Icelandair does not fly to California so the western options are Seattle, Portland and Denver. In early April 2015 we opted for Seattle and Whistler. This time Portland was an easy call for Mt. Bachelor’s last weekend of full operating hours and 90+% of terrain. That would be weather permitting of course, which it never did completely over these 4 days. Larry Schick was much luckier the prior weekend: http://opensnow.com/dailysnow/northwest/post/11620
. He had the same ideal 360 degree corn that we enjoyed when I skied 96K vertical over the last 3 days of the NASJA 2000 meeting.
The middle of the ensuing week was hot, 85F in Bend and Portland with no overnight freeze on the mountain. We landed from Iceland in balmy Portland 6PM, got to bed a bit after 9PM. To no surprise we woke up early Friday
, got on the road at 6:30 and made it to Mt. Bachelor about 10AM. It was still warm, 45F or so, but it was partly cloudy and obvious that the predicted weather would arrive soon, as we had seen driving through fog and drizzle near Mt. Hood.
So we headed immediately for Summit, first taking a warmup groomer on Healy Heights. Next run I pushed farther east that I had ever gone from Summit due to the new Cloudchaser chair (built 2 years ago) providing a new exit trail from that side. View east overlooking a cinder cone:
Skiing the alpine and subalpine bowls:
Snow despite no overnight freeze was decent up high but progressively heavier as we got lower. We crossed the Sunrise Getback, but with snow getting heavier decided to follow some traverse tracks skier’s left. This was a good idea as we eventually emerged on to the East Catchline at Sign 25 with half of that trail still to go. The East Catchline is much flatter than the West Catchline to the Northwest chair. Thus there were several sections where we had to skate or sidestep up before we reached Cloudchaser. In spring conditions it’s probably best to bail out at the better graded Sunrise Getback when skiing east off the Summit. On powder days the Low East would provide vast acreage of mellow untracked snow, so in that scenario it might be worth it to continue on to the East Catchline.
By the time we got back to Summit it had closed for wind and visibility. We moved on to Skyliner, viewed here with Summit rising into the cloud in the background.
While riding Skyliner it began to rain. We moved to Northwest as I knew we would not be skiing much longer. The Kangaroo and Sparks Lake groomers had decent corn in their midsections and only got sticky near the bottom. After one lap our gloves were getting saturated, so I changed gloves but Liz had to quit as she didn’t have an extra pair on her. After one more run I too bailed at 1:30PM after 16,200 vertical.
driving up from Bend the east side of the mountain was in sun while the west side remained cloudy. Only the snow at the top of Pine Marten was hard frozen, so we skied 4 runs there, some not where I intended due to thick fog at the top of the lift. About 11:30 we moved into the sun on Cloudchaser.
Everything was soft there, and a couple of runs had just enough skier traffic to generate snow clumps. We explored some and found quiet trails with smoother corn.
Around 1PM we moved through Skyliner and went into the West Village for lunch. By the time we were done it was snowing and blowing hard. We decided to pass on the likely dust on crust conditions and save our energy for the next two days, having skied 17,200 vertical.
We drove into Bend and visited a couple of ski shops to research Liz replacing her powder skis. This time she will get plate touring bindings since that’s what some of the Euro guides want you to have for off piste skiing. It rained intermittently in Bend Saturday afternoon and hard during dinner, so we thought we might get some powder the next day.
We were surprised that Mt. Bachelor reported less than an inch new snow Sunday
despite the rain in Bend Saturday. Driving to the mountain here’s the view Sunday morning:
Wind and the new snow had smoothed surfaces some, so we tested Shorty’s, an ungroomed run near the Red chair.
The upper part was decent but you could feel a lot of hard subsurface lower down.
So we moved to Cloudchaser, already soft in the morning sun. With new snow mixed in and arriving earlier than Saturday the corn was excellent. We skied 7 runs there including a couple of upper ungroomed sections.
As on Saturday we skied a couple of runs on Skyliner, then went into lunch about 1:15. We came out at 2PM and headed for Northwest. I decided to try ungroomed Boomerang on the way and was pleasantly surprised to find it smooth with few new tracks.
After riding the lift we got a break in the clouds and could see all the way down the 2,400 vertical Northwest lift.
I pushed skier’s left into the West Bowls to find less tracked snow.
Liz skiing alpine and subalpine bowls lower down.
You’re in the trees completely about 1,000 vertical down Northwest but they are well spaced. Skier packed openings skied well for another 500 vertical and then we traversed right, eventually reaching the Sparks Lake trail, which had excellent corn to the base.
We offloaded Northwest at 3:20 so only had one more run. We skied Sparks Lake Bowl near the lift.
This flows into the top of the trail with smooth corn where we had just skied the lower part. On our only full day of skiing we skied 26,000 vertical.
we were flying out of Portland at 5:25PM so the obvious choice was to ski Mt. Hood to be closer to the airport. But the unsettled weather continued and Timberline’s Palmer lift (which I have tried to ski but has not been open on 3 prior trips) was listed on weather hold. To our surprise the weather cams at Bachelor showed chairs loaded and in motion on Summit, so we drove up there for a 4th day.
We saw the Summit chairs moving on the drive too, but when we unloaded Pine Marten it was completely overcast and the fog was right above us. So we skied a few groomers on Pine Marten and Skyliner. These were well groomed but hard packed as there had been a firmer overnight freeze.
With a cloud layer rising slightly, we checked out Summit about 10:45 and were pleasantly surprised to see it open. The top was still in fog so we tested groomed Beverley Hills, which skied better than the lower groomers due to mixed in new snow and windsift. On the second Summit run I pushed east into East Healy, good visibility but most of the snow was windswept coral with small patches of windsift.
My final two runs skier’s left of the lift found better snow despite more challenging visibility. The Tube was well defined by shrubbery poking above the snow, and the lower liftline of Summit was tilted east and smooth windsift. I directed Liz there for her last run. Meanwhile I traversed into the Pinnacles where snow was firm but smooth and dropped into Cirque, where it was all windsift. Fog was thick in there but fortunately there were scattered volcanic rock outcroppings to provide some orientation.
By now it was past noon, so we had to get on the road for the drive to PDX after 15,500 vertical. We flew Southwest home to Burbank via Oakland. Our ski bags did not make the transfer, but by the time we determined that, the next flight was about to land and it had our bags.
Mt. Bachelor has improved many aspects of spring skiing that were rolled back in the early days of Powdr Corp a decade ago.
1) The new Cloudchaser lift and full operating hours now extend through last weekend of April.
2) Northwest runs a couple of weekends in May, allowing the backside access that Larry got a week before us
3) According to our friends Kirk and Nanci in Bend, Powdr Corp sold off 5 of its 7 groomers when they took over. But now they have 4 or 5 groomers and both Larry and I think the spring grooming this year was very good.
What still needs improvement:
1) The closing hour was cut back to 1:30PM on April 30. We had to leave anyway, but since groomers didn’t soften until 11:30 that wasn’t great for the skiers who remained. The late afternoon is often the best skiing on Northwest, and this is not the first time I’ve been at Bachelor in spring and had winter weather. Mammoth adjusts spring operating hours by the state of the snow not the calendar and Bachelor should do likewise.
2) Bachelor should have camps in June and run to July 4 in most seasons, as demonstrated in this graph for the years between Summit’s construction in 1983 and Powdr’s purchase in 2001.
In 2012 there were camps in June but the public was not allowed to ski during the camps, only for the closing weekend when Patrick and I were there. Mammoth does not have a problem with camps and public coexistence, even though its snow usually melts out faster than Bachelor’s.