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Après-Ski, Central Oregon Style: Slopeside dining at Bachelor's Clearing Rock 

Let's face it, Bend is no Aspen thankfully and Mt. Bachelor is no Snowmass. Sure, we've got top-tier dining and upscale boutiques in town. But

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Let's face it, Bend is no Aspen thankfully and Mt. Bachelor is no Snowmass. Sure, we've got top-tier dining and upscale boutiques in town. But our ski hill is for playing hard and, of course, throwing back a few between runs, but certainly not for posing. The Clearing Rock Bar at Bachelor's West Village Lodge is the perfect metaphor for just how distinctly un-Colorado we are here in Central Oregon. With its friendly staff of locals, utilitarian décor, and predominately beer-drinking crowd (okay, you'll see a few drinks with whipped cream on top here and there), the place smacks more of a watering hole downtown than a place to sip a hot toddy by the fire though such a scenario is attainable if that's your flavor.

If you're a skier like me (i.e., not very good and often abandoned by my partner-in-crime for higher ground), this is exactly what I look for in a lodge. It's a low-key place where you can easily kill a few hours watching the game, drinking PBR tall boys, and chatting with the bartender when whiteout conditions scare you off the mountain. And on brighter days, it transforms into a lively, bustling place to grab a bite and a pint after a long day on the hill.

The space is comfortable, if not entirely cozy, with a big square bar, large windows looking out at the mountain, and tables around the fireplace (albeit a gas-powered one). There's also a nice upstairs seating area and an outdoor deck for those unseasonably warm bluebird days we've been getting so many of lately. But were it not for the ski lifts outside and the attire of the patrons, you'd hardly know where it was.

The menu is the only area where the "ski lodge" in the Clearing Rock Bar really shows, and even there it's hardly excessive. You can opt for the Crab Rangoon Dip ($9.95), Dungeness crab baked with a mix of cheeses and green onions. Or, if you must play out your ski vacation fantasy, choose the Crab and Corn Nachos ($13.95) accompanied by a drink from the extensive list of "Snowcaps," specialty winter cocktails that are coffee, hot chocolate, or cider-based with names like the Face Plant and the Yard Sale. But pretty much everything else on the relatively limited menu is as down to Earth as Central Oregonians would have it, just slightly pricier than you'd find at lower altitudes.

The Clearing Rock offers a pretty reasonable ranch-style High Desert Chili topped with sour cream and chives ($8.25) and a rotating selection of hearty soups ($6.95). Try the soup du jour with a jalapeño scone if they happen to be on special when you're there. It really hit the spot. Or, if you're feeling a little more decadent, the Board Side Nachos ($12.95) a heaping pile of chips drowning in cheese, beans, shredded beef, guacamole, sour cream, salsa, jalapeños, and olives do not disappoint. But the standout dish was the Pulled Pork Sliders ($9.95), which came on a bed of tasty, thick-cut potato chips. The meat is smoked on the premises, tossed with a nice hickory barbecue sauce, and served on little Kaiser buns that were perfectly soft. The on-site smoker is a very nice touch.

Being that the hill is located on Forest Service land, the Clearing Rock Bar and the Mt. Bachelor lodges in general differ from many ski resorts in that everything closes just after the lifts, which is around 4 p.m. This doesn't leave much of a chance for the place to cultivate an attitude separate from the snow. But maybe it's the lack thereof that makes the Cascades and the Clearing Rock Bar so perfect for Central Oregon. If you're more interested in seeing and being seen than getting after it, might want to head for the Rockies.

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