"The mountains are calling and I must go" is one of my favorite John Muir quotes. Written in a letter to his sister in 1873, his words echoed in my mind during a recent visit to the Anthony Lakes Mountain Resort outside of Baker City, named for William "Doc" Anthony, a farmer and doctor, who homesteaded in the area in 1864.
Located 19 miles west of North Powder Exit 285 off I-84, ALMR feels like a "locals" ski area but attracts skiers from across the region.
"Anthony Lakes is an easy going, down-home, family-friendly ski area," said Chelsea Judy, marketing director. "Life is simple here. It's a place with no cell service and great folks!" It's a five-hour drive from Bend but well worth the effort.
Access to the ski area's base at 7,100 feet, the highest in Oregon, is via the Anthony Lakes Highway and FR 73. A triple-chair lift runs skiers up 900 feet to a point which offers tremendous views of nearby peaks including Gunsight Mountain, Van Patten Peak, Angell Peak and the distant Wallowa Mountains. With over 1,100 acres of open terrain and 21 ski runs, there's something for everyone.
The resort is open Thursday through Sunday and advance online purchase of a lift ticket is highly recommended due to current COVID-19 restrictions on operating capacity. Very reasonably priced tickets have an added discount for those who stay overnight with one of ALMR's lodging partners.
The area boasts over 30 kilometers of groomed Nordic trails which wind through forests, past frozen lakes and beneath towering granitic sentinels such as Gunsight Mountain and Lees Peak. The Nordic Center, housed in a converted cargo container, is now located at the Elkhorn Crest Trailhead, about one-quarter mile before the ski area. Mud Lake, located across from the Ski Patrol building, provides skiers or snowshoers an opportunity to run their dogs.
Snowshoers may also head out to nearby Black Lake or Grande Ronde Lake. The Black Lake trail (about 1.2 miles long), starts at the Nordic Center and traverses through the woods before ascending a short slope to the lake with great views of Gunsight Mountain and Van Patten Butte. The trail to Grande Ronde Lake follows a closed road to the lake's campground, then circles around the edge of the lake for a quiet 1.5-mile round trip.
Overnight accommodationsBetween Baker City and La Grande are numerous hotels, B&Bs and rentals for an overnight stay. For a unique experience, then make a reservation at The Lodge at Hot Lake Springs near La Grande.
Now open under new owners Mike and Tamarah Rasavy, who also own the adjacent Grande Hot Springs RV Resort, they are working hard on finishing renovations to the 64,000+ square foot resort.
The first structure at Hot Lake Springs (the water comes out at 186 degrees Fahrenheit!) was built in 1864 providing accommodations to travelers along the Oregon Trail.
The current structure was completed in 1908 and housed a barber shop, bank, post office, overnight accommodations, bath house and restaurants. A Dr. Phy purchased the area in 1917 and turned it into Hot Lake Sanitorium, using a third-floor room for surgeries.
After a fire destroyed the western portion of the building in 1934, the lodge had various owners who operated the resort as an asylum, World War II nurses training facility, retirement home, night club and bath house. By the early 1990s, the property suffered from neglect and vandalism.
Restoration commenced in the early 2000s, with new owners breathing life into the old facility by upgrading the electrical and fire suppression systems and putting on a new roof. When the Rasavys purchased the lodge in 2020, they were able to focus more on deferred maintenance, getting rooms and common areas ready for occupancy.
"Eventually, full capacity will be about 30 rooms," they said. "You'll get that quaint feeling but with a 21st century twist."
The Thermal Pub is about 50% complete. "We've solved our current food issue at this point by partnering with Side A Brewing in La Grande for ordering food and having it delivered," said Rasavy. Of course, the main attraction is to soak up those healing mineral waters and enjoy the tranquility and mountain views while dreaming up future reasons to return.
A sno-park pass is required for parking at the resort or Nordic Center.
Those not staying with a lodging partner should reserve a lift-ticket, rental equipment, or ski lesson through the website.
The Lodge at Hot Lake Springs is currently open only to overnight guests; reservations are strongly encouraged.
Anthony Lakes Mountain Resort
47500 Anthony Lakes Hwy, North Powder, Oregon
Lift ticket $40 (adult), $35 (student), Free (under 6 and over 70); Thursday half-price Nordic Pass $20