It’s been over seven years since our last visit to Bend. We remember Bend Oregon in April as one of the premier skiing capitals in the country. A quiet town with dozens of breweries. Gorgeous weather. Home to some of the best corn snow on the planet. At that time, it was already a premier real estate market but now it’s scorching. So much so that it’s one of hottest in the country. Would it still have its soul or would it be like so many of the other ski towns we’d visited in the past few years? The answer – from our perspective it has matured and become more sophisticated.
The Only Constant Is Change
I still remember a good friend of mine remarking “I miss New York in the eighties. It was fun, exciting, and felt like anything could happen.” No matter how much people want things to stay the same… they won’t. You can’t compare a city, resort, or town to itself in a different era, only other places NOW.
The Bend Of Today
As we pulled into town, on first glance you could tell more people now call it home. Not from the traffic but from the buildings. Old Bend still had its gorgeous single-family cottages, but along the river, mid-rise apartment buildings were now present. Things have changed, but at its core, it felt as if the charm was still there. The river still provides a break from daily life. The town was still a city biker’s nirvana. And now downtown had blossomed from a one street wonder to an eclectic neighborhood. It feels like it’s become the Ketchum Idaho of the Pacific Northwest.
Where To Stay – Campfire Hotel
Instead of renting an Airbnb or checking in at a corporate hotel, we stayed at the Campfire Hotel just to the east of downtown on 3rd street. We always have a soft spot for renovations on existing buildings instead of new construction. New just feels sterile and boring. The Campfire Hotel took an outdated drab motel and created not just a boutique hotel but a place that embraces the community and being part of it. Locals can buy a season pass to enjoy the heated saltwater pool. And The Canteen bar is open for anyone that’s looking for a relaxed loungy bar atmosphere.
Experience The Local Scene
As the name alludes, it’s like a community camping experience. Inclusive. A European Hostel vibe but you get your own room with all the amenities. Instead of just sitting inside your room, it urges you to hang out and meet others. On one side of the campus a campfire shines brightly. And on the other in the lobby overlooking the outdoor pool sits the Canteen Bar. You’ll find tasty sandwiches served up with amazing adult libations (more on that later). Overhead music plays through the speakers coming from a live DJ set happening at their sister bar – the Dogwood Cocktail cabin.
What about the rooms? The rooms are quite large and decorated in an urban meets mountain motif. Using the space efficiently, a big desk stands under the TV allowing you to sit there or place items on it. Instead of Keurig, you’ll find local pour over coffee in the rooms as well as local snacks in the mini-bar. Even if the hotel campus gets a bit too lively, they follow a strict 10 pm quiet time to make sure you get a good night’s rest. Because you aren’t there to just party but to experience what Bend Oregon in April has to offer.
Local Freshies® Tip: Campfire Hotel provides complimentary city bikes for you to use. Keep the car parked and sign up for one at the lobby. The best way to experience the city is on two wheels.
A Cosmopolitan City
Using Campfire Hotel as a basecamp, we left the car parked and ventured off on the complimentary city bikes to get up close and personal with the town. The tried-and-true spots like the Victorian Café for breakfast along with the award-winning breweries like BBC still were going strong. As you would expect, the number of breweries has ballooned to now over thirty to explore.
Best Places To Eat
What has changed drastically is the selection of quality cuisine. It’s no longer just a beer mecca but more of a cosmopolitan city. Thai enthusiasts need to venture to Wild Rose and enjoy some northern Thai cuisine. Our friends who’ve visited Thailand told us this place is as legit as it comes (no Pad Thai… yup it’s THAT authentic). For a good quick lunch or dinner option that won’t leave you with a gut bomb, head to Miyagi Ramen. Everything on their short concise menu is bombastic, flavorful, and scrumptious. If you’re like me and find the two best words in the English language to be “encased meats”, then Bangers and Brews is your joint. Locally sourced ingredients and unique sausages containing items like rabbit and venison. It felt like we only were scratching the surface of what’s available here.
