Mt. Bachelor closes for earliest time in decades

Because of the lack of snow, the nordic ski leg in the 39th annual U.S. Bank Pole Pedal Paddle on May 16 is cancelled

Skiers and snowboarders are taking advantage of the fresh powder in the Oregon Cascades. March 23, 2015 (KOIN 6 News)
Skiers and snowboarders are taking advantage of the fresh powder in the Oregon Cascades. March 23, 2015 (KOIN 6 News)

BEND, Ore. (AP) – A sparse snowpack is closing an Oregon ski area 15 days early this month.

The Bulletin reports the Mt. Bachelor ski area won’t make it to its Memorial Day close date after receiving about half of its normal snowfall this season.

Officials say while this wasn’t a dry year, this is the earliest the mountain has closed since 1976-1977 when the resort was closed by April 30.

Mt. Bachelor had a fairly full season compared to some other areas in the state, like the Hoodoo Ski Area that was open for two weeks in January and Willamette Pass, which officially closed for the season in March after a couple of months of being open.

Organizers for Central Oregon’s most popular multisport race stared up at patches of dirt in between thin snow at the base of Mount Bachelor on Tuesday afternoon.

Together, they decided there is not enough snow to stage a nordic ski leg in the 39th annual U.S. Bank Pole Pedal Paddle on May 16.

Race organizer Molly Cogswell-Kelley said this marks the first time the race has not included a nordic stage since the first year of the PPP in 1977.

In place of the 8-kilometer stage, they are designing a 1-mile trail run to be held around the parking area at Mt. Bachelor’s West Village Lodge, according to Dan Simoneau, another race organizer. The alpine leg will remain unchanged along the Leeway run, although it will finish a bit higher on the mountain than normal.

“We’re not going to have a nordic leg,” said Simoneau, the nordic director for the Mount Bachelor Sports Education Foundation, for which the PPP is a fundraiser. “We’ve reached a point where we can’t beat Mother Nature. In fact, we have to plow snow off (for the trail run) in a few places. . The irony.”

Organizers plan to move some snow and build some new trail for the 1-mile trail run, which will finish at the former ski-to-bike transition area.

“It’s not going to be a smooth, easy trail, so people should bring some good shoes,” Simoneau said. “But it’ll be a nice run.”

The PPP traditionally includes teams, pairs and individuals racing from Mount Bachelor to Bend in the sports of alpine skiing, nordic skiing, road cycling, running and paddling. The event usually draws about 3,000 participants.

All other stages of the race remain unchanged, including the 5-mile run in Bend.

Mt. Bachelor ski area will close after Sunday but will operate the Pine Marten chairlift on May 16 for PPP alpine competitors only. Bachelor season passes will not be valid, according to Simoneau.

“Only PPP participants will be allowed on the lift,” he said. “And you can only pre-run the alpine course from 8 to 9 a.m.”

Mt. Bachelor’s website reported 12 inches of snow at the base Tuesday and 75 inches at mid-mountain.

“The base-area snowpack is the lowest it’s ever been in history in early May,” said Tom Lomax, mountain operations manager at Mt. Bachelor. “We’ve been looking at it since March and kicking around different ideas. A trail run gave us the best flexibility. There just wasn’t a nordic course. You can’t ski to the nordic center. There’s a half mile of dirt to get there.”

Because the PPP is such a popular Central Oregon race, Mt. Bachelor was committed to running the Pine Marten lift six days after closing for the season.

“It’s such a big community event, and we’re committed to being a sponsor,” Lomax said. “We’ll be taking care of the snow and prepping the course. We’ll move some snow around.”

Simoneau said registration for the PPP has lagged somewhat compared with the last few years. But he expects many more to sign up now that they know what the new stage will entail. Those who were planning to cross-country ski as part of a team might now have to settle for a 1-mile run.

“Now they can solve the run-or-ski question,” Simoneau said. “They know that plan. Teams might have to adjust a bit. We’re anticipating a very busy next 10 days.”

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