MOUNT BACHELOR —
A vast stash of untouched powder is usually a welcome sight to skiers and snowboarders — except when that powder is located out of bounds.
Then it's just a tease.
Many times over the years, cruising on my snowboard down the east catch line at Mt. Bachelor ski area, I have glanced longingly at the pristine snow piled deep just below the groomed track. But ditching the catch line to ride through that powder would mean a serious hike through deep snow, or worse, getting lost beyond the ski area boundary.
Soon, though, snowriders at Bachelor will have access to that part of the peak, as hundreds of additional acres on the southeast section of the mountain will be added to the ski area.
The new east-side chairlift planned for that part of Bachelor will not be open until the 2014-15 winter season at the earliest, but this coming season skiers and snowboarders will have access to some 150 acres of new terrain.
Sometime after the Summit chairlift opens this season, Bachelor will open 80 new acres south of the east catch line, according to mountain manager Tom Lomax. The catch line will feed skiers and snowboarders back to the Rainbow chairlift.
Later this winter, the resort plans to open more terrain below that catch line that will require a hike back to Rainbow along a groomed track. Snowriders entering that terrain will encounter informational signs explaining that they must hike back to the lifts.
“We're not just going to move the catch line down and say, 'OK, this is all open,'” Lomax explains.
“It'll be gated terrain, and it will be open in select situations. And I don't expect it to open the first day after a storm cycle on Summit. We'll get Summit open, and then maybe it's two or three days later when we can open those gates for that hike-back terrain.”
The 80 new acres will not be groomed, but rather off-piste tree skiing that requires the appropriate safety measures, such as not skiing alone and being wary of tree wells (areas of unconsolidated snow around tree bases).
“All of that will be really important,” Lomax says. “When and if we do open that hike-back terrain, that'll be really important there, too. Not skiing alone, having a charged cellphone, somebody knows you're out there.”
The new 80 to 150 acres could open sometime in late December, according to Lomax. That acreage is part of an additional 620 skiable acres that will be added to Bachelor once the new east-side chairlift is constructed. Even more of those 620 acres (farther southeast) could be open in late winter or early spring, according to Lomax, but skiing there will still require a hike back to Rainbow before the new chairlift is constructed. (Bachelor has about 3,700 acres of lift-accessible terrain, not including the new 620 acres.)
“We would like to put it (the new lift) in next summer but we have to get the funding and buy it,” Lomax says. “In the meantime, we're going to include that (80 acres) in the open terrain for this season — 80 new acres below the existing east catch line and southeast of the Flying Dutchman Run. There's some really nice terrain. There's some nice short runs in there. People will have fun in there. It's going to be really nice tree skiing.”
The new terrain will be accessible via both the Rainbow and Summit lifts. Lomax reiterated that snowriders should never ski below the “ski area boundary signs,” no matter what.
About 70 percent of the trail clearing is complete on the new runs that will be accessible via the new east-side lift, and the lift line has been logged from top to bottom, according to Lomax.
Some of those new runs will be ridable in the 80 additional acres that will be open this season, but nothing will be groomed, Lomax says.
“It's large hemlock, open tree skiing,” he adds. “It's benchy terrain. It's fun terrain. Lots of rolls and knolls.”
Another plus of the new terrain is that it is located on the east side of Bachelor — which typically means less violent weather. The northwest ridge near the Pine Marten Lodge takes the brunt of the wind and clouds coming in over the Cascade Range, Lomax explains.
“The new area is so far southeast, you just get this natural protection (from clouds and wind),” Lomax says.
The mountain manager says snow conditions so far this season look promising for the planned opening of skiing and snowboarding at Bachelor on Nov. 23. On Monday, mtbachelor.com reported a snow depth of 14 inches at mid-mountain and 7 inches at West Village Lodge.
Bachelor officials fired up the snow-making machines this past weekend to get the ball rolling on another winter of snowriding at the Central Oregon resort.
In the meantime, those who seek to hike and ski at Bachelor before the resort opens are advised that any areas of active grooming or snow-making are closed to the public.
Otherwise, hikers must decide for themselves if there is sufficient snow coverage to ski or snowboard safely before the mountain officially opens.
“There's no patrol,” Lomax says. “The mountain's closed.”
But it will open soon, and new terrain is not far behind.