Ditch the Lift and Earn Your Turns in Central Oregon’s Backcountry Bliss

tumalo mountain
Atop Tumalo Mountain/photo by Brendan Loscar

Hitting the slopes at Mt. Bachelor and Hoodoo are nice ways to enjoy the stellar skiing and snowboarding Central Oregon has to offer. But the backcountry skiing opportunities here are almost endless, giving you plenty of places to, as they say, “Earn your turns.”

The best part is that you don’t have to be “extreme” to get out in the woods and find some fresh powder stashes to play in. In fact, if there’s enough snow in town you can ski at Pilot Butte State Park. Sure, it’s not exactly “backcountry” but you’re definitely earning your turns hiking up the snowy, mile-long road (closed to cars in the winter) before skiing or boarding back down.

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Skiing Pilot Butte, photo by Tim Neville

A local’s earn-your-turn favorite is actually at Mt. Bachelor, just inside the northeast boundary line. On powder days you’ll find dozens of riders hiking “The Cone” to get some freshies on the 700 foot butte.  It’s a short but steep climb to the top, but the turns coming down are worth it.

Be Prepared

* Sno-Park Passes are required at winter recreation areas (Mt. Bachelor is excluded)
* Be prepared for changing weather conditions and check for avalanche conditions before heading out
* Bring avalanche equipment like a beacon and shovel
* Make sure someone knows where you will be skiing that day

Across the parking lot from Mt. Bachelor, backcountry skiers can access the trail to Tumalo Mountain. This is the spot many people head to for their first taste of real backcountry skiing. It’s very accessible and the 1,300-foot-ascent isn’t too difficult for most people.  You’ll find the parking lot filled with snowmobile trailers and folks heading out on the miles and miles of trails. Snowshoeing the trail at Tumalo Mountain is also very popular.

Tumalo Mountain in Central Oregon
View of Mt. Bachelor from Tumalo Mountain

Near Sisters, backcountry skiers can get some different views of the Cascades from Tam McArthur Rim, which rises about 1,500 feet and offers some 280,000 acres of varied skiable terrain. Tam is also an exceptional spring skiing spot. After your epic day, stop by the Three Creeks Brewery on the FivePine Lodge campus for some excellent grub and craft beer.

The New York Times not long ago had an exceptional piece on Central Oregon’s rich skiing history and the backcountry oasis. 

Central Oregon Visitors Association
The Central Oregon Visitors Association (COVA) is the "Official" Tourism Information Resource for Central Oregon, including the communities of Bend, Sunriver, Redmond, Sisters, La Pine, Madras, Prineville, Crooked River Ranch, Terrebonne, Culver and Black Butte Ranch. Most of the stories posted online can be found in the Official Central Oregon Visitors Guide.
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