Food Carts Are Big
This is still a PNW city in its heart which means food trucks. We’re not talking randomly strewn about either. I remember how novel it was that they had a place that featured daily food carts called the “Lot.” Bend now has multiple Food Cart Lots including Podski, On Tap, River’s Place, and the newest called the Bend Midtown Yacht Club. With a name like Bend Midtown Yacht Club, we had to check it out. On the outside, there are six food carts serving food. And on the inside, you find a taphouse serving up local brews that has both indoor & outdoor seating with firepits. The day we went trivia night was going strong. We’re not talking a humdrum variety either. It had the feel of a house party that you didn’t have to worry about cleaning up after.
Dogwood – Classy Drinks With A Relaxed Atmosphere
And for those that don’t enjoy a brew, the Dogwood Cocktail Cabin creates concoctions that will blow your mind. I’m not a fan of sweet drinks so I was guided by a mixologist to the “Dillicious.” Made up of egg white, dill, lemon, lilette blanc, and aria, it tasted like something you would expect in the Great Gatsby. Like you just pulled up in a ’68 MG wearing Ferragamos and white linen suit looking dapper. It was THAT good. And yet the atmosphere is relaxed. Folks wearing comfy flannels and relaxed jeans. A dark wood interior. A massive painting taking up an entire wall that looks like a twisted “party animal” version of a Metropolitan Museum of Art piece.
Mt Bachelor – Still The Undisputed Champion Of Spring
Along with all the amazing changes in town, what about Mt Bachelor? We were here to go spring skiing not just sit in town. Had the increase in people ruined the mountain? The locals we spoke to told us it’s horrible, and it could be the case. But based on our small sample size, it feels like it has weathered the explosion of 30% population growth, the pandemic, and a frothy need to be outside well. Especially compared to other ski resorts we’ve visited.
Expansion Of Terrain Not Just Lifts
Both Ikon and Epic are notorious for their big news on investing in a mountain. Sadly, most of this isn’t new terrain to spread the people out, but rather bigger, faster lifts accessing the same stuff. Since our last visit, Mt Bachelor has put in a chair accessing another 635 acres of NEW terrain called Cloudchaser. Compared to the rest of the mountain, this zone seems much more gladed. It makes sense since mid-winter storms that barrel off of the Pacific can shut down the mountain so this was an answer to this issue. The terrain is still playful with rollers, whoopties, and waves, just a bit less pitch along with a few hidden zones.
April Is The Right Time
Bend Oregon in April is the BEST time to visit if you want to ski. Mid-winter storms are FEROCIOUS and can leave the Summit Chair not spinning for days or even weeks. By April, the storm train while still active is much more tranquil, and due to Bend’s location east of the mountain, it stays usually sunny and warm. In fact, temperatures typically reach the lower sixties in town. A perfect mix of sun and snow.
Powder Days Galore
And yet every time we’ve visited Bend Oregon in April, we seem to catch a sneaker powder day or two along with some corn skiing. It’s happened so often that we had to do research to see if it was a fluke or not. We came to find out that Mt Bachelor gets on average the most snow of any ski resort in the country during this month. And this April in particular has been INSANE. We heard from our friends living in Bend that the mountain had received 85 INCHES!!! Instead of our normal serving of corn snow, we get a heaping plate of powder. In fact, it was some of the best *lift-accessed snow of the season (we had to put an asterisk since we went heli-skiing this year).
RendezVan And More
Another reason to visit Bend Oregon in April is the number of events happening up on the mountain. The RendezVan Festival happens every year at the end of April and is like a music festival on the snow except it’s about skiing & snowboarding. There’s an awesome plaza filled with food trucks. Tons of fun activities like roasting marshmallows over a campfire with your fellow campers, a dog parade, and even an array of live music playing on a stage. You can even ski until 7 PM!!! It’s no wonder it sells out months in advance. Once we get our Local Freshies® van built, we’re definitely signing up for this event. Then there’s the Gerry Lopez Big Wave Challenge. This is where legendary Hawaiian surfer Gerry Lopez brings the barrel feel to the mountains for a one-of-a-kind competition. And on top of it, every weekend throughout spring Bach hosts 10 Barrel Snow Beach parties with live DJs and tacos.
As some of the long-time grizzled locals will tell you “It’s not the same.” And this is very true. Yes, we all would love to have the “old” Bend back, but cities need to evolve or devolve. Personally, we like the “new” Bend and can’t wait to get back for some more spring skiing.