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Spring Break on the Cheap: Exploring Central Oregon's great staycation potential 

What is our reward for planning ahead for the upcoming season? Four feet of snow in the mountains! Thank you.

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So, here we are, end of March and Bend's seasonal identity crisis continues. Just as Bendites start looking ahead toward longer days and greener pastures, Mother Nature laughingly gives us what we asked, no prayed for months ago...more snow.

We changed the clocks. We celebrated the so-called first day of spring. We planted seeds for starter plants. I even shaved my beard. What is our reward for planning ahead for the upcoming season? Four feet of snow in the mountains! Thank you.

Even more exciting than the extension of winter is the holiest of school holidays, spring break. Kids enjoy their week off of school in preparation for the final push to summer. Across the country, parents scramble to find fun activities for their children, while trying not to spend money put aside for summer. Some families get out of town and head to another vacation locale, while others (like us) opt for the "staycation."

That's the benefit of living in a vacation town. Everything we need to complete an exciting, low-cost, good time is at our doorstep.

Come for the XC Ski, stay for the sledding

Half the distance to Mt. Bachelor, and without the cloud of controversy, world-class Nordic skiing awaits. Located near mile marker 15, Virginia Meissner (no dog) and Wanoga (dog) sno-parks provide a fit alternative to the greasy, so-called adventure parks of Southern California. Both sno parks have trails and backcountry play areas suitable for all ages and abilities. I skied the three-mile loop to Meissner Shelter with my seven-year-old last week. She thoroughly enjoyed her packed lunch at the shelter and I appreciated not spending any money.

Over the weekend, my daughter, wife and I met another family up there to take advantage of all that was offered. My wife and I dropped our daughter off at Meissner to glide with her friends while we skied with the dog at Wanoga. After a couple of hours on our skis, we converged at Wanoga's sledding hill. I've yet to see another free activity put a smile on a kid's (and inner kid's) face like sledding. What else could make a child (or child at heart) willingly hike up a hill over and over again?

Your family gets bonus points if you donate to Meissner Nordic or DogPac. Our continued support allows them to groom the trails and provide special events, all the while championing a great, lifelong sport. My daughter will talk about the Norwegian waffles and nighttime luminary ski all year long.

The parents get double bonus points for stopping for a warm beverage or a snack at either backcountry food cart. Skinny Skis Cafe is parked at the entrance to the trails at Virginia Meissner, while Dad's Concessions is ready to serve skiers and sledders at Wanoga.

Better still, the purveyor of active, eternal optimism - Outside Magazine - has brought forth some good news for kids and adults alike about indulging at these little stop offs. Hot chocolate, winter's warm beverage of choice, was listed as a top ten "recovery" drink after a hard day of skiing, sledding or snowball fights. With the same carbohydrates and protein as Gatorade, hot cocoa costs less - and it has chocolate in it!

Speaking of cheap thrills, Nordic skiing rings in much lower than a trip to Mt. Bachelor. I purchased a season-long sno-park pass for $20 in November. That same month, we spent $50 on used nordic gear. Not including gas, we are still under the $73 full-price, one-day lift ticket at Mt Bachelor.

Spring Forward

For those ready to hang your skis up and take your boat down, this weekend is for you. The Fourth Annual Riverhouse Rendezvous Slalom No. 4 will take place on Sunday April 1, at 10 a.m. in the Deschutes River behind the Riverhouse Convention Center and Hotel in Bend. The quarter-mile, Class IV whitewater course is sure to test the paddlers' skill and endurance as they are divided by age, gender and type of boat. Kudos to kayak enthusiasts Bert Hinkley (Pacific Northwest representative of the National Whitewater Slalom Committee) and Geoff Frank (owner of Tumalo Creek Kayak and Canoe) for working together to revive this exciting, once-a-year paddling extravaganza. The race is part of the Northwest Cup Slalom paddle series as well as a Junior Olympic qualifier, and is sure to draw the top paddlers from around the Pacific Northwest.

This year, the event will coincide with the Reel Paddling Film Festival taking place Saturday, March 31 at 7:30 p.m. at the Tower Theatre. The film festival showcases the top whitewater, sea kayaking, canoeing, SUP, kayak fishing and lifestyle films of the year. If harrowing tales of water-based action and funny short films featuring the lighter side of paddling interest you, as they do me, then clear your schedule this weekend.

For more information on the race and volunteer opportunities, please contact Bert Hinkley at or Geoff Frank at, or visit the event's webpage at information on the film festival can be found at


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