On Saturday, when Mt. Bachelor opened Summit Express, its above-treeline chairlift that tops out on the mountain’s 9,650-foot summit, skiers could drop into the volcano’s eastside bowls and follow the fall line more than 3,000 vertical feet to the base of a brand-new chair.
Until Friday’s opening of Cloudchaser, a high-speed quad that opens up 635 acres of new terrain and 13 new runs, skiing the eastern terrain of the mountain meant hiking and riding a slow triple chair. The lift does for Mt. Bachelor’s eastside what its last new lift—Northwest Express in 1996—did for the mountain’s westside: extends the vertical drop and creates an epic top-to-bottom experience. And because the weather is generally tamer on the east side of the mountain, Cloudchaser should operate on days when weather shuts down Northwest. And with Bend’s population booming, the new lift will help ease weekend congestion and spread skiers around the entire mountain, which is now the fifth largest ski area in the country, at 4,318 acres.
Cloudchaser extends Bachelor’s resort boundary into an area beloved more for its gullies, natural features and wide-open trees than its steepness. The name pays homage to the isolated volcano’s unique weather patterns and the tendency for approaching clouds from the west to dissipate and as they wrap around the summit and pass to Mt. Bachelor’s eastern side. The chair opened after 51 inches of new snow had fallen in the last week. While weather was affecting visibility on the west side of the mountain, pockets of sky and sunbursts welcomed the hundreds who lined up Friday morning for Cloudchaser’s ribbon cutting ceremony. Local business owner Matt Gilstrap and his friends won a Facebook contest to ride first chair and the first 200 people to board Cloudchaser won a prize from Under Armour. That night, in the nearby town of Bend, two breweries hosted Cloudchaser celebration parties and 10 Barrel Brewing launched its new Cloudchaser IPA.
With almost 200 inches of snow falling since October and a 94” mid-mountain snow depth, Mt. Bachelor has the fourth deepest snowpack in the country as of the publishing date. The new lift adds one more reason to put Bachelor on your short-list this season.