Winter Activities in Central Oregon
Central Oregon shines in the wintertime—and, luckily, there’s plenty of time to enjoy it: The Cascades can enjoy their first dusting of snow as early as September, and Mt. Bachelor—the region’s most popular ski resort—may remain open until Memorial Day. Even away from the mountains, snow is routinely in the seven-day forecast throughout winter in the likes of Bend, Sunriver, La Pine, and other lower-elevation communities around the region.
With such a long season, it’s no surprise locals and visitors alike clamor for wintry fun around Central Oregon. And whatever winter means to you, chances are good you’ll find plenty to love around the region—including our downhill ski areas, groomed cross-country trails, skating rinks, and even relaxing day spas. However you like to spend winter, here’s a guide to some of the most popular seasonal activities around Central Oregon—along with where to go and how to make the most of your time.
Snow Sports in Central Oregon
Every year, snow begins blanketing the Cascades in late September or early October—and doesn’t stop for at least three or four months. (Mt. Bachelor, for instance, receives an astonishing 462 inches of snowfall each season.) It’s only natural, then, that snow sports are among the most popular wintertime activities around Central Oregon. From cross-country skiing to sledding and snowboarding, here’s a look at some of our favorite snow sports.
Cross Country Skiing
Cross-country skiing in Central Oregon is among the region’s most popular winter activities—and for good reason: Regular snowfall creates the ideal conditions, our sunny days mean the weather is always right for an outing, and snowy forests create an enchanting, fairy tale-like setting.
Visitors can go cross-country skiing at sno-parks throughout the region. And just in case that term doesn’t ring a bell: As the name implies, sno-parks are snowy areas where visitors can enjoy all manner of winter activities—from open hillsides for sledding to forested trails for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Note that visitors must purchase a permit before arriving (available via the Oregon Driver & Motor Vehicle Services website and at retail shops and outdoor stores throughout Central Oregon) and display it inside their vehicle’s windshield while at the park; annual passes run $25, three-day permits cost $9, and daily permits cost $4.
The Wanoga Snow Play Area Sno-Park, just 20 minutes southwest of Bend, is perhaps the region’s most popular sno-park (which is also dog-friendly); several miles of cross-country trails are groomed four times per week to maintain ideal conditions. (A sledding hill at the sno-park is also popular with families.) And about 15 minutes south of Sisters sits Upper Three Creek Sno-Park—which boasts 14 miles of well-marked, cross-country ski trails, a warming hut for day-use, and impressive views of nearby Cascade peaks. And in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, just east of La Pine, 10 Mile Sno-Park hosts several miles of cross-country trails—with one popular loop heading to the western shore of scenic Paulina Lake. Curious to learn more about other groomed offerings around the region? Get the skinny on ski trails in Central Oregon.
For a classic holiday experience, try ice skating in Central Oregon. The fun activity can be enjoyed at rinks throughout the region, with rentals available for the whole family (toddlers and up).The Village at Sunriver hosts one of the region’s most popular rinks in the community of Sunriver; the covered rink usually opens for the season in late November and remains open through April, with a mix of holiday music and upbeat tunes to soundtrack family outings.
Redmond, meanwhile, hosts an uncovered, outdoor rink in the heart of downtown; visitors can skate afternoons and evenings, hours are weather dependent. And in Bend, The Pavilion offers covered (but open-air) ice skating between mid-October and April. The full-size rink—big enough to host ice hockey programs all winter long—offers open skating, as well as scheduled sessions for families and parents with small children, throughout the season. (Skaters can cozy up by a fire pit in The Pavilion’s plaza to keep warm, as well.)
Also in Bend, Seventh Mountain Resort boasts the region’s oldest outdoor rink; the resort offers open skate sessions throughout the day, along with sharpening services, surrounded by light displays and festive decor.
Central Oregon boasts a trio of ski resorts in the Cascades—offering ample opportunities to enjoy one of the region’s most popular wintertime activities.
