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Oregon

Next To The Source

Published online: Nov 14, 2007 Feature
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When you've got a pretty good source of moisture, you tend to have good storms-and in the winter, snowstorms.

Well, you can't get much bigger source than the Pacific Ocean.

Right next to the Pacific Ocean, at least on this side of the world, is Oregon, home to some fabulous snow in the winter. And that means some excellent snowmobiling.

Storm clouds soak up incredible amounts of moisture from the Pacific Ocean and then blow inland into Oregon and slowly wring out that precipitation as the storms move west to east across the state.

What starts out as rain on the coast turns to snow as these storms hit the mountains and valleys that are scattered out across Oregon.

"Dump" is somewhat of an unflattering word in most any context-except snowstorms. Snowmobilers love big dumps of snow. That's why they love riding in Oregon. How big a snow dumps you ask?

Storms dump up to 500 inches of snow every winter on Crater Lake National Park. Official government records show the actual snowfall at Crater Lake is 529.5 inches, but whose quibbling over 30 inches when you're talking about more than 41 feet. Crater Lake is a scant 120 miles from the ocean (as the snow/bird flies) so that just goes to show Pacific storms pack a lot of punch far inland.

On the other end of the Cascade Range-the dominant mountain range in Oregon-is Government Camp, which gets an average of 275 inches of snow every winter. Varying amounts fall all across the Cascades, making for great riding just about anywhere.

Snow storms are wetter in the west as they come inland and dry out more as they cross the state, falling as light, dry powder.

The first major mountain range the storms hit is the Cascade Range, where most of the state's snowmobile trail systems are, spreading from the south near the Oregon/California border all the way north to the Mt. Hood area.

It's also in the Cascades that you'll find Crater Lake National Park, a don't miss area sledders will want to see. You can ride to the edge of Crater Lake and see one of the most beautiful sites in the West. Snowmobiling is also allowed in Newberry National Volcanic Monument, another Oregon treasure, located in the central part of the state. Of course, snowmobiling in the shadows of Mt. Hood isn't something most sledders get to do everyday. At 11,239 feet, Mt. Hood is the tallest peak in the state and can be seen for miles around.

Snows then hit additional ranges as they march east, including the Ochoco Mountains, the Strawberry Range, the Blue Mountains and finally the Wallowa Mountains, before heading into Idaho.

In the Wallowas, you can look down into the depths of Hells Canyon from a couple of vantage points on the Oregon side, the McGraw Lookout and Hells Canyon Overlook. It's very impressive at how deep the canyon is.

Don't think western Oregon gets all the snow. Many places in eastern Oregon top 100 inches of snow every winter.

There are a couple other islands of mountains in Oregon where you can sled. Near the Pacific Ocean in southwest Oregon is Page Mountain. There aren't any groomed trails here but you can boondock in this area, which is served by the Page Mountain Sno Park on Happy Camp Road. The other small riding area is the Steens Mountains in southeast Oregon. The BLM administers that land here and would be the best source of information. Log on to the BLM website (www.blm.gov) and click on Oregon and then head to the Burns District.

The Oregon State Snowmobile Association has gone to a lot of work to get its trail maps onto its website (www.oregonsnow.org) and going there will provide you with needed information before heading out to ride. Each map details where trailheads and parking areas are, as well as key highways to access the riding areas.

 

Guide

 

Oregon Tourism Commission www.traveloregon.com

Road Conditions 800-977-6368 (inside Oregon); 503-588-2941 (outside Oregon)

Oregon State Snowmobile Association www.oregonsnow.org

Groomed Trails 6,410

Number of Registered Snowmobiles 16,809

Highest Point Mount Hood (11,239 ft)

Greatest Average Annual Snowfall Crater Lake 529.9 in.

Record Winter Snowfall Crater Lake 835.5 in.

