There’s a new kid on the block of in­ter­na­tional ski des­ti­na­tions and its name is Ore­gon.

Vacations & Travel - - Contents - BY BRONWEN GORA

There’s a new kid on the block of in­ter­na­tional ski des­ti­na­tions and its name is Ore­gon.

Sand­wiched be­tween Cal­i­for­nia to the south and Wash­ing­ton in the north, this pretty all-Amer­i­can Pa­cific North­west state hardly reg­is­tered a blip in Aus­tralians’ ski travel plans un­til a few years ago.

Thanks, how­ever, to hav­ing eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble re­sorts of­fer­ing world-class ter­rain, with some of the long­est ski sea­sons and most re­li­able snow in the world, com­bined with bur­geon­ing food, cof­fee and craft brew­ery scenes state-wide, Ore­gon is emerg­ing as a se­ri­ous con­tender for our over­seas ski dol­lar.

Prox­im­ity is a big draw card, as those who live in Port­land, Ore­gon’s largest city, know. Within a four-hour ra­dius of their front doors are sev­eral ex­cel­lent ski fields, all nes­tled neatly within the Cas­cade Range slic­ing north-south through the state.

In a lit­tle over 90 min­utes from Port­land’s city cen­tre, you can be clicking into your bind­ings at ei­ther Tim­ber­line or Mt. Hood Mead­ows ski fields on the flanks of Mt. Hood, or be night ski­ing at Mt. Hood Ski Bowl.

Drive just three and a half hours south of Port­land, and be at Mt. Bach­e­lor, the sixth largest ski re­sort in the United States fol­low­ing the ad­di­tion of a new quad chair­lift called Cloud­chaser this past sea­son.

Ven­ture a few hours fur­ther south to find Cat Ski Mt. Bai­ley at Di­a­mond Lake Re­sort, one of the long­est run­ning cat ski­ing op­er­a­tions in North Amer­ica. We warmed up here be­fore head­ing to Mt. Bach­e­lor, ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a day of thigh to waist deep pow­der and su­perb con­di­tions. We could not have had a bet­ter in­tro­duc­tion to ski­ing in Ore­gon, and were keener than ever to see what else its moun­tains were hid­ing.

When we ar­rived at Mt. Bach­e­lor in Fe­bru­ary this year, the moun­tain was ex­pe­ri­enc­ing one of its clas­sic storm sys­tems that pe­ri­od­i­cally make ski­ing from the 2,750 me­tre sum­mit im­pos­si­ble due to high winds and low vis­i­bil­ity.

The beauty of Mt. Bach­e­lor though is that, be­ing an ex­tinct vol­canic cone, it is one of the few re­sorts where ski­ing is pos­si­ble 360 de­grees from the sum­mit.

Com­bined with many pro­tected tree runs, this abil­ity to choose the full range of as­pects means there is al­ways some­where to ski. We made run af­ter run in vir­tu­ally fresh power off the Red Chair and Out­back Ex­press, our tracks be­ing filled in by the time we came back around. It was pure bliss.

Ski­ing Mt. Bach­e­lor is like ski­ing in your own snowy wilder­ness, sur­rounded by trees and pow­der-filled big­moun­tain ter­rain, safe in the knowl­edge that civil­i­sa­tion and a hot meal lie just me­tres be­low.

The next day, those who were lucky enough to stay, ex­pe­ri­enced blue­bird skies and fresh pow­der turns right from Mt. Bach­e­lor’s sum­mit, as well as the ad­di­tional ter­rain ac­ces­si­ble from the new Cloud­chaser lift. This high-speed lift opened an­other 255 hectares of ski­able ter­rain (about half the size of Thredbo to put it into per­spec­tive) across 13 new runs, bring­ing Mt. Bach­e­lor’s size to 1,750 hectares.

In to­tal, al­most 14.5 me­tres of snow fell on Mt. Bach­e­lor last sea­son, one of the largest ac­cu­mu­la­tions in its 58-year his­tory of op­er­a­tion.

The town of Bend, 35 kilo­me­tres away, is where most

Mt. Bach­e­lor skiers and riders stay. There’s so much to do and see here it is worth leav­ing the slopes a lit­tle early to come back and ex­plore.

Artistic quirks are found ev­ery­where from the ab­stract sculp­tures placed in the cen­tre of ev­ery round­about in town, to the whim­si­cal McMe­namins Old St Fran­cis School Ho­tel, a 1936 ren­o­vated Catholic school dec­o­rated to the hilt with the fur­nish­ings and fit­tings of yes­ter­year. Ev­ery room is dif­fer­ent, broom closet doors hide cosy lit­tle bars and false walls give way to re­veal se­cret rooms filled with art.

“...its gothic façade is so dis­tinc­tive, it was cho­sen to de­pict the fic­tional Over­look Ho­tel in 1980’s hor­ror film The Shin­ing...”

Bend is also fa­mous for craft beer, the “Brewvo­lu­tion” start­ing when the fa­mous Deschutes Brew­ery opened in 1988. There are now 26 brew­eries in Bend ac­cord­ing to the Ore­gon Brew­ers Guild, the most of any Ore­gon town out­side of Port­land (70 brew­eries and ris­ing).