Mt. Bachelor Ski Resort, sitting just a half-hour from Bend, is the sixth-largest ski resort in North America and the largest in the Pacific Northwest. The popular ski resort boasts 3,365 feet of vertical drop, a suite of helpful services (from rentals to tune-ups), 360º skiing from the summit, and more than 100 runs for skiers of all abilities and skill levels.
Elsewhere, Hoodoo Ski Area has been going strong since 1938—and hosts more than 800 skiable acres, as well as Central Oregon’s only night skiing; Hoodoo offers 23 night runs that remain open until 9 p.m.
Further south, the family-owned-and-operated Willamette Pass Ski Area trades expansive terrain for impressive views: From the upper reaches of the ski area, visitors can spy nearby Cascade peaks, as well as a trio of alpine lakes (Waldo Lake, Crescent Lake, and Odell Lake). Still, Willamette Pass hosts 555 acres of skiable terrain, with eight black-diamond runs for experts.
Want more on the region’s resorts, rentals, and offerings? Check out our page on skiing in Central Oregon for details and recommendations.
Kids of all ages love sledding and tubing around throughout Central Oregon.Perhaps the most popular sledding destination in Central Oregon is the Snowblast Tubing Park at Mt. Bachelor, which is home to a rolling, 800-foot drop; several groomed lanes make it easy to race your friends and family members down the slopes. (Just keep in mind the park won’t open for the 2021-22 season—so put it on your bucket list for future visits.) Elsewhere, the kid-friendly Autobahn Tubing Park at Hoodoo Ski Area offers a gently sloped hillside, as well as a smaller, more laid-back sled hill. And while we already mentioned Wanoga Snow Play Area Sno-Park for cross-country skiing, the park deserves a special nod for its sledding opportunities; an open hillside offers easy sledding, and a warming hut provides a cozy respite from winter’s chill. Want to learn more?
Snowboarders find plenty to love about the ski resorts and ski areas in Central Oregon, which offer plenty of terrain for shredding throughout winter and spring.
Mt. Bachelor Ski Resort, for instance, hosts specially designed terrain for beginner boarders; the newbie-friendly area features increasingly difficult features to maximize progression and get new snowboarders onto the resort’s 101 runs that much sooner. More experienced snowboarders, meanwhile, can tackle the freestyle terrain park at Hoodoo Ski Area, which includes rails, tabletops, jumps, and other features for an adrenaline-pumping challenge.
With plenty of backcountry terrain to cover, it’s no wonder snowmobiling in Central Oregon has become a fun winter activity for laid-back adventurers and thrill-seekers alike.
Just 20 minutes east of La Pine, 10 Mile Sno-Park offers access to more than 100 miles of groomed snowmobile trails within (and around) the Newberry National Volcanic Monument—making it one of the region’s best-loved destinations for snowmobilers. Elsewhere, the appropriately named Junction Sno-Park sits where several alpine lakes and scenic buttes meet; the sno-park offers a warming shelter and an extensive network of groomed trails that head to the likes of Odell Lake, Davis Lake, Crescent Lake, and Summit Lake at the southern edge of Central Oregon.
Central Oregon’s sno-parks aren’t just ideal home bases for cross-country skiing, sledding, and snowmobiling; the parks also host groomed snowshoe trails for beginners and seasoned veterans alike.
Perhaps the region’s most popular snowshoe destination is Dutchman Sno-Park, just 20 minutes southwest of Bend; the park hosts several miles of trails that ascend Tumalo Mountain and head through an open meadow—with impressive Cascade peak views beckoning throughout. Further south, Edison Butte Sno-Park offers easy access to several miles of groomed snowshoe trails (one of which passes a warming hut) in the heart of a bucolic fir forest.
Want to know where to rent gear, how to get started, and where to go this winter? Check out our page on snowshoeing in Central Oregon for all the details.
Other Winter Activities in Central Oregon
Not up for a day in the snow? We get it: The powdery stuff isn’t for everyone. Fortunately, you’ll find plenty of other fun activities all winter long.
Want to get outdoors without post-holing or wading into snow drifts? No problem: Central Oregon hosts a bevy of winter hiking trails that remain accessible all season long.
