#1 – I know you had record snow this season. How much? And what kind of challenges did you face operating a ski resort in this heavy snow season?
It has indeed been an epic La Nina season at Mt. Bachelor! We’ve had 630 inches of snowfall, which is the most we’ve ever recorded. But you are right…with the intense snowfall, there are significant challenges associated with managing it!
The only remaining option is to push snow uphill, which is difficult and time-consuming. The base-area yurts (the small huts that house our Snow Sports programs) and the bottom lift terminals are literally in holes or bowls in the snow. And the wall of snow around the perimeter of our main parking lot is more than 30 feet high in some spots, so it has become challenging even for “Big Red”, our giant parking lot snow blower, to blow-out & remove additional snow from the lot.
Several of our lifts are very low to the snow in places, requiring dozing work by the grooming machines and rope lines to keep skiers safely away from moving chairs. And because it has been consistently cold, the top terminal of our Summit lift (at 9,000 feet) is completely encased in snow and ice that is several feet thick. And finally, our Ski Patrol department has used a record amount of explosives this winter season in its effort to reduce the avalanche hazard in various areas on the upper mountain. It’s been a crazy winter and the Mt. Bachelor staff has worked very hard dealing with all the snow… but the skiing and snowboarding has been and continues to be amazing!
#2 – Do you have any idea how many fresh snow days you had this La Nina year?
As of today, April 29th, Mt. Bachelor has been open for 136 days. We’ve had fresh snow fall on 99 of those 136 days! Setting aside the mid-winter “pause” in January and early February, when it was unusually dry for several weeks, it has snowed (on average) 6 days a week this winter!
#3 – I love the fact you have the highest weather reporting station in Oregon at 9,065 feet. What kind of wind gusts did you see up there this year–and how do you keep your sensors from blowing off the mountain?!?
Our “highest weather station in Oregon” is strongly-mounted atop the Summit lift’s top terminal building (next to a lightning rod and a radio communication tower). That location is actually slightly sheltered from the wind by Mt. Bachelor’s true summit, which is a couple hundred feet to the northwest. Even with the sheltering, we recorded a peak wind gust of 168 mph this winter. But we honestly don’t know if that was the highest gust of the winter, because the instrument’s operational status is intermittent given the intense rime-icing that occurs up there.
We heat the instrument via an electrical connection to the Summit lift, but often that doesn’t matter – Mother Nature’s fierce icing usually wins the battle! Despite our anemometer being made of anodized aluminum with welded-on “cups”, one storm this winter destroyed the instrument by completely tearing away all of the welded aluminum cups. We ordered a new one and installed it… and we’ll see how long it takes before it is destroyed & needs to be replaced… again!
(This photo was taken on January 10, 2011 at the Summit Top Terminal at 9,000 feet–when Drew Jackson (Mt. Bachelor Snow Reporter) and Tom Lomax (Mt. Bachelor Director of Mountain Operations) replaced the Summit weather station’s wind instrument)
#4 – How late will spring skiing go and do you have any cool events coming up?
Mt. Bachelor is open every day, 9:00am – 2:00pm, through Sunday, May 29th. We’re staying open two-weeks longer this season compared to previous seasons. Weather permitting, over 2,000 acres of lift-served skiing and snowboarding terrain is still open. To put that in perspective, Mt. Bachelor is Oregon’s largest ski area with 3,683 acres available inside our ski area boundary… and only one other Oregon ski area is larger than 2,000 acres. So what we have open this spring at Mt. Bachelor is more than most other Northwest ski areas offer even when they’re in full winter operation!
As for events, yes indeed… we have several exciting events coming up. We’re calling it the Mt. Bachelor “Springtacular”! On Saturday, April 30th, we’re hosting the first-of-its-kind “Big Wave Challenge” with guest judge Gerry Lopez, the legendary surfer. A series of huge sweeping banked corners, quarter pipes and spines will be shaped into wave-like features for a flowing course… bringing surf to the mountain! And we’ll follow the event with a surf-themed luau in the base area.
Into May, the fun continues with a May concert series at the mountain. Each Saturday (except for May 21st – it’ll be Sunday, May 22nd instead) we’ll feature a live band. On May 14th, we’re hosting “BeerSki”, the mountain’s first-ever beer festival, sponsored by Deschutes Brewery. May 21st is the annual US Bank Pole-Pedal-Paddle, and on the following day, we’re hosting Red Bull Rivals – a college-student event featuring a competition between Beaver and Duck fans/students – with a Bikini Contest to go along with it! And, last but not least, we’ll close out our season with our infamous season-ending Pond Skimming Contest with live music and a big party on our final day of the season – Sunday, May 29th.
It’s our most ambitious spring calendar of events EVER… and we’re super-excited about the vibe and energy that continues for another month! For more details about all of this, check out our website at www.mtbachelor.com.
#5 – When your snow melts, where does it all go? Any rivers or lakes people would recognize? And do you have a guess on when this year’s epic snowpack might finally be all gone?
Good question! Because central Oregon’s soil and land surface is very porous (there are a lot of little holes in the ground due to past volcanic activity), much of our melted snow seeps into the ground. That makes for a rich, healthy, and high water table throughout central Oregon, ensuring that there will be no shortage of well-water this summer and fall. The snow from our mountain also feeds into the picturesque Cascade Lakes – popular summer attractions for kayaking and fishing – and into Wickiup Reservoir, which is the headwater pool of the Deschutes River.
As for when this year’s epic snowpack might finally be all gone… that’s difficult to predict at this point, because it’s still growing! But we’ll start losing snow with the drier and warmer weather pattern predicted for next week, and the snow “melting season” will continue well into summer. Typically, the mountain is well-covered into July, with only a couple patches of snow remaining by late September. But we’re off to a very slow start to the melting season… so we have no doubt that the mountain will still be deep in white by the time we begin our summer sightseeing lift operations and sunset dinners on July 1st. We hope you can visit us for some spring skiing or snowboarding this May… and then again for mountain sightseeing and a beautiful twilight dinner at Oregon’s highest restaurant, the Pine Marten Lodge, this summer!
Thanks to Mt. Bachelor’s Andy Goggins and Drew Jackson (yes, that Drew Jackson, of Portland TV fame) for taking so much time to give us behind the behind the scenes scoop of what it’s like when the records are falling along with the snow!