Kathleen McLaughlin
The Bulletin

What: Mt. Bachelor ski area

Pictured: John McLeod, president

Employees: 200 to 967, depending on season

Website: https://www.mtbachelor.com/

Mt. Bachelor ski area President John McLeod knows that powder days prompt a lot of employee absences in Bend, and he’s not really sorry about that.

Bend residents’ commitment to skiing and snowboarding is one reason he’s optimistic about the future of the business.

“There’s a lot of stickability with respect to the sport within the local community,” he said. “Those people that are season pass holders, skiing might be — I’m hoping — it’s one of the last things they give up.”

McLeod was named president in 2016 after he’d spent several years as finance director. He oversaw the opening of the Cloudchaser lift on the east side of the mountain in December 2016. McLeod, 53, said he’d like to see Mt. Bachelor execute the rest of its master development plan, which calls for an expansion of the Sunrise base area and the addition of a zip line on the mountain’s west side.

With the addition of off-season businesses, including downhill mountain biking and Sun Country Tours, McLeod oversees operations that handle about 600,000 visits a year. Mt. Bachelor defines visits as paid services such as raft tours, ski school or lift ticket sales.

McLeod talked with The Bulletin about what it’s like to run Mt. Bachelor. His comments have been edited for length and clarity.

Q: What makes it worthwhile for your parent company, Powdr Corp., to invest in Mt. Bachelor, given the way climate change is expected to affect snow levels?

A: First of all I think climate change is a real thing, and it’s a threat to our industry. It’s going to affect different resorts at different times. I think we are well-positioned, being relatively high-altitude for the Pacific Northwest. … I think we still have … good opportunities ahead of us at Mt. Bachelor for any meaningful investment timeline.

Q: What trends are you noticing among Mt. Bachelor’s users?

A: One trend that we’ve seen that’s not encouraging is a lot more people driving (solo). We used to count visits, or balance visits, at around 2.6 people per car that we park. Now that number is below two. A lot of that phenomenon is the individual going up for a couple of hours, skiing for a bit, then you know, treating it a bit like a workout.

Another part of our company is piloting a ride share app. We’re hoping to be able to bring that to the community before the end of the season.

Q: What do you think should be done about congestion on Cascade Lakes Highway?

A: Obviously we want to be able to absorb the growth in town and get people up the mountain with a minimum amount of time and traffic, or vehicle movements for that matter. Transit’s going to play a role. The road itself’s probably going to have to be addressed at some point in time.

In summertime, we’re just one of the stops along the way. But the role we can play is sort of a gateway to what’s beyond. We can maybe be a staging area for some of the other trailheads.

Q: How did the tree well suffocation deaths of two people last March affect you?

A: It is a community. Our employees, our patrol group, me, managers, everybody, we’re all just part of the same community. We all feel it because it could be us. So it’s a loss. It’s also a recognition of the risk. Because of the fun and the exuberance that comes with the sport, sometimes we turn a blind eye to some of the risks. It was a sad day for all of us. I hope it never happens again.

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