Just east of the Cascade Range on the banks of the Deschutes River lies Bend, Oregon – an outdoor mecca for athletes and enthusiasts of all stripes. The area’s vast network of trails and close proximity to Mt. Bachelor – as well as a number of accessible backcountry spots – make it especially appealing to mountain bikers, skiers and snowboarders.
Bend’s climate is also unique, allowing those looking to get rad in this Central Oregon playground to experience what some locals have dubbed “the Bend Double.” What’s the Bend Double you ask? Good question. When in the area, you may hear Bendites refer to the Bend Double when describing a day beginning with skiing or snowboarding in the morning and capped off with a round of golf in the afternoon. But afternoon fun is not limited to golf in this “blessedly bipolar” city – Bend’s moderate climate can also allow for mountain biking during the winter months.
While Mt. Bachelor – only a 30-minute drive from Bend – boasts an annual average snowfall of 463 inches, the city of Bend sits in the Oregon high desert and averages a mere 11.38 inches of rain each year. To boot, Bend’s average temperature is 46.5°F and most winters are relatively mild (this record-setting season not included). This combination of mild winters and little precipitation in town, combined with regular storms and big dumps up on the mountain, make Bend a multisport heaven.
Begin your day at Mt. Bachelor, offering one of the longest seasons in the country with lifts typically spinning from November through May. Mt. Bachelor holds the resort title for the highest skiable elevation in all of Oregon and Washington, and includes more than 4,300 acres of lift-accessible terrain. This mountain has more than enough runs to fill the morning portion of your “double.”
Here are a few stats:
– Top elevation: 9,065 feet
– Lowest elevation: 5,700 feet
– Vertical drop: 3,365 feet
– Number of runs: 101
– Longest run: 4 miles
– Skiable acres: 4,318
Want to get off piste? Bend also serves as a gateway to some of the best backcountry skiing and snowboarding in Oregon. When planning your backcountry adventure, check out Visit Bend for some accessible options.
Several shops in town rent touring equipment and backcountry gear, including Pine Mountain Sports, which also offers Backcountry 101 presentations and guided trips.
Remember that if you’re going to get off the groomers, safety is key. Avalanche risk, as well as tree well risk, are real dangers for backcountry travelers. Check out the Central Oregon Avalanche Association for snow reports and conditions in popular backcountry spots, as well as information on classes and training. Avalanche certification is always recommended for those venturing into the backcountry.
Probably the most famous mountain bike destination in Bend is the popular Phil’s Trail complex, which offers hundreds of miles of singletrack just minutes from downtown. But Phil’s is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to mountain biking in the Bend area. Virtually all corners of the City offer access to incredible high desert riding.
Trails to the east and north of Bend are usually drier in the winter months and offer good cold-weather options. Such trails include:
– Horse Butte trails
– Swamp Wells trail
– Horse Ridge trails
– Maston trails
– Smith Rock/Gray Butte area
– The Radlands
While Bend winters are generally mild, it’s important to note that if the weather turns wet or snow is accumulating, trails may be too wet to ride. Riding when it’s too wet can cause damage to trails so be sure to check trail conditions before heading out. The Central Oregon Trail Alliance (COTA) and Bend Trails websites are great resources for trail information and maps.
Not to fear! Even during a big snow year in Central Oregon there is fat tire fun to be had. When the white stuff is plentiful you can round-out your Bend double by jumping on a fat bike and heading to Wanoga Sno-Park. Located between Bend and Mt. Bachelor just off the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway, Wanoga Sno-Park offers 9 miles of groomed, two-foot-wide dedicated fat bike trail thanks to COTA. To ride it, you’ll need a Sno-Park pass –$4 per day or $9 for 3 consecutive days – and, of course, a fat bike. There are several shops in town that rent fat bikes, including Pine Mountain Sports.
Check out Bend Trails for more fat bike trails in the Bend area.
When your double is done, there is no shortage of options in town for eating, drinking and relaxing. Here are a few spots and activities worth checking out.
– Beer – Beer is big in Bend, earning the City nicknames like “beervana” and “Beer City, USA.” Bend can proudly claim such titles because this town of roughly 80,000 is home to 26 breweries – 36 in the Central Oregon region. With so many options, choosing a brewery is a bit overwhelming. The Bend Ale Trail is a good place to start if you want to explore the City’s suds.
– McMenamins Old St. Francis School Hotel – In the Pacific Northwest, the McMenamins name is synonymous with funky digs and good times. The Old St. Francis School Hotel – a former catholic school – is a complex that includes a hotel, bars, a restaurant, a movie theater bar, soaking pool and more.
– Seventh Mountain Resort – About as close as you can stay to the mountain. In addition to lodging, this resort offers a variety of activities including ice skating.
– Parrilla Grill – Burritos, wraps and brews. A Bend establishment and a great après spot.
– Nancy P’s – A hard spot to beat for breakfast and lunch in Bend. Start your day with one their Savory Pockets – filling and affordable.
– Humm Kombucha – A close second to beer, this fermented tea boasting health benefits is big in Bend and Humm is a hometown favorite. Stop by the Humm taproom to try all their tasty flavors or fill your growler.
– Spork – From the delicious West African Peanut Curry to Spicy Fried Chicken, Spork offers a wide variety and will not disappoint.
– Joolz – This Middle Eastern/Southwestern restaurant in downtown Bend should be high on your list. Try the Forbidden Black Rice Chicken Bowl…you’ll be glad you did.
– Pizza Mondo – Great pizza by the pie or slice in downtown Bend. Try the Clubhouse – order the 18” and breakfast is covered too.
– Wild Rose Northern Thai Eats – No Pad Thai here, but don’t worry…this funky spot in downtown Bend will leave you satisfied. It’s hard to go wrong with anything on the menu, but you should definitely start with the wings.
There are few places in the world that offer the climate, conditions and terrain necessary to pack both snow sports and mountain biking into the same day. If you’re looking for a location that offers the best of both worlds, be sure to put Bend, Oregon on your “ski-it” and “bike-it” lists.
Feature image credit: Bend Oregon
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