Shop and dine at the re­ju­ve­nated Old Mill Dis­trict, once home to the two largest pine lum­ber mills in the world, and if you’re for­tu­nate enough, your visit may co­in­cide with a ma­jor per­for­mance at the Les Sch­wab Am­phithe­atre which has hosted the likes of per­form­ers Jack John­son and Dave Matthews Band.

We could have spent many days here but sev­eral other ski re­sorts on the flanks of Mt. Hood fur­ther north were calling. From Bend, we drove up along High­way 97, through spec­tac­u­lar land­scapes of wide, open plains, the hori­zon punc­tu­ated oc­ca­sion­ally by one of the many snow-cov­ered peaks of ex­tinct vol­ca­noes that form part of the Pa­cific Rim of Fire.

By early af­ter­noon, we were lit­er­ally driv­ing up the side of one of these fa­mous ex­tinct vol­ca­noes, Mt. Hood, and park­ing in front of the large and im­pos­ing Tim­ber­line Lodge while fresh snow fell around us.

Tim­ber­line Lodge, Ore­gon’s only ski-in ski-out ac­com­mo­da­tion, sits aside the Tim­ber­line ski field, a par­adise for in­ter­me­di­ate skiers and fam­i­lies who love cruis­ing per­fectly groomed slopes in sun­shine with ex­pan­sive views.

Tim­ber­line is fa­mous for sev­eral rea­sons, prin­ci­pally be­cause it is the only ski area in North Amer­ica open 12 months of the year. It also of­fers 1,125 ver­ti­cal me­tres of ski­ing, more than any other ski field in the Pa­cific North­west. If you have a dozen or more friends with a taste for some­thing dif­fer­ent, you can book into Sil­cox Cabin, which at 2,130 me­tres is Ore­gon’s high­est on-snow ac­com­mo­da­tion. Here you can ski straight out your front door onto the slopes of Tim­ber­line af­ter your chef-cooked buf­fet break­fast.

The grand 1936-built Tim­ber­line Lodge, sit­ting a lit­tle lower at 1,820 me­tres, is one of a select group of ho­tels deemed Na­tional Historic Land­marks. The lodge was con­structed by dozens of crafts­men as part of for­mer Pres­i­dent Roo­sevelt’s Works Progress Ad­min­is­tra­tion pro­gram to get peo­ple

work­ing again af­ter the Great De­pres­sion. As a re­sult it is an ar­chi­tec­tural and cre­ative mas­ter­piece, filled with su­perb ex­am­ples of ma­sonry, iron­work and car­pen­try. In fact its gothic façade is so dis­tinc­tive, it was cho­sen to de­pict the fic­tional Over­look Ho­tel in 1980’s hor­ror film The Shin­ing star­ring Jack Ni­chol­son. (In­ter­nal scenes were shot in a stu­dio, not in the ho­tel as many be­lieve). Even if you don’t choose to stay here, do try to book into Tim­ber­line Lodge’s rustic Cas­cade Din­ing Room for de­lec­ta­ble cui­sine in­clud­ing or­ganic lamb roasts.

About 40 min­utes drive from Tim­ber­line is Mt. Hood Mead­ows ski field. Like Tim­ber­line, Mt. Hood Mead­ows of­fers many in­ter­me­di­ate and begin­ner slopes, but far more in the way of chal­leng­ing dou­ble black di­a­mond ter­rain mak­ing it a must-visit for any ad­vanced to ex­pert skier.

This ter­rain is mainly found within two canyons, Heather and Clark, be­low an area named Su­per Bowl. All are marked dou­ble black di­a­mond and ac­cessed through gates only. Here we came across water­falls, creeks, tight trees and cliffs – most of which is un­marked. We loved it, and were im­pressed by the fact that the re­sort of­fers just as much in the way of eas­ier ter­rain from at least five other mod­ern lifts em­a­nat­ing from the ex­pan­sive main day lodge.

Mt. Hood Ski Bowl is also lo­cated nearby op­po­site Govern­ment Camp, a set­tle­ment of ho­tels and restau­rants that of­fer al­ter­na­tive ac­com­mo­da­tion to Tim­ber­line Lodge. This area’s claim to fame is its night ski­ing op­er­a­tion, the largest of its kind in the United States.

When we re­gret­fully had to leave, our de­par­ture was made all the eas­ier by know­ing that it was well un­der two hours to Port­land’s air­port. Rarely do you find world-class ski­ing so close to a ma­jor cen­tre and so easy to reach. The only word of warn­ing would be to en­sure your hire car has snow tyres, im­per­a­tive for nav­i­gat­ing one of the snowiest places we have ever vis­ited. •

Open­ing im­age: Mak­ing tracks at Mt. Bach­e­lor.

Be­low from left: In deep at Mt. Bach­e­lor; Tim­ber­line Lodge.

Clock­wise from right: Port­land, Ore­gon with Mt. Hood in the dis­tance, © Jamie Fran­cis; Mt. Hood Mead­ows, © Randy Bover­man.

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