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Bend snowboarders, JD Platt, from left, Gerry Lopez, and his son Alex Lopez enjoy riding together in deep powder conditions, under the Red Chair at Mount Bachelor Dec. 6, 2016. Andy Tullis / The Bulletin

Deep powder, new runs

MOUNT BACHELOR — Fluffy pillows of powder awaited below as I surveyed the endless white terrain on the north side of the mountain.

The first day of the season back on the slopes is always a challenge, especially when it’s a powder day.

I always plan to take it easy, but when nearly 2 feet of snow falls in three days, it is hard to not go overboard and push too hard that first time out.

Riding powder is sort of addictive. So after one run on my snowboard near Mt. Bachelor ski area’s Red Chair line, engulfed in white curtains of snow on each turn, I was once again hooked.

And a few hours later, my legs and knees were aching after a memorable first day of what is shaping up to be a wonderful winter for skiers and snowboarders in Central Oregon.

A series of storms has pounded the Cascades over the past week, bringing plenty of light, dry snow to the mountains and resorts.

But when the snow gets extremely deep, it is wise to remember some tips for staying safe in stormy conditions.

Snowriders should seek out terrain steep enough to maintain their momentum down the mountain and not get mired in a flat stretch of heavy powder. The runs off Pine Marten and Outback chairlifts offer some of the steepest terrain currently open at Bachelor.

Skyliner and Sunrise chairlifts, also now open, tend to offer flatter terrain.

Having a recently waxed snowboard or skis can help tremendously to keep momentum on a powder day.

Getting greedy in search of more powder on a flat stretch of the mountain is a bad idea. Skiers and snowboarders can get stuck and it can take quite a while — and a lot of energy — to work themselves out of the deep snow and hike back to a downhill stretch.

Skiing and snowboarding in deep snow is much more dangerous in treed areas off the open runs.

Tree wells — areas of loose, unconsolidated snow around the base of a tree — are a safety concern for snowriders as the snow base continues to rise. A snow-immersion suffocation accident can occur when a skier falls into such an area headfirst.

The best way to avoid this danger, according to Mt. Bachelor ski patrol, is to never ski alone, especially in the trees or on more advanced terrain.

Bachelor reported a solid snowpack of 64 inches as of Tuesday, but snowriders still need to be cautious of branches and rocks that can poke through the newly fallen snow, especially when riding amid the trees.

Several times last week I turned off an open run near the trees and struck some hidden rocks. One time a rock even launched me off my board face first into the soft snow.

As the snow continues to pile up from these heavy storms, more and more snowriders will be tempted to venture farther off the groomed runs.

Skiers and boarders should always know which chairlifts are running, so as not to get stuck at a closed lift and be forced to hike back. Orange closed signs are usually posted to steer snowriders away from closed lifts, but it is better to know before then.

Last week, the Pine Marten, Skyliner and Sunshine chairlifts were operating at Bachelor. Outback and Sunrise opened over the weekend.

But the chairlift that has skiers and snowboarders most excited is the new $6.5 million Cloudchaser, a high-speed quad lift that was scheduled to open Friday. Located east of the Rainbow lift, Cloudchaser will add 635 acres of new lift-accessed terrain and 13 new runs at Bachelor.

The new lift marks what the resort is calling its biggest expansion in 20 years

The new chairlift means a chance to access even more of the fresh snow that has fallen on the Cascades so far in this early season, and to experience new terrain on Bachelor’s east side.

Near the Skyliner chair last week, the snow was at least a foot deep. And as the temperatures dropped during the day, the snow became lighter and drier.

On my final run at Bachelor last week near Pine Marten, the sun illuminated the snowy peaks of Broken Top and South Sister like a porch light on the Cascades, a beacon signaling that the snowriding season is here and the pursuit of powder is on.

— Reach outdoors writer Mark Morical at 541-383-0318 or mmorical@bendbulletin.com

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