Maybe you came to Bend knowing that it was an outdoor-sports gathering point, thinking you'd someday be part of the legion of snowboarders and skiers who make weekly pilgrimages to Mt. Bachelor or Hoodoo for that coveted powder. And while that's still a worthy endeavor, the cost, skill and general crowd-surfing necessary to take regular part in those activities can be a turn-off for those who spend their weeks in traffic, overwhelmed by work and other stuff. What's an average Bendite got to do to get a little peace and tranquility in the woods anymore?
Enter cross-country skiing—aka Nordic—aka classic or skate skiing—a cheaper, chiller alternative to the downhill variety.
If you're new here and you're thinking of dipping your toes into Nordic skiing, then let this brief guide give you a little insider's knowledge into what to expect at some of the local spots.
Virginia Meissner Sno-Park
The first sno-park along Century Drive, coming from Bend
Pros: Lots of wide paths and regularly groomed classic-ski tracks, and a lot of beginners to commune with. Cool huts to ski to, even if you're only ready to ski a couple miles. A lively warming hut filled with plenty of future friends.
Cons: Busy—especially on the weekends. If you're the type who enjoys a dawn session or likes to be in the forest, bathed in moonlight—or if you can head up mid-week—then you'll have more room to roam with your new-skier self. While Nordic skiing can be more approachable than downhill, it does require a little training. Going downhill on skis without much of an edge is pretty intense the first few times, so learning to "pizza" or "snowplow" those skis is key.
Wanoga Snow Play Area Sno-Park
The second sno-park along Century Drive, coming from Bend
Pros: Something for every type of snow enthusiast. Bring the kids and let them sled while you ski; or bring the snowmobiles and join the party. Dogs are allowed on trails on the south side of Century, so this is one loop where you can bring the pup. Warm up by the fires at the huts.
Cons: Lots of people. Lots of kids. Fewer miles to ski groomers.
Mt. Bachelor Nordic Center
Got family or friends skiing Bachy? Join them and do your own thing.
Pros: Free parking at Mt. Bachelor. Great trail maps. Some cool views. Lots of trails of every ability level.
Cons: Some free trails, but mostly a ticketed park. Start here and cross over into Dutchman Flat (free and with great views) if you're starting your day at Bachelor and don't want to pay. If you're skiing at Bachelor Nordic, look out—come at the wrong time and your dreams of being a future Nordic racer may be dashed by the numerous high-school-age athletes tearing it up on these trails. Inspiration or intimidation... your pick.
Want more insider info? The Central Oregon Nordic Club is a great group to get you going. Find the club at conordicclub.org.