Words by: JP Schlick
Photos by: Pete Alport

Continue below for an extended look at Mt. Bachelor and Bend, Oregon with an interview with Bend local, Austin Smith.

A Breeding Ground for Greatness

Mt Bachelor sunrise photography
Mt. Bachelor at sunrise is truly a sight to behold.

Where do the best snowboarders in North America come from? The icy slopes of the East Coast and Midwest are known for producing hardened shredders that can throw down in all conditions. For big mountain proficiency, Jackson has the steeps, Baker’s got the snow, and Whistler, Utah, and Tahoe have an abundance of both with the backcountry to boot. British Columbia and Alaska have a strong hold on the sustained and spiny, Mammoth and Summit County, Colorado are no-brainers for achieving a park prowess, while Bear and Park City as obvious options if you’re looking to slap some style on it.

Why is it then that some of the most innovative, masterful, and iconic snowboarders come out of a place that isn’t on any of these lists? Much like the mountain itself—rising far above its surrounding landscape, unprotected with dramatic prominence—Mt. Bachelor stands alone amidst its peers. The mountain has served as home base for more than a few heavies and it continues to be a breeding ground for snowboard savants. Travis Parker, Josh Dirksen, Jason McAlister, Allister Schultz, Marcus Egge, Andrew Crawford, and Louie Fountain honed their skills here in the pre-park days building hits all over the hill. Then came Austin Smith, with an unprecedented ability to ride everything in his path with style, along with Curtis Ciszek, Jonah Owen, Justin Norman and now the wizardry of the Warbington and Ferguson brothers, this is more than just a trend.

Danny Davis Mt. Bachelor snowboarding
Mt. Bachelor is a perfect complement to Danny Davis' style.
Justin Norman Mt. Bachelor snowboarding
Justin Norman hits the park between storms.

In practice, Mt. Bachelor may be as close to the perfect snowboarder's mountain as you can get.

In practice, Mt. Bachelor may be as close to the perfect snowboarder’s mountain as you can get. It has elements from nearly all of North America’s greatest resorts bundled onto one 9,000ft butte, and still offers its own distinctive canvas to get creative on. Often referred to as a surfer’s snow-filled paradise and a giant skatepark in the same breath, it doesn’t matter what off-snow affliction you are attempting to mimic. Bachelor’s countless frozen breaks and endless treasure chest of transition allow riders to evolve their own style.

The mountain is expansive, filled with high speed lines, off-camber wind-lips, natural step-downs, massive cornice drops, puckering cliff hits, and jumps with tight take-offs and steep, pinner landings. All this requires that you know how to control your body, your board, and your speed, something you don’t get out of mandatory straight-lines and perfectly shaped park jumps.

Adding to the accessibility is the brand new Cloudchaser Chair, which opens up 635 acres of rideable terrain on the eastern side of Mt. Bachelor, and solidifies the resort’s position as the sixth-largest in the United States. So for those who truly embody the all-mountain rider, this quad-chair is calling. Don’t let it go to voicemail.

Off summit, all aspects of Bachelor are in play, which means that if you can’t find fresh snow, you’re not looking hard enough. Even with only a couple inches overnight there’s a good chance that somewhere on hill is going to be firing. But being able to ride the entire mountain is a double edged sword. In one day you can experience a dozen different types of snow surface conditions. In seeking out that stash you may find that the otherwise mellow slope below you has transformed into a wind-blown no fall zone, but being experienced in all conditions is what makes riders great and for that, Bachelor is a kingmaker.

As the snow piles up the mountain constantly transforms which means there’s a good chance that the mountain you ride in December will be completely different come February and different still in April and May. All this, in addition to consistent snowfall, long seasons, fast lifts, and fun, flowing terrain parks, and when combined with Bend—one of the largest, most amenity-filled mountain towns in America—just twenty-five minutes from the lifts, gives you Mt. Bachelor’s recipe for snowboarding greatness.

Being experienced in all conditions is what makes riders great and for that, Bachelor is a kingmaker.

Ben Ferguson Tyler Devore bend oregon mt bachelor snowboarding
Left: Ben Ferguson is a product of his environment. | Right: Forrest Devore shows us why he calls Mt. Bachelor home.

Local Knowledge with Austin Smith

Austin Smith snowboarding Mt. Bachelor
Precarious, but beautiful perch.

With an official population of just over 81,000 residents, Bend, Oregon might be North America’s largest mountain town. Though locals who don’t wish to be grouped in with the glitz and glamour of Park City and Aspen often contest its distinction as a mountain town, Bend offers a lifestyle that few places on Earth are able to claim, regardless of its title.

Mt. Bachelor provides world class snowboarding and sits just twenty-five minutes from Bend’s west side. There is a burgeoning skate scene, one of the country’s most extensive mountain bike trail networks, and now, a standing wave on the Deschutes River. Add that to a forward thinking and affordable food scene, more breweries than can be counted on all of your digits, and you’ll soon realize why the masses have been moving to Bend in droves over the past fifteen years.

For an even better understanding of why Bend is a great place to settle down, we enlisted the help of local honorary mayor of Mt. Bachelor, Austin Smith.

austin_handplant-bachelor-pete-alport

Don’t stop before entering a roundabout, and don’t tell anyone you just moved here from California.

How long have you lived in Bend?

I moved to Bend in middle school, so I have been here for fifteen-ish years now.

What makes Bend a great place to call home when you’re not snowboarding?

All of the other activities you can do make it an outdoor mecca full of outdoor yuppies, whom are all good people. Weather is great, beer flows like wine, and Josh Dirksen lives here.

Where are some of your favorite places to eat? What makes them great?

Breakfast at Sparrow Bakery or Cafe Sintra, the breakfast sandwiches from Sparrow might be the best in the world. For lunch or dinner I’m usually at Parrilla or Spork and then I order a cobbler to go from Deschutes Brewery.

Where do you like to party or grab a drink in town?

House parties in the kitchen are preferred, Torcoms bar at Jake’s house is top notch, but when we do go downtown it always begins at Velvet.

Any recommendations on places to stay for snowboarders visiting Bend?

You can Airbnb my house when I’m gone, or any other Airbnb on the west side so you are closer to the mountain and good food.

Austin Smith interview bend oregon mt bachelor snowboarding
Austin hit Bachelor's early season goods just right.

What do you do and where do you go when you want to relax?

I don’t do much R&R in my life, because there is always a backlog of Drink Water customer service emails waiting for me. But when it is necessary, I raid Curtis [Ciszek]’s freezer for thin mint cookies and sit on his couch with his chill dog Rowlf.

What places are staples in your daily routine and why?

I don’t have a daily routine or any rituals besides drinking coffee, breakfast, or brushing my teeth. I go to the mountain every day in the winter, but beyond that every day is different and Bend is well suited for that.

What new trends or happenings make you excited for the future of Bend/Mt. Bachelor?

Mt. Bachelor just installed a new chairlift opening up a whole new side of the mountain, exploring that and finding new jumps will be pretty epic. The city built a river wave for surfing that they are adding onto this winter and there is a new ice hockey rink to play drop in hockey when I’m home. There is a lot to be excited about in Bend right now.

What is a big Bend DON’T?

Don’t stop before entering a roundabout, and don’t tell anyone you just moved here from California.

Austin Smith interview bend oregon mt bachelor snowboarding
One for the road.

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