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Free to Ski: It’s not over until it’s over—and it ain’t over 

With blue skies overhead and the prospect of ditching your jacket entirely, this is akin to catching an endless wave on a summer day.

The toughest part about summer skiing is finding your gloves. OK, maybe that’s not the toughest part, but it was probably the most difficult part of my recent skiing excursion. Well, that and wiping the smile off my face when I sauntered into the office at 9:30 a.m. with three summit runs under my belt – in late June.

Of course, I had the benefit of a chairlift, or more precisely, chairlifts, thanks to Mt. Bachelor’s decision to re-open for an early summer stint on the weekend prior to the Fourth of July holiday.

However, skiers and boarders don’t need to rely on the local ski hill’s largesse to carve a few mid-summer turns. To the contrary, there’s a long and proud history of locals “earning” their turns in the Cascades, including Mt. Bachelor, where the entire mountain is open to those with the cardio fitness and determination to hump themselves and their gear up to the 9,000-foot summit. In fact, locals continued to flock to the resort even after the Memorial Day closing, said Bachelor’s Marketing and Communications Director Andy Goggins. Skiers and boarders were drawn by a robust spring that pushed Mt. Bachelor’s snowfall to more than 520 inches this past season.

“There were a couple of mornings where I saw half a dozen vehicles parked with people hiking the Summit first thing,” Goggins said.

While the traffic has tapered off as spring conditions give way to summer, there was still ample coverage even below tree line at Bachelor prior to the holiday. In fact, on the Friday morning when I made the trek, skiers and boarders could make tracks clear down to the base of Pine Mountain chair.

While snow has been receding fast at the base, there is still decent coverage mid-mountain and at elevation.

Skiers and boarders would do well to follow Bachelor’s lead and start early. The resort started running lifts at 7:30 a.m. and wrapped by 1 p.m.

During my visit, the snow was already beginning to slush-ify on Cow’s Face by 9 a.m. But for a short window of time after the ice thaws and before the water content edges toward the saturation point, there is a sweet spot.

While it’s short lived at this time of year, and you best get out there soon if you want to catch it at all, the summer corn carving can be pure bliss. No zero visibility inversion, frozen goggles or 30 mph winds. This isn’t snowboarding or skiing as we know it – at least not by Mt. Bachelor standards. With blue skies overhead and the prospect of ditching your jacket entirely, this is akin to catching an endless wave on a summer day.

But before you strap in, or click your heels tight, pause for a minute to take in the view and the solitude.

Below, a sheet of gleaming white and beyond, a sea of startlingly snow-free green forest. It’s an almost surreal contrast, particularly for a Midwestern boy like myself, whose folks and friends are currently sequestered in air conditioned homes trying to escape the oppressive heat of another record breaking summer.

Now, pause for another second and consider what global warming means for Mt. Bachelor and other resorts and be grateful for what you have today. Someday you’ll be telling your grandkids, “there was a time when…”

In the meantime, point it downhill, forget your troubles and embrace the gift
of gravity.

Plan B

If waking up at 5 a.m. and lugging your gear to the top a mountain doesn’t sound like your idea of a good time but you still want to get a taste of the summer skiing experience, you’re in luck. You happen to live in one of the few areas of the country where folks can jump on a chairlift year round. Mt. Hood’s Timberline Resort offers summer skiing through Labor Day, conditions and weather permitting. Daily lift tickets are $58 and include access to Timberline’s half pipe and terrain park.


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