Bend's best athletes aren't runners or cyclists or even Nordic skiers—they're furry sled dogs. These little beasts, called Alaskan huskies, are shorthaired, agile and weigh between 45 and 55 pounds—much smaller than their fluffy Washington husky and Alaskan Malamute cousins, which can easily tip the scales at 100 pounds or more.
As is true with any elite athlete, Olympic-level fitness doesn't come easy to the frisky canines that eat, sleep and romp at musher Rachael Scdoris' dog farm east of Bend. Sure, genetics plays a substantial role in the dogs' fitness, but their massive training load is enough to make any endurance fiend wilt.
Case-in-point: Most mornings, Scdoris, one of the dogs' three owners (her husband, Nicholas Salerno, and dad, Jerry Scdoris, are the other two) hitches up the dogs to a four wheeler—one which she leaves in gear—for a run. A sort of dry-land simulation of pulling a snow sled (the machine is left in gear to prevent the eager dogs from running too fast, too soon). After covering 10 to 14 miles of the 18-mile run, Scdoris puts the "sled" in neutral and the dogs are free to fly for the remaining miles.
All so that you don't have to lift a finger—Scdoris and her family run Oregon Trail of Dreams, which routinely runs sled dog rides from the base of Mt. Bachelor to points beyond. It's a great way to take in the wintry sights without busting your hump. In short, it's a great way to indulge. Come winter, there are plenty of opportunities to get your heart rate up. But sometimes we need to relax, do something with the family. Something out of the ordinary. Something indulgent. Here are five recommendations.
Sled Dog Rides
Once four feet or so of snow covering the base of Mt. Bachelor, Scdoris and company launch into a busy winter of sled dog trips. Outings vary in length from one-hour jaunts to all day expeditions to Elk Lake and back. According to Rachael Scdoris, a lovely 20-something (you'd never know she is an Iditarod veteran), a typical day trip involves a rollercoaster ride downhill, off the back of Mt. Bachelor toward Edison Butte Sno-Park. On the uphill return trip, the sled dogs work as a team while providing clients with a "nice over-the-river-and-through-the-woods-to-grandmother's-house" type of experience. Call ahead to book a trip.
Oregon Trail of Dreams, 1-800-829-2442. mtbachelor.com.
Standard trip $85 adults, $40 kids; marathon trip to Elk Lake and back (26 miles, includes lunch, adults only, two adults max) $450.
New this year, opt to get dropped off at Elk Lake Resort—Oregon Trail of Dreams can pick you up the following day after an indulgent night in a toasty cabin.
A hot, relaxing soak is a great way to wind down after a cold day in the Central Oregon mountains. We suggest resting those weary bones in McMenamins' Old St. Francis School soaking pool—an indoor, but open air, saltwater spa. Decorated with custom turquoise tile work, stained glass and a multi-spout fountain centerpiece, the large chest-deep pool easily accommodates multiple parties and the ever-present steam provides a welcome sense of privacy. Thankfully, due to recent policy changes, patrons can now take drinks (bought from McMenamins) into the pool. We recommend bringing a water bottle and towel, too.
McMenamins Old St. Francis School Soaking Pool, mcmenamins.com.
Hotel guest hours: 7 am-midnight; general public: 10 am-10 pm; minors (with adult) 10 am-7pm. | $5.
Bonfire on the Snow
Put your feet up and let Wanderlust do the work. After a short snowshoe into the forest, clients relax around a fire with a hot drink and a tasty treat as their guide/naturalist regales them with natural history lessons and local lore. Sounds perfect. Snowshoes, transportation, instruction, dessert and hot drink are all included.
Wanderlust Tours, wanderlusttours.com.
7-11:30 pm on Dec. 23 and 26-31; Jan. 18-19; Feb. 14-16; March 22, 25, 28, 29; April 11, 12, 19. | $85.
Sunriver Resort offers a bevy of indulgent opportunities (try the spa), but our favorite is the old-fashioned sleigh ride. Gather up the family or your main squeeze and hop in for a winter wonderland tour. Best part? Sleigh rides are free for Sunriver guests. Treat yourself to a staycation—book a room and start relaxing.
Sunriver Resort Sleigh Rides, sunriver-resort.com.
Free for guests. Rooms start at $135 a night.