Mt. Bachelor has a special place in snowboarding lore. It’s an incubator of style that is perpetually passing through the intersection of surf, skate, and snow, and thus, is something uniquely its own. It stands over 9000’ above the central Oregon landscape, where it acts as a magnet for large storms that can leave several feet of snow on the mountain. But that same prominence within the surrounding landscape also leaves Mt. Bachelor at the mercy of the wind, which can quickly strip any fresh, light snow from the summit. That’s why the resort’s newest lift, Cloudchaser, is so important.

Photography by Owen Ringwall, unless otherwise noted.

Jonny Sischo opted for the slash on our way to Cloudchaser.
Jonny Sischo opted for the slash on our way to Cloudchaser.

Cloudchaser is the easternmost chairlift at Mt. Bachelor, adding 635 acres of lift-accessed terrain to the 360-degree boundary of the resort. Now this is where the wind plays a huge part in Cloudchaser’s story. A prevailing wind from the west sweeps over the mountain and loads snow below the tree line and throughout the area serviced by Cloudchaser, making it the most protected lift during Mt. Bachelor’s frequent storm cycles. So while the summit may be firm and icy, the lower you go, the better it will be.

Cloudchaser at a glance

Completion date: Friday, December 16th, 2016
Horizontal length: 6,576 feet
Vertical rise: 1,448 feet
Uphill capacity: 2,400 riders per hour
Number of chairs: 144
Number of towers: 21
Additional rideable acres: 635 acres
Possibilities for radness: Endless

Our approach to Cloudchaser began at the summit with Mt. Bachelor regulars Jonny Sischo, Jared Elston, JP Schlick, and Austin Smith. The initial descent down the eastern slope was slow due to the wind-swept snow and ice, but as we moved lower the conditions dramatically improved. Bulletproof snow gave way to untouched, powder-laden gullies, each fitted with their own signature wind lips, which serve as ideal freestyle features that our group has mastered during their tenure at Mt. Bachelor. When one gully gets tracked, you move to the next. You hike a wind lip until the tracks run deep. The thrill of discovery is omnipresent at this mountain. By staying to the east, we were able to connect to a lengthy—but sidehit-ridden—cat track that eventually led us to the bottom of Cloudchaser.

With each ride on the new lift, the crew pointed out discoveries on their perpetually expanding catalog of hips, wind lips, tree stumps, and gaps that they are just beginning to log at Cloudchaser. While there are clear routes from top to bottom, a maze of trees and dynamic terrain give this new area a “choose your own adventure” quality, where the intrepid rider can be rewarded with secret pow stashes.

One hit in particular has been building an infamous reputation. Darrell’s Gap—a name earned by its ability to draw many a brave Joey, Jerry, Darrell, or Sheryl—is a healthy 50-foot gap within full view of the chairlift, for those looking to send when the landing is filled in. We won’t tell you exactly where it is but trust us, you will know when you see it.

Jared Elston gave some Cloudchaser riders a quick lesson in style.

Taking the Summit Lift to Cloudchaser presented us with some of the best that Mt. Bachelor had to offer. Incredible views of the Three Sisters from the summit, open powder fields, natural wind features, and world-class tree riding once you leave the alpine. For the all-mountain snowboarder, this is one of the premier riding experiences in North America. With 333” (that’s 27 feet) of snowfall to date and more continually in the forecast, this is the year to see Cloudchaser for yourself. Just make sure your legs are ready. It’s a burner.

The sun sets after another epic day on Mt. Bachelor. Photo: Mike Putnam

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See also: A snowboarder’s mountain: Our guide to Mt. Bachelor and Bend, Oregon