, and you may have to wait when wanting to leave from the resort.
Keep in mind, you will often want to do some further exploring of the Central Oregon region. If that is the case, an All-Wheel-Drive car rental may be your best bet if you are comfortable driving in the snow. This will give you ample opportunity to do things like visit Smith Rock or if Mount Bachelor is crowded, ski Hoodoo.
If you are coming with a large group, transportation can be one of the most challenging issues. You can work with one of the above companies and even contact us to help organize and plan to get to and from the mountain and around town.
6. Packing List for a ski vacation in the cascades (Mt. Bachelor)
Remember that you will be traveling to the high desert in the winter, with Bend clocking in at an elevation of 3200 feet, Mt. Bachelor clocks in at a base elevation of 5300 feet and the summit are over 9000 feet. Be prepared for winter mountain weather, it can get very cold, especially at night!
Always pack with warmth in mind.
Around Town: Fleece and Down, extra scarves and other miscellaneous warm weather gear
You should always check the local weather before you start packing to get a leg up on anything that might get thrown your way and pack accordingly.
7. What to expect on mountain
Ensure you carry a trail map, realize that Mt. Bachelor has over 4,300 acres of lift-served terrain, which is quite large depending on where you are coming from. To put that in perspective, this puts Bachelor currently at #6 for the largest ski resorts in North America.
Here are a few tips for getting around the mountain:
Parking: There are two main lodges and parking area, if you have never been to Mt. Bachelor before, we recommend by going to the main West Village Base Area and Lodge. Once you have explored the mountain a bit, you can often find easier parking at the Sunrise Base Area. If you are traveling on a busy weekend and want good parking you should plan to leave town prior to around 7:45 (conditions dependent).
Lodges: There are two main base areas at Bachelor, the West Village Area is the largest and convenient of the two and has the largest base lodge. The Sunrise Area has an older quaint lodge, and if you are coming for a race or competition you may also look for Blue Lodge (be aware this is a race lodge only and no food services are normally available). As for on-mountain, Bachelor has a wonderful and beautiful lodge at the top of the Pine Marten chair known as the Pine Marten Lodge. All three of the main lodges have excellent food service and a variety of food cuisines to choose from. If you do have special dietary restrictions be aware that there will only be a few options for you, but the Pine Marten and the West Village lodge do have a local Mothers Juice section that caters to more special dietary needs.
Zones for different skills: As mentioned previously, Bachelor has over 4300 acres of skiable terrain and has a plethora of terrain for all skill types.
- If you are looking for powder and steeps, summit is your place to be, if it isn’t open due to conditions, Northwest chair will give you your fill. Often you can find incredible fun in and around the old Red Chair as well.
- If you are an intermediate skier, you can ski nearly the entire front half of the mountain (Pine Marten, Skyliners, Sunrise and Cloudchaser). If you want to challenge yourself, the newer Cloudchaser chair on skiers right can provide ample opportunity.
- For the beginners, you can utilize the Sunrise Accelerator and the Sunrise Express to gain access to all the green areas. Note that Children 5 and under ski free and the Carrousel chair is free for all ages whenever the lift is open (this is out of the Sunrise Base Area)
- If you are looking for terrain parks and half-pipes, Pine Marten, Skyliners and Sunrise are your best bets., You will find the halfpipe to riders right when going up Pine Marten chair and the terrain parks are well marked on the trail map.
Catch Lines: One thing to note about Bachelor, as mentioned, this mountain is very large, thus there are a series of catch lines that are there to keep you from descending too far and/or out of the ski area. These catch lines are there for multiple reasons, primarily so you do not get lost or stuck, so please do not ski past them.
8. Before/After Ski Activities
Central Oregon has a plethora of great restaurants, apres-ski opportunities, and other to-do items. As a matter of fact, Bachelor is probably one of the few mountains in North America that you can literally Golf in the morning, Ski in the afternoon and Mountain Bike in the evening and if you wanted to, be at the ocean by nightfall.
If you would like to learn about more opportunities, visit our downloadable sample itinerary for Bachelor here.
Thanks for reading along and we hope you enjoyed this list. We would love to help you plan your trip, so let us know if we can help or if there is anything we should add! Of course, you can always contact us directly or start planning now!