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A skier descends the Outback section at Mt. Bachelor on a blue-sky day. Photos by Lee Juillerat

Oregon's most eligible Bachelor

Oregon's most eligible Bachelor isn't a 20- or 30-year-old handsome man on a TV show, it's the Mount Bachelor Ski Resort on the stand-alone mountain with great downhill and cross-country skiing near Bend.

On a clear day, Bachelor's 9,065-foot peak is among the dominate snow-covered peaks in Central Oregon's Cascades. From its summit and slopes, the visual feast includes snow-draped Tumalo Mountain, Broken Top and, most dramatically, the Three Sisters — South, Middle and North.

During a weekend visit, low-lying clouds limited visibility our first day, blocking out the nearby peaks. Because of the limited visibility and flat light, we focused on each run, not the surroundings.

Ah, but the next day the panoramic sights were so breathtaking it was hard to see where we were going because the scenery stole our attention.

As I've learned over the years, Mt. Bachelor is often a moody bachelor, one day cloaked and concealed, another day inviting and openly eligible. During the cloudy day on our recent weekend, my daughter Molly and I mostly stayed on the Outback and Northwest Express high-speed quad chairs, partly because of the better visibility but even more because it offered better snow.

But when the see-forever blue skies greeted us a day later, the whole mountain, including the Summit Express, beckoned.

Bachelor has much to offer. Its 10 lifts, including seven express quads, access 3,683 acres served by 88 trails, with a variety of offerings for everyone from raw beginners to experts. It's not inexpensive — an adult day pass is $84, while teens 13 to 18 are $69, youth 6 to 12 and seniors 65 to 69 are $71, and 70 and older are $49. But, with its variety of high-speed chairs and runs, it's easy to ski more vertical — and feel the leg burn — in four or five hours than a full-day at ski-snowboard areas with slower chairs and shorter runs. Locals buy season passes, and we've often taken advantage of early-season, reduced-price offerings.

During our sunny Sunday, Molly and I were joined by her husband, Andy Hamilton, and a Bend-area friend for a relatively short ski day. Because of our late start, we skied mostly from top to bottom, me over most of the mountain, the others focused on Summit chair.

Unlike other Oregon and far Northern California downhill ski-snowboard areas that have struggled with sparse snow, Bachelor has received enough to stay open into May the past several winters. Staying open into early spring shouldn't be a problem this year. As of earlier this week, Bachelor had been blanketed with more than 300 inches of snow and boasted a snowpack of 120 inches. Because of its expanse of runs, there's almost always a section of the mountain that's skiable no matter the weather.

While my focus was on intermediate Outback Express choices like Downunder, Ed's Garden, Bushwhacker and Kangaroo, runs like Coffee, Canyon, Olympian and Skyliner off the Pine Martin chair, my traditional finishing run is a shared favorite. Frank Sinatra did it his way, I finish off days at Bachelor on Leeway.

Along with downhill skiing and snowboarding, 56 kilometers of groomed cross-country skiing is offered at the adjacent Nordic Center. The area offers ski and board rentals, tuning and repair, ski and snowboard lessons, base area shops and dining, child care, mid-mountain restaurants and a tubing park.

The Deschutes National Forest offers free 90-minute interpretive snowshoe tours, while the Oregon Trail of Dreams has concession sled dog rides and Wanderlust Tours offers guided snowshoe walks.

Bachelor is 22 miles west of Bend.

For information about Mt. Bachelor, see www.mtbachelor.com.

Lee Juillerat has been writing about outdoor adventures in Southern Oregon and elsewhere for more than 30 years. He is also a regular contributor to the outdoor-travel website High On Adventure at www.highonadventure.com. He can be contacted at 337lee337@charter.net or 541-880-4139.

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