Across the high desert, skiers and snowboarders eagerly await Mt. Bachelor’s opening day announcement. Hoping for the sight of snow-covered peaks isn’t enough for many hardcore winter devotees, who are called to action at the first signs of snow. Increasing impatience leads them to check weather apps and text friends to see if their favorite preseason spot has enough snow for some short runs before the ski area begins its chairlift operations.
For those anxious to test their ski or snowboard legs and get a jump on the season, early November is the time to head out and earn some turns before the lifts open. Just don’t forget to prepare mentally and physically to keep that childlike enthusiasm strong for all of winter and the better part of spring.
Train for the Season
One essential component to making the whole season as enjoyable as possible lies in the mental and physical preparation. Boss Sports Performance Director of Performance Erik Jorgensen recommends single leg exercises and working on dynamic core strength to ward against early season injuries, such as knee ligament and hip flexor strains. “People should take their time building up to more intense ski sessions and longer days of skiing,” said Jorgensen. “It’s a long season and the snow only gets better.” For support, find winter sports conditioning classes at gyms throughout town or work with trainers to reach individual strength goals.
Upgrade Your Gear
Each year, manufacturers introduce new products to enhance the winter experience. Preseason is a great time to research new products and test existing gear for the upcoming season. When sticking with a trusty pair of skis or snowboard, make sure to get gear tuned and pack a backpack with the 10 essentials: navigation, light, sun protection, first aid kit, knife, fire starter, shelter, food, water and clothes.
“Without a doubt, the most important gear to carry in the backcountry, especially in avalanche terrain, is the snow safety trifecta of a beacon, probe, and shovel,” said Kevin Ganey, general manager and buyer at the Bend-based gear shop Mountain Supply. “Get the gear, get the knowledge through a course, and then get out into the backcountry!”
Many local shops have annual fall parties with discounted, past-season winter gear and new arrivals. Check out Pine Mountain Sports Powderhound Preview and Fundraiser in November. In addition, gear shops begin their rental programs ahead of opening day at the mountain.
First Tracks and Cone Laps
By far, the most popular spot for preseason runs lies on Mt. Bachelor’s Cinder Cone with a hike that takes about 45 minutes to reach the top. The cone is located on Mt. Bachelor’s northern flank with parking available in the West Village Parking Area. The Cinder Cone’s approximately 180 acres of terrain include 715 feet of vertical drop, though preseason means finding the best snow and routes possible. Be careful with your line so as not to end up too far north, thus resulting in a longer hike back for your second lap. Also, take heed of preseason obstacles such as downed trees and rocks not fully covered by the new snow. Remember, all snow riders must obey Mt. Bachelor Ski Area’s uphill travel policy and the cone is not patrolled so no emergency assistance is available.
After tackling Mt. Bachelor’s Cone, explore other preseason options by heading across the street to Tumalo Mountain. This 7,775-foot butte is approachable for skinning or hiking up its 1,400 feet from the Dutchman Flat Sno-Park. Probably the area’s most accessible backcountry spot, Tumalo Mountain allows backcountry enthusiasts to spend the day doing full laps up and down the south side, or dropping into the bowl and hiking back around. Go-getters wake early and take a few laps before work from the time snow hits until it melts in late spring.
When the snow is particularly good, and for some nostalgia, drive Skyliner Road west of Bend and park in the Skyliner Sno-Park. Before the days of Mt. Bachelor Ski Area, the Norwegians built a ski jump on the hill that is directly in front of the parking area. People now use it for sledding in the winter.
Before Meissner, Wanoga or Swampy Lakes sno-parks have enough coverage, nordic skiers looking for early season fun can drive up the Cascade Lakes Highway, park at Dutchman Flat Sno-Park and head west into the more level Deschutes National Forest area.
Prep from Town
To watch and learn from the masters of winter sports, Bend’s Tower Theatre kicks off the preseason with a screening of ALL TIME, Warren Miller’s 74th annual film featuring greats such as Olympian Jonny Moseley, “Maine’s finest athlete” Donny Pelletier and an exploration of the birth of the country’s most iconic ski towns.
Perhaps the local’s choice to prepare for the coming of the winter ski season is grabbing a friend and heading to one of the many winter beer release parties. The parties usually include music, gear giveaways, ski and snowboard waxing, and of course, beer. The 10 Barrel Pray for Snow Party has become an annual tradition for more than a decade. Bend Brewing Company partners with Oregon Adaptive Sports each year for their “Sno’d In” Winter Ale release party. Locals have looked forward to the yearly release of Deschutes Brewery’s Jubelale Festive Winter Ale and its accompanying artwork since 1988. So, check the forecast, finish a leg workout, grab a beer, and above all else, pray for snow!