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Cat Ski Mount Bailey

Cat Ski Mount Bailey

By Tim Neville
posted: 03/01/2006

Located in southern Oregon's logging country and just a few miles north of Crater Lake National Park, 8,363-foot Mount Bailey is home to some of the Northwest's rawest, deepest terrain. Chutes and bowls rain off the expansive peak in every direction. Scribe your way down 3,000-vertical-foot runs with 45-degree pitches, or go big off 30-foot cliffs.

Cat Ski Mount Bailey, which reopened at the end of last year with new owners, has exclusive access to some 6,000 acres that abut the peak. It's a laid-back operation with a refreshingly simple powder plan: In a brand-new Bombardier—the only spiffy amenity in this otherwise bare-bones outfit—guides take you to Bailey's summit. Then you do laps—mostly steep shots that mellow into GS-spaced old-growth hemlock glades.

It's ample—600 inches is the norm—and maritime, which means after storms you can ski steeper shots sooner than you could in places like the slide-prone Rockies. Legend has it that the base depth on March 1 is how much new snow to expect that month: Last year Bailey got nearly six feet.

The North Wall has no fewer than 27 chutes that run for 1,500 vertical, much of that at a 45-degree pitch. Another favorite is the Northwest Ridge, where you'll find 2,500 vertical of big open glades on mellower runs. There's also the gentle, 30-degree Incredibowl, named by a group of Japanese skiers who once dropped a $1,000 tip.

Bailey is just 80 miles from the Pacific, with nothing to buffer the storms that track this way in late December and early January. Until mid-February, storms in the six- to eight-inch range are common at least once a week. From mid-March to the end of April, expect corn skiing and bright blue days.

Lead guide Rick "Oz Oswald has been sharing stashes at Mount Bailey for 25 years. Like the rest of his four guides, he's a wilderness first responder with Level III avalanche certification.

Ain't nothing fancy. The sprawling Diamond Lake Resort complex was built as a fishing lodge in 1923, but the wood-panel décor and mounted trophy fish feel more 1965. Rustic two-room cabins with wood stoves and basic motel rooms with electric heat surround the lodge.

Hearty and heavy. The Diamond Lake Café serves up standard American fare like burgers and bacon and eggs, while the upstairs dining room dishes out prime-rib specials and $3.50 pints of Deschutes beer. You're nowhere near a town out here—Medford's 85 snowy miles away—so bring your own grub if you can't handle a little grease.

Two-day packages start at $645 for two nights' lodging, two days in the Bombardier, and all your meals. At many outfits, you'd spend more than that on the cat-skiing alone.

The terrain here is steep, sometimes tight, and always long. At no extra cost, Bailey will lend you super-fat boards to help you stay atop the region's characteristically heavy snow. Even so, you'll get worked—warm up a few days at Mt. Bachelor (100 miles away) first.

MAX ELEVATION: 8,363 feet
PRICE: $250 per day; two-day ski-and-sleep packages for $645
GETTING THERE: From Portland head south on I-5 to Roseburg, then east on Highway 138 to Diamond Lake Resort.


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