Just a half-hour east of Bend, for instance, the 29,000-acre Oregon Badlands Wilderness hosts nearly 50 miles of trails that crisscross volcanic rock formations, high-desert terrain, and forests of gnarled juniper trees. The Badlands sit at a lower elevation than most popular destinations in Central Oregon, so they see less snow in winter—and remain mostly accessible all winter long.
Further north, the seven-mile Tam-a-láu Loop trail sits within The Cove Palisades State Park (just outside Madras) and offers views of Lake Billy Chinook, snow-covered Cascade peaks, and the region’s rocky river canyons from atop a sweeping plateau; the arid nature of this area usually renders it snow-free in winter, and cooler temperatures offer a respite from summertime heat on the exposed trail. And sitting between Madras and Prineville, the short, wheelchair-accessible Rimrock Springs Trail passes through a mix of juniper and sagebrush while offering excellent wildlife viewing; keep an eye out for pronghorn antelope, waterfowl, bats, raptors, and more.
Shopping in Central Oregon is a popular activity, no matter the season—but holiday deals, seasonal offerings, and a festive spirit make it an especially fun winter pastime. For its part, Bend hosts a pair of popular shopping districts: Downtown Bend is home to several boutiques, souvenir shops, bookstores, and mom-and-pop outfits selling a variety of artisan goods and hand-crafted items. Nearby, the Old Mill District hosts more than 40 shops—ranging from home-grown clothing stores to outposts from big-name brands—along the banks of the Deschutes River.
Nearby, downtown Redmond’s walkable core hosts shops that sell clothing, handcrafted items, books, musical instruments, antiques, and other gift-worthy goods. Just a short drive away, visitors can walk the main drag through Sisters, which is home to art galleries, souvenir shops, a bustling bookstore, apparel stores, and more. Further south, The Village at Sunriver is an open-air mall in Sunriver; dozens of shops call the village home, from artisans and booksellers to outdoor outfitters and fashionable boutiques. And at the eastern edge of Central Oregon, the Prineville Charm Trail brings together nearly 30 shops around town—with jewelry, leather goods, homemade items, apparel, and more available from regional retailers.
Whether you’re holiday shopping, shuttling the kids around town, joining a family gathering, or getting outside yourself, winter can easily become one of the busiest seasons of the year. So why not relax with a day at the spa? Shibui Spa at FivePine Lodge in Sisters is among the most popular spas in Central Oregon, thanks to a range of services that includes massages, body and facial treatments, wraps, and more.
In Bend, Anjou Spa takes a wide-ranging, holistic approach to health, with seasonal offerings, customized skin treatments, targeted massages, body and face detailing, and more. And the popular Spa W takes a thorough approach to rest and relaxation—with a pre-treatment steam room session and services that include manicures and pedicures, waxing, facial treatments, and a wide range of massages. The Sunriver Resort, meanwhile, hosts Sage Springs Club & Spa—a full-service spa that prides itself on offering a wide range of services and products that are (whenever possible) organic, locally sourced, and hand-crafted.
Indoor Activities for Kids
Central Oregon might be known for our outdoor adventure—but that’s not all we’ve got going for us. Indeed, several indoor activities offer a fun way to pass the time for kids of all ages. One of our most popular destinations is the High Desert Museum, which hosts live animals, exhibits, interactive displays, and more on the region’s history, wildlife, and natural wonders—just a 10-minute drive south of Bend. Elsewhere around town, Trampoline Zone hosts more than 50 trampoline beds—not to mention six climbing walls, a challenging laser maze, a ninja course with 15 fun obstacles, and indoor pickleball courts for active children.
Walt Reilly’s pairs its upscale pub menu with virtual golf, a virtual batting cage (in which players can compete in full games, a home run derby, and other fun challenges), and a nine-hole mini golf course. Want to know where else to head inside and warm up around the region? Check out our page on family-friendly indoor activities for more.
Explore Nature’s Beauty
From the sagebrush-covered plains of the high desert to the towering pines and majestic mountain peaks, discover the diverse landscape Central Oregon has to offer.