Kathleen McLaughlin
The Bulletin

Evolution of Mt. Bachelor’s warm weather business

July 2014: Mt. Bachelor Bike Park opens.

June 2016: Parent company Powdr Corp. buys river outfitter Sun Country Tours.

May 2019: Year-round season pass, Outplay 365, is introduced.

June 2019: Powdr opens Woodward WreckTangle in the Old Mill District.

July 2019: Mt. Bachelor announces construction of zip line to open in May 2020.

August 2019: Redline trail scheduled to open, marking bike park’s completion.

Driving to Mt. Bachelor in the summer, downhill mountain biker Drew Barber notices that most of the vehicles on the road are toting stand-up paddleboards and kayaks.

The lakes might be crowded, but riding a chairlift to the top of Mt. Bachelor Bike Park, Barber said, “There’s never a line. It’s one of the quiet and relaxing places in Bend.”

Mt. Bachelor parent company Powdr Corp. has been working since 2014, when the bike park opened, to make the mountain a year-round destination. That effort gained momentum this summer with construction starting on a zip line slated to open in spring 2020. The zip line will be the mountain’s first mass-market summer attraction and joins a growing portfolio of warm weather activities that Powdr operates in Bend.

Powdr acquired the river outfitter Sun Country Tours in 2016. In June the company opened the Woodward WreckTangle ninja course in Bend’s Old Mill District.

In May, Mt. Bachelor introduced a new year-round pass, Outplay 365, that offers unlimited access to alpine and nordic skiing, scenic chairlift rides, the bike park and one rafting trip with Sun Country Tours for $1,188, or $99 per month.

Ski areas throughout the West have added bike parks, zip lines and other attractions to diversify their revenue and stay ahead of climate change impacts.

Mt. Bachelor isn’t competing so much with other Northwest ski areas as with the rest of Bend’s thriving summer tourism industry, said Drew Jackson, director of marketing and communications.

“The primary competitor is the sheer volume of a la carte options,” Jackson said.

With the year-round pass, Mt. Bachelor wants to encourage its primary customer base — downhill skiers — to sample other activities while maintaining one revenue stream.

The zip line and ninja course aren’t included in the 2019-20 season pass, but they could be covered in the future, possibly under a different price tier, Jackson said.

Prices for the zip line alone have not been determined, Jackson said.

Mt. Bachelor will not disclose how many of the Outplay 365 passes have been sold. (The pass was available until June 30 and goes on sale again in the spring.)

“It exceeded our expectations by a moderate amount,” Jackson said.

Woody Keen said he bought the Outplay 365 because it seemed not much more expensive than a full ski pass, which he would buy anyway. (The adult season downhill ski pass is $999.)

A retired trail builder, Keen is also a mountain biker. Downhill isn’t his favorite style of riding, but he said he’ll definitely make a couple of trips to the bike park this season because he has the Outplay pass.

Keen said he’ll take advantage of the rafting trip and a scenic chairlift ride, too. “I’ve never been up for a sunset,” he said. “I’ve heard it’s pretty amazing.”

It could be years before summer is as busy as winter at Mt. Bachelor. On a peak winter day, the ski area can handle 10,000 visitors, Jackson said. “Up to this point, an extremely busy summer day would be 600.”

To access the three-stage, dual-track zip line, riders will use the Pine Marten lift to get halfway up the mountain, where they’ll be above tree line at 7,800 feet.

Starting near the Pine Marten unloading area, the zip line will descend toward Skyliner lift, dropping 255 feet in elevation. The second stage will have views of South Sister and angle back toward the Pine Marten lift while dropping another 263 feet. The final stage will span 3,443 feet with an 866-foot vertical drop.

Powdr Corp. will not disclose how much it’s spending to build the zip line, which has been part of Mt. Bachelor’s master plan since 2013, Jackson said.

Mt. Bachelor draws a nearly 50-50 mix of tourists and locals in the winter, Jackson said. The bike park has been more of a draw for locals, but the zip line could tilt the balance back toward tourists.

Even with an activity like zip lining, which has become ubiquitous at tourist attractions across the country, locals can drive a lot of traffic, Jackson said.

“I’m viewing it a lot like the sunset viewing experience,” Jackson said. It’s something that season pass holders like to show off to friends and family when they visit. “I think the zip line could be pretty similar.”

As an avid bike park user, Barber said he’s not sweating the arrival of more tourists.

When he lived in Colorado, he was used to seeing the ski mountains busy in summer with people riding carts down concrete chutes, playing mini golf and crawling up climbing walls.

Barber, who is also head mechanic at Sagebrush Cycles, said Mt. Bachelor has improved the bike park since it opened in 2014. The easier trails are more friendly to beginners, he said.

“I’d like to see more people in the lift lines and using the bike park,” he said.

— Reporter: 541-617-7860, kmclaughlin@bendbulletin.com