Coldest Recorded Temperature Seneca minus-54 degrees F

 

Page Mountain

Elevation 4,000-5,000

Snowfall 110 inches

Groomed Trails None

Full-Service Town Cave Junction

Nearest Airport Medford (58 miles)

Information Illinois Valley Chamber of Commerce 541-592-3326

 

Medford/Ashland

Elevation 1,345-6,300

Snowfall 110 inches

Groomed Trails 130 miles

Full-Service Town Medford, Ashland

Nearest Airport Medford

Information Ashland Chamber of Commerce 541-482-3486; Medford Visitors and Convention Bureau 800-469-6307

 

Diamond Lake

Elevation 5,100-8,300 feet

Prime Season Dec-Apr

Snowfall 250-500 inches

Groomed Trails 300 miles

Full-Service Town Diamond Lake, Chemult (32 miles east via Hwy. 138 and 97)

Nearest Airport Medford (85 miles)

Information:  Diamond Lake Resort 800-733-7593 or 541-793-3333, Umpqua National Forest 541-672-6601

 

Klamath Falls

Elevation 4,600-8,000

Snowfall 125-200 inches

Groomed Trails 400 miles

Full-Service Town Klamath Falls

Nearest Airport Klamath Falls

Information Travel Klamath 800-445-6728

 

Lakeview

Elevation 4,000-7,000

Snowfall 110 inches

Groomed Trails 82 miles

Full-Service Town Lakeview

Nearest Airport Klamath Falls (96 miles)

Information Lake County Chamber of Commerce 541-947-6040

 

Crescent Lake

Elevation 4,775-5,500

Snowfall 250-300 inches

Groomed Trails 88 miles

Full-Service Town Crescent Lake

Nearest Airport Eugene (77 miles)

Information Travel Klamath 800-445-6728

 

Chemult

Elevation 4,770-5,400

Snowfall 250-300 inches

Groomed Trails 35 miles

Full-Service Town Chemult

Nearest Airport Klamath Falls (72 miles)

Information Travel Klamath 800-445-6728

 

Paulina Lake

Elevation 5,000-8,000

Snowfall 110 inches

Groomed Trails 175 miles

Full-Service Town La Pine, Bend

Nearest Airport Redmond (44 miles)

Information Bend Visitor and Convention Bureau 877-245-8484, La Pine Chamber of Commerce 541-536-9771

 

Mt. Bachelor

Elevation 4,000-8,000

Snowfall 300 inches

Groomed Trails 200 miles

Full-Service Town Bend

Nearest Airport Redmond (16 miles)

Information Bend Visitor and Convention Bureau 877-245-8484

 

Three Creeks

Elevation 4,000-7,000

Snowfall 300 inches

Groomed Trails 150

Full-Service Town Sisters

Nearest Airport Redmond (20 miles)

Information Sisters Area Visitor Information Center 541-549-0251

 

Hoodoo

Elevation 4,000-5,500

Snowfall 260 inches

Groomed Trails 80 miles

Full-Service Town Sisters

Nearest Airport Redmond (20 miles)

Information Sisters Area Visitor Information Center 541-549-0251

 

Big Springs

Elevation 3,000-6,000

Snowfall 260 inches

Groomed Trails None

Full-Service Town Sisters

Nearest Airport Redmond (20 miles)

Information Sisters Area Visitor Information Center 541-549-0251

 

Mt. Hood

Elevation 4,000-10,000

Snowfall 250-300 inches

Groomed Trails 400 miles

Full-Service Town Welches, Government Camp

Nearest Airport Portland (55 miles)

Information Mount Hood Information Center 888-622-4822

 

Ochoco

Elevation 5,000-7,000

Snowfall 100-125 inches

Groomed Trails 70 miles

Full-Service Town Prineville

Nearest Airport Redmond (19 miles)

Information Prineville Chamber of Commerce 541-447-6304

 

Grant County

Elevation 4,000-9,038

Snowfall 100-125 inches

Groomed Trails 861 miles

Full-Service Town John Day

Nearest Airport Pendleton (128 miles)

Information Grant County Chamber of Commerce 800-769-5664

 

Baker/Union Counties

Elevation 3,500-8,000

Snowfall 100-175 inches

Groomed Trails 700 miles

Full-Service Town Baker City, Sumpter, La Grande

Nearest Airport Pendleton (52 miles from La Grande, 96 from Baker City)

Information Baker County 800-523-1235; La Grande/Union County 800-848-9969

 

Halfway

Elevation 2,500-6,500

Snowfall 100-200 inches

Groomed Trails 87 miles

Full-Service Town Halfway

Nearest Airport Pendleton, Boise (both about 141 miles)

Information Hells Canyon Chamber of Commerce 541-742-4222

 

Wallowa

Elevation 1,500-6,000

Snowfall 100-150 inches

Groomed Trails 175 miles

Full-Service Town Enterprise, Joseph

Nearest Airport Lewiston, ID (85 miles)

Information Wallowa County Chamber of Commerce 800-585-4121