High-elevation camping in a January snowstorm isn't most people's idea of a good time, but Chris Justema didn't get that memo. A self-confessed ski bum who happens to oversee a successful group of brew pubs and restaurants in Central Oregon, Justema is a fixture at Mt. Bachelor, logging some 75 days on the hill last year by his own estimate. Though he jokingly confesses that it's a sliding number; it goes up or down depending on who is asking. Family or business partners? The number slips downward. Fellow tele-addicts? The number might inch up a bit.
Justema isn't the only one in his family bitten by the powder bug. His wife Elizabeth is an avid Nordic and alpine skier who puts in double digits on both the fat and skinny skis. And his two pre-school-aged children are already cutting turns on Mt. B.
So how do you sustain a powder addiction while juggling a career and family life? You could get a job as lift operator, but the hours aren't great and the pay isn't much better. For Justema, the answer was to bring the mountain closer to home, or rather the other way around. Two years ago he invested in a 28-foot motor home that he parks in the Bachelor lot. The advantage is a shot at first tracks after a big dump and a mobile après ski operation that keeps the party going long after crowds have cleared out of the Clearing Rock bar.
A casual observation shows that the winter camping scene at the Bachelor lot has been gaining steam over the last few years, growing from a few die-hards to an impromptu RV park that attracted more than 20 RVs on some spring nights this past weekend, by Bachelor staff's estimate.
The increased traffic prompted the resort to enact some modest regulations last season, corralling RVers into the West Village lot at a loosely designated area in front of the tubing hill, said Alex Kauffman, the mountain's marketing director.
Justema said the evolution reflects his own experience. He started off sleeping in the back of a Toyota Four Runner, clutching, paradoxically, cold beers for warmth in a zero degree sleeping bag, while hanging with a few other hearty souls.
Now he travels in style with a rolling lounge complete with generator-powered entertainment. And while powder is the draw, it's about more than getting first chair. Justema described the whole scene with a kid-on-Christmas eve sort of reverence.
"There's something to be said about driving up the night before, breaking trail on five or six inches of snow and no one's up there. When the employees get up there on the mountain they actually wake you up."
Then it's time to tear into that stack of presents under the tree.
"Maybe you get up and have a cup of coffee and hit the cone before the chair lift opens on a sick powder day," Justema said.