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A skier works his way down the mountain last winter at Mount Bachelor. [Photo by Lee Juillerat]

Skiing — finally — at Bachelor

Mt. Ashland Ski Area. Closed. Waiting for snow.

Willamette Pass Ski Area. Closed. Waiting for snow.

Mt. Shasta Ski Park. Well, you know the routine.

Mt. Bachelor. Whoa! Open!

It had been a long wait, but Wednesday five of us stuffed into Mike Reeder's carry-all pickup for the trip to Mount Bachelor. It's a longer drive to Bachelor than to the trio of waiting-for-snow ski areas, but the Bend-area mountain is open for skiers and snowboarders.

With some dense clouds and blustery winds, it wasn't a classic bluebird day. But after weeks and months of waiting, it seemed perfect. The Summit runs were mostly closed, but collectively and individually we five were all smiling — and wobbly legged — after a day that included runs off the Sunrise, Skyliner, Cloudchaser and Pine Marten chairs.

Mid-week meant no crowds or lines. Zip up the high-speed chairs, then zip even faster down a cross-section of Bachelor's many runs. Some of the group focused on Marshmallow, a green or beginner run with some fun dips and curves off the Sunrise chair, while others of us ventured to more challenging routes off the Skyliner and Pine Marten lifts. By the time we regrouped for lunch, we were tired but happily grinning.

The busiest runs were off the Sunrise chair, with groups of elementary and junior high school aged youth in ski classes and, along runs like Old Skyliner off the Pine Marten chair, older youth and adults in smaller groups or one-on-one sessions with instructors.

Several trails were groomed, others were more challenging because they hadn't been smoothed for a few days, but none were icy.

Those conditions are changing. Eight inches of fresh powder had fallen at Bachelor by Thursday morning with upwards of 14 inches predicted through the weekend at mid-mountain and more in higher elevations.

"Now that it's snowing and the forecast is calling for more snow over most of the next week, we're looking forward with more enthusiasm," Drew Jackson, Bachelor's media relations person, said Thursday afternoon. "We're still not as well off as last year. But we feel pretty good with the snow coming — we still have plenty of time for a good season."

Early-season snow in the Pacific Northwest had skiers — both downhill and cross-country — optimistic about a strong season. During 2016-17, when snow fell early and often, Jackson said Bachelor had its strongest visitation in a decade. More of the same seemed possibly earlier this winter when early storms allowed the area to open Nov. 18, a week earlier than planned. But Jackson said Bachelor, like other regional ski areas, experienced a drop-off of interest when rains fell over Thanksgiving, and December was unusually warm and dry.

Thanks to the series of storms, that sluggish outlook is changing, not only at Mt. Bachelor, but elsewhere. Depending on how much snow the storm creates, Mt. Ashland, the Shasta Ski Park and Willamette Pass could open this weekend. For updates, check their websites — www.skipark.com for Shasta, www.willamettepass.com for Willamette Pass and www.mtashland.com for Mt. Ashland.

For skiers and boarders, their prayers and snow dances are being answered.

For updated conditions on Mt. Bachelor, visit its website at www.mtbachelor.com or call 541-382-1709. Lifts are open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

— Reach freelance reporter Lee Juillerat at juilleratlee1@gmail.com or 541-880-4139.

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