We all know the feeling. It’s a crisp morning after a snow storm. The alarm goes off and we enter into our morning routine. As the sleep gets wiped from our eyes, an immediate thought crosses our minds, “What’s it like up there?”
While non-skiers or snowboarders may appreciate the beauty that comes with a clear day after a storm, those who like to glide on snow chase the powder with a snow leopard’s ferocity. Bend residents driving across the parkway look west to see snowy peaks on our Cascade Mountains, and some, intent on taking advantage of winter’s gift, plan their attack on the mountains. The first thought hovers around traffic and how quickly they can drive up the Cascade Lakes Highway and into the Mount Bachelor parking area. The second thought centers around who will be lucky enough to get first chair.
What if you didn’t have to deal with the 45-minute drive to the mountain? What if getting dressed meant simply pulling on your snow pants and boots, thus eliminating the need for driving clothes? What if you were king or queen of first chair? Obviously, eliminating the morning drive means staying near Mt. Bachelor. But with the National Forest Service not allowing the ski area to build chalets, those interested in a good night’s rest in the mountains are left with two options: Recreational vehicle or snow camping.
Back to Nature
“There’s no greater feeling than the slap of cold air on your face after a night in a sleeping bag,” says Redmond resident Simon Camp. “But, seeing fresh snow and my skis leaning against a tree makes it all the better.” Staying true to his name, Camp estimates he spends over 50 nights in his tent each year, including “good weather" weekends near Mt. Bachelor. And while first chair is always in reach, he is more interested in just communing with nature and rounding out his skiing experience. Because Mt. Bachelor doesn’t allow tent or snow cave camping in or around their parking area due to the dangers from snow removal machines, campers head across the street to the areas surrounding Dutchman Flat Sno-Park. With rolling hills surrounding a snow-covered meadow, it’s no wonder the Deschutes County Search and Rescue Team uses the area for winter skills trainings and overnight excursions.
Tent vs. Snow Cave
Those seeking to “rough it” must decide whether they want to crawl into a tent or a snow cave. While a tent’s thin nylon barrier may not provide much in terms of extra warmth, it can be appropriate if the temperature warms a little and turns the snow to rain. But, on a clear night, either shelter will work for your winter camping adventure.
After setting up the tent or digging out the cave, don’t forget to dig a fire pit. With little chance of setting the forest ablaze, a warm fire keeps the chills away while watching the lights of the groomers crisscross the mountain. Plus, sharing stories and meals with friends around a campfire makes you forget the warm bed you left at home.
The Convenience of an RV
For those in search of the morning alpenglow, but not a cold night’s sleep, Mt. Bachelor offers RV parking in their RV lot at the West Village Parking Area. Overnight RV parking spots cost $20 per night, or $169 for the winter season. RV’s can stay for up to seven consecutive nights. Pay showers are available at West Village’s Todd Lake Building.
The RV parking area can fill up and turn into a party. Locals and visitors talk of the mountain’s conditions while grilling hamburgers and hot dogs next to their RVs. Part college tailgater with a snowy twist, the RV experience means getting in runs on the mountain while also hanging out with friends, new and old. So if you’re looking to get out of traffic and into nature, consider driving up to Mt. Bachelor the night before your planned ski day. You’ll get to sleep a little longer and still contend for first chair.
Pro Tip: Skip the lift lines at Mt. Bachelor and earn your turns on Tumalo Mountain.
How to Dig a Snow Cave
• Find a suitable location – Be wary of avalanches and snowmobile routes. You’re also going to want snow that is a little wet to work with.
• Dig an entrance – Four feet wide is large enough to crawl in, but small enough to block the wind.
• Dig a tunnel – Eight feet will allow for some space for you and your gear.
• Shape the inside – Cold air sinks so make sure to have a raised bed. Walls should be at least a foot thick so the snow cave is insulated well and the roof doesn’t collapse.
• Don’t Forget – Poke some ventilation holes. Keep your shovel inside in case you get snowed in. Mark your location so you—and others—know where you’re sleeping.
Extra Snow Camping Items
• An extra sleeping pad provides another barrier for you and your sleeping bag.
• Dry clothes help keep you warm after a day on the slopes.
• A shovel helps you dig and a saw helps cut firewood.
• No camping is complete without s’mores fixin’s!