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It’s shaping up to be a memorable spring on the slopes in Pacific Northwest

Central Oregon has seen excellent ski conditions

By Mark Morical, The Bulletin
Published: April 20, 2024, 5:59am
3 Photos
A skier floats over the Central Oregon Cascades while launching a 360 in the Woodward Terrain Park near the Skyliner lift at Mt. Bachelor.
A skier floats over the Central Oregon Cascades while launching a 360 in the Woodward Terrain Park near the Skyliner lift at Mt. Bachelor. (Andy Tullis/The Bulletin/TNS) (Photos by Andy Tullis/The Bulletin) Photo Gallery

BEND, Ore. — Just when skiers and snowboarders were ready for the sun-soaked slopes and warmer days of spring skiing, winter returned to Central Oregon.

Not that many of them are complaining.

What was predicted as an El Niño winter with potentially meager snow was actually a memorable winter with plenty of powder days for skiers and riders. And the snow has continued so far this spring at Mt. Bachelor ski area.

Bachelor was hammered with more than 4 feet in March and has received more than 300 inches of snowfall this season. The resort reported a base of 101 inches last week, and is scheduled to remain open through May 26, conditions permitting.

Hoodoo Ski Area on Santiam Pass near Sisters reported a base of 72 inches and recently announced it would remain open on select dates through April 28, about two weeks longer than a typical season.

It is shaping up to be a phenomenal spring on the slopes in Central Oregon.

I recently made it up to Bachelor on a mostly cloudy day with a couple of inches of fresh snow and good visibility. I found deep powder stashes off the Cloudchaser chairlift and soft, supple groomers all across the mountain from the Sunrise lift to Outback.

Soon the snow will stop falling and the conditions will transition to true spring skiing.

Spring snow conditions

Just as we chase the powder during the winter, during the spring we usually chase the sun. Not just because the sun warms our faces, but because it thaws the snow into smooth, soft “corn” that can be just as satisfying as powder.

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Exactly when that transforming thaw happens on any given day on the slopes is hard to determine. The groomed slopes often start firm, then soften throughout the morning and into the early afternoon.

The transition from winter snow to spring corn snow can be a three- to five-day process, a period when temperatures are above freezing during the day and below freezing at night, according to the National Avalanche Center. The snow crystals will reshape through the freeze-thaw process.

In April and May, the snow conditions on the mountain can change rapidly, depending on temperatures. A run that is icy and hard can sometimes transform to soft and smooth in less than an hour. Some areas can get too warm, creating slush that can become deep and sticky.

Finding the right window between ice and stickiness is tricky. Most skiers and snowboarders looking for corn snow find it off-piste. But groomed runs as well can offer a half-inch to an inch of soft slush on warmer days.

Spring operations at Bachelor and Hoodoo

According to mtbachelor.com, Mt. Bachelor is scheduled to switch to spring operations on April 22, when Sunrise Lodge will close for the season. Spring hours are tentatively scheduled as 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. April 22 through May 26. Bachelor limits its chairlifts during spring operations, but Summit usually remains open on clear days, allowing skiers and snowboarders access to often the best corn snow on the mountain.

According to skihoodoo.com, Hoodoo will be open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on April 21 and April 26-28.

Spring events at Bachelor and Hoodoo

Several events are on tap this spring at both Hoodoo and Bachelor.

On May 2-5, Bachelor will host its ever-popular RendezVan Festival, an event designed to celebrate RVers, campers and van-lifers who make an annual pilgrimage to Bachelor for live music and spring skiing.

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