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Under the Light of the Moon: In search of dog, kid and party-friendly skiing near Bend 

Night cross country skiing can be fun in Central Oregon.

click to enlarge outdoors_night-skiing.jpg

Night Skiing

Not all of us have the luxury of flexible jobs that allow us to ditch the desk for an afternoon ski. But, because our sno-parks are so close to town, getting out on the trails at night has developed into quite the phenomenon in Central Oregon. On any given evening, you're likely to run into at least a few other skiers, if not a whole group, like the gang of WebSkis skaters that usually goes up on Tuesday nights.

Over the last few months, I've had the chance to get out there with a bunch of friends at night to bask in the light of the full moon or celebrate a few birthday parties. We've often ended up at the Nordeen Shelter, which is about two miles from Swampy Sno-Park. Thanks to volunteers, most shelters have a well-stocked supply of firewood that skiers are welcome to burn for warmth. If it's your first time organizing a group-hut excursion, try picking a destination that isn't too far out - in case you lose energy or have a few too many rounds by the fire. The Meissner Shelter is also a safe bet and offers views both to the north and south.

Nearby Dog-Friendly Sno-Parks

I don't have a dog, though it seems as if almost everyone else in Bend does. So most times when I ski with my buddies, their furry friends factor into the equation. For a long time I would sigh and accept it as a compromise that we would have to be on crappy trails close to snowmobilers to accommodate their animals, but this year I've gone on a number of different trips that are both dog and kid friendly, and I had a hell of a good time.

Now that we finally have some more snow on the ground, Tumalo Falls is once again a great dog-friendly late-afternoon ski. It is close to town and pretty hard to get lost, even if the sun goes down. Furthermore, on a clear day the views are surreal with the green hills and white-capped mountains rolling off in the distance and Tumalo Creek winding beside the trail. A fun loop is to go out on the road and then make your first left after crossing the river. This trail is all single-track and all the ups and downs present more of a challenge than skiing on the road.

Another friend with a dog recently dragged my sister and I to Wanoga to skate-ski. I was not looking forward to this as I'd heard the track is puny, and of course, I expected it to be all chopped up with dog prints, something that really sucks when you are trying to skate merrily along. Instead, the track seemed more like a mile around when you include the Inner Loop and the many dog prints were not that noticeable, at least no more than the occasional pole plant through the top crust of snow. I would highly recommend Wanoga to anyone learning to skate-ski - it's pretty flat and even on a Sunday afternoon there weren't many people around.

Edison Sno-Park is a longer drive from Bend than the other sno-parks on the Cascade Lakes Highway, but if you have a dog, or love skiing on single-track trails, it is well worth the extra trek. Although the park is shared with snowmobiles, last month when I explored the trails with a few friends, we never once heard the sound of engines after leaving the parking lot.

We took a right at the first intersection toward the AC/DC shelter and the climb was steep and slick. I think we worked off the excesses of the night before during this hike, between herringboning up hills and digging our way out of the snow banks when we fell. There were many tumbles into white fluffy snow on the narrow parts of the trail, which threw us into laughing fits. Everything is so much more comical and awkward on cross country skis.

Our hour-and-a-half climb up to the shelter was reversed with a 20-minute descent and we had to ski off the trail more than once to slow down. Overall, Edison and the AC/DC trail is a great half-day trip, especially if you are looking for a workout for both you and your pup.

Whether you are going out on the trails with your dog, or looking for a great night out with friends that doesn't require a cover or an ID, there are plenty of world-class sno-parks to explore off the Cascade Lakes Highway, just a short drive from Bend.

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