Bend Winter Sports
By Jonathan Weston
Downhill skiing and snowboarding are some of the most popular winter sports in Bend. On a good day, however, the slopes can be packed with more than just the cold white stuff. If you want to take your kids somewhere away from the crowds, try some of the other winter sports our area has to offer.
Cross Country Skiing
According to J.D. Downing, Coach/Director of the XC Oregon Club for the past 18 years, the absolute best place to get started with cross-country skiing is the Mt Bachelor Nordic Center. Even though he does not work for Mt. Bachelor, Downing endorses the Nordic Center, as it “offers the beginners plenty of daily groomed trails, professional instruction geared to beginners, and on-site rental equipment perfectly matched to the conditions you’ll see out the door.”
You’ll also learn which equipment is best suited for the specific type of cross-country skiing you want to do, whether it is skate or classic. Then you can head to in-town shops for rental gear or purchases with all the knowledge you need.
Depending on the skier, as few as one to three lessons followed by a few hours practicing at the Nordic Center can be enough to equip you with the basic skills needed to later head out on your own to other locations, like the popular Virginia Meissner Sno Park, which is close to town and just off Century Drive. Your family will surely enjoy the warming huts there that the bt the Central Oregon Nordic Club.
“The downsides of just grabbing any cross-country gear and heading off into the woods from any sno-park are many,” says Downing. “Unfortunately as a sport, we lose a lot of potential skiers because the first few experiences were so bad in this way.” Investing in a few lessons can make all the difference, especially for kids who may be easily frustrated, if they don’t get the hang of it right away.
Luckily, there are many fantastic ski shops in Bend that support cross-country skiing for kids and offer rentals for a reasonable cost, making it easy for families to get outfitted quickly and get outside to have some fun. If you’re looking for something a little more competitive for the kids over the course of the winter, two programs, MBSEF and Bend Endurance Academy, offer teams and training programs for children.
The simplicity that has drawn many people away from high adrenaline summer sports to activities like paddle boarding, is analogous to attracting families to snowshoeing. All that is required is the ability to walk. Think open trails, snowmen, and snowball battles! Snowshoeing caters to everyone, young and old alike.
Throw on your winter boots and ski pants to keep your feet and legs dry while kicking up some powder. Invest in a pair of snowshoes for your whole family or first try out the sport by renting some at one of the many local ski shops. Most have very reasonable daily rates.
Not sure where to go for snowshoeing? Similar to hiking, the possibilities are endless. Enjoy the extensive Forest Service trail systems adjacent to Century Drive for venturing out on your own. Maps are available at most trailheads or ask the locals at any of the ski shops while renting your equipment. If you’re interested in a tour, there are a couple of options. The Forest Service offers free tours at the base of Mt. Bachelor throughout the winter and even have snowshoes for loan. For something special, try one of Wanderlust Tours’ outings with a professional naturalist. Their snowshoe guides bring the Mt. Bachelor area alive with interesting natural interpretation and snow play for all ages.
Now for the real family fun, sure to invoke lots of giggles as Dad whirls out of control on skinny blades while mom gracefully twirls on the ice. What kid doesn’t love to put on the skates and feel the cold wind rush through their hair?
New this year to the ice skating scene is The Pavilion, located in the heart of Bend at Colorado and Simpson Aves. Run by Bend Parks & Rec, the Pavilion has numerous programs in which your kids can participate. They’ll be doing triple spins in no time, or at least enjoying the kiddie social scene. Ice season begins Nov. 30 and runs through March 27.
Another great option for ice skating is at the Sunriver Village Ice Skating Rink. Take the kids to Sunriver and enjoy some good laughs while enjoying this outdoor rink. Centrally located, you can pop in to any number of restaurants to take a break and get warm.
Also, don’t forget the Seventh Mountain Resort ice rink. The perfect outdoor setting, the resort offers skate rentals for all ages. Watch the kids outside while you enjoy a hot toddy inside at the restaurant rinkside. They even offer lessons here.
For a winter family adventure, head to the Elk Lake Resort. The good folks who own the resort will give you a snowcat ride for only 50 dollars per person round trip into Elk Lake in the dead of winter. Spend the day, a night or quite a few in one of their awesome cabins while dining at their gourmet restaurant. They offer great snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, but you will need to rent the skis in town and bring them along. Snowshoes can be rented there, however. This truly is something to be experienced and makes a very memorable family winter weekend or vacation.
It may sound simple, but don’t forget the option of buying or even renting a couple sleds or toboggans and heading up toward Mt. Bachelor for some family sledding. A wonderful place to start is the Wanoga Sno Park on Century Drive. There’s a very fast, but kid-friendly hill just adjacent to the parking area that you can’t miss. Kids will love building jumps with Dad, not to mention the thrill of flying down after an epic trek to the top. As an added bonus, there’s a heated hut and someone always selling hot chocolate for warming those chilled little bodies. Fun for everyone