It’s Still Snowing Somewhere In Oregon

crater lake oregonWhen you think of wintery weather, Oregon might not be the first state that comes to mind. It certainly wasn’t for me until I visited snowed-under Crater Lake National Park and other snowy, high altitude spots in the Beaver State last week. It was 76 degrees and sunny on the day we left Klamath Falls, Oregon, for the park, which is only 70 miles to the north, and even though I’d been told that Rim Drive, the scenic route around the park, was closed due to snow, I didn’t quite believe it.

To me, it was like being in South Beach on a toasty, warm day and hearing that there was snow in West Palm Beach. But Crater Lake is about 2,000 feet higher than Klamath Falls and sure enough, the place was still buried in snow.

“All the hiking trails are covered in deep snow,” said the park ranger who took our $10 entry fee. “But we rent snow shoes if you’re interested.”
We drove on towards the visitor’s center and were astonished to see huge snowdrifts on both sides of the neatly paved road. Over at the lake’s Discovery Point lookout, it was 41 degrees according to our rental car’s temperature gauge, but when I stepped out of the car, I was almost knocked down by a ferocious wind that made it feel as though it was in the teens. I had brought a hat and gloves but there were a few other hapless tourists there in shorts and T-shirts grimacing in pain.

crater lake oregon

Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States at more than 1,900 feet (seventh deepest in the world) and the water is remarkably clean. I have never seen a deeper shade of blue in my life and the contrast of the snow against the steep cliffs along the lake makes for an unforgettable view. According to the Moon Guide to Oregon, Kodak used to send apologies along with photos they processed of the lake because their technicians couldn’t believe that the water at Crater Lake was that blue. It is.

crater lake oregon

Rim Drive was indeed closed after Discovery Point to traffic but that made it pleasant to walk on and although we couldn’t really take advantage of the park’s 90 miles of hiking trails with two kids and no snow shoes, it was delightful to have a national park practically all to ourselves, even if it was bitterly cold and windy.

After leaving Crater Lake, we spent four days in Bend, one of America’s most beautifully situated cities with snowcapped mountains in almost every direction, and had more wintery surprises in store for us. McKenzie Pass, reputed to be one of the most scenic drives in the Cascade Range, was closed due to snow, as was most of the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway, despite the fact that it was nearly 80 degrees in nearby Bend.

mt bachelor oregon

But only 20 minutes outside Bend, the Mt. Bachelor ski resort was not only open but also busy with skiers. The place remains open through Memorial Day and at this time of year visitors to Bend can ski in the morning and play tennis or golf in the afternoon. For a guy who lives in the flat, boring Midwest, the quick and dramatic changes in altitude and weather are reason enough to get on a plane and head to Oregon.

Mammoth Mountain Discounts Room Rates Based On Temperature

Mammoth Mountain offering discounted accommodations based on temperatureAs the spring weather spreads across North America, ski resorts are finding creative ways to lure visitors for some late season action on the slopes. Take for example Mammoth Mountain, which is offering discounted room rates based on the high temperature from the previous day. That means that as the mercury rises, the price of the room drops accordingly, giving guests bigger savings as a result.

Here’s how the deal works. Visitors must book a stay of at least two nights at Mammoth between the dates of April 14 and May 23. While there, they’ll receive a discount off the regular price of their accommodations that is equal to the highest temperature recorded at the Main Lodge – and posted on the Ski Patrol website – from the previous day. So, if the temperature hits 