558 N. Main St., Prineville, OR 97754 | (541) 447-6205
Satisfaction in the snow
Two Ochoco snow clubs enjoy getting out in the winter weather
The Ochoco Nordic Club out skiing in the Slide Mountain area of the Ochocos. Pictured here are (left to right) Daryl Varcoe, Cheri Goodman, Michelle McSwain, Jan Pessel, Don Wood, and John Malpass.
February 04, 2013
Snow is piling up in the Ochocos and lots of folks are getting out and enjoying some winter recreation, both non-motorized and motorized. For those interested in group activities, two local clubs offer outings in the Ochoco Mountains.
Ochoco Nordic Club
The Ochoco Nordic Club has been around for at least 30 years, according to Caren Stover, the club’s president. The club is a branch of the Oregon Nordic Club and has about 25 members, all from Prineville.
“Our group maintains and skis on about 26.5 miles of trails at Bandit Springs and Walton sno-parks,” said Stover, who’s been a member of the club for about nine years. “We also ski at Lookout Mountain which has about 12 miles.”
From the last weekend of December through about spring break the club schedules tours in the Ochocos every two weeks on a Saturday. Once or twice a winter there’s an outing over on the Deschutes National Forest. Some members go snowshoeing but most are cross-country skiers.
You don’t have to be an expert on skis to join the club. Some members are beginners and some are more intermediate skiers and they are always willing to take others out and help them learn how to cross-country ski.
Stover said she moved to Prineville in 1978 and started downhill skiing. She didn’t take up cross-country skiing until about 10 years ago.
“When I started, I didn’t know how to cross-country ski at all and the group was so gracious with me that it really made me stay with them, grow with them and even be president when the time came,” she explained. “I like to repay that type of kindness.”
The club holds their business meeting in November and also hosts their annual moonlight ski and dinner, which will be the end of February during the full moon. They eat at a local restaurant then go skiing afterwards.
Besides Bandit Springs Sno-Park and Walton Sno-Park, members ski to the summit of Lookout Mountain. There’s a group outing scheduled in February for the Lookout Mountain outing. There are three or four different trails at Bandit, five or six different options at Walton and three trails that lead to the summit of Lookout Mountain. Stover said they have skied Round Mountain at times but the trail hasn’t been very well maintained in the last few years so it makes for a pretty tough outing.
The Ochoco Nordic Club does trail maintenance in the summer. One of the founders, along with a few members, built most of the trails they ski on today. The Forest Service puts diamonds on the ski trails in the Lookout Mountain area.
“I like getting out and seeing what’s going on and visiting with a few friends,” said Stover. “It’s not like the intensity of downhill skiing where you go fast, get on the lift and go back up top again.”
She added that it’s definitely not as crowded in the Ochocos as it is over at the sno-parks west of Bend. It’s only about 20 miles for her to get to most of the ski trails in the Ochocos. She said that sometimes they’ll be skiing in other people’s tracks and sometimes they’ll be making their own tracks.
Stover likes to ski in the Walton Lake area and said that Slide Mountain is probably her favorite run of all the ones that she does. It’s out of Walton Sno-Park and goes off of the Corral Loop. She said it’s a beautiful area and good skiing for just about anybody if it has new snow on it. It does have some climbs and downhill. Lookout Mountain is also one of her favorites. It’s harder skiing and she usually uses ski skins to go up the steeper sections.
“We are a fun group of local skiers and ski mostly in the Ochocos so there isn’t going to be a really long drive anywhere,” said Stover.
Ochoco Snow Sports
Ochoco Snow Sports currently has 40 paid individual and family memberships resulting in 76 members, according to Jim Valentine, the club’s newly elected president. He said he hopes to increase that number.
The club was incorporated as a non-profit organization in 1979. Valentine said he wants to continue to establish a fun, active and family-friendly snowmobile club. He said there are many benefits to joining Ochoco Snow Sports and the Oregon State Snowmobile Association.
“First and foremost we are working very hard as a club to promote snowmobiling as a fun family activity at a reasonable price,” said Valentine. “We want our members to enjoy being a part of this organization.”
Members get to enjoy activities such as family play days, club rides and other social events. They’ll have the opportunity to gain knowledge of snowmobiling through club meetings and guest speakers. They can also learn new areas to ride and meet others who have the same interest in snowmobiling. Membership helps provide almost 80 miles of groomed snowmobile trails.
There are two sno-parks for snowmobiling in the Ochocos. Walton Sno-Park usually has the most snow and is the most popular with snowmobilers. Most of the groomed trails can be accessed from there to Pisgah, Round and Lookout mountains. The warming shelter at the parking lot has a big woodstove and lots of wood that is cut and stacked by the club.
Ochoco Divide Sno-Park usually has less snow than the Walton Lake area but it’s easier to access since it sits just off of Highway 26 at Ochoco Divide. There is a snowmobile trail that leads over to Walton Lake Sno-Park from there.
Ochoco Snow Sports has an operating permit with the Forest Service to groom and maintain the snowmobile trails. The work is part of the Oregon State Snowmobile Association’s contract with the Oregon Department of Transportation and is all done by volunteers from the club in cooperation with the Ochoco National Forest.
“Typically February and March have been the best months for snowmobiling in the Ochocos,” Valentine said. “We seem to be having some very warm Januarys recently, but on average you can snowmobile through March and into April on some good years.”
He said Ochoco Snow Sports has some fun upcoming events including the club’s general meeting Feb. 7 at 6:30 p.m. at Meadow Lakes, a family play day and club social Feb. 10 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Walton Sno-Park and their big Rib Feed and Pot Luck Feb. 16 in the late afternoon at Walton Sno-Park.
Want to join the club?
Ochoco Nordic Club
To join, or for more information contact Stover at firstname.lastname@example.org. Cost to join is $9 per person or $15 per family/year.
Ochoco Snow Sports
For anyone wanting to join the club, contact Valentine at 541-233-6768 or email@example.com
The cost to join is $35 for an annual family membership ($25.00 goes to the Oregon State Snowmobile Association and $10 goes to Ochoco Snow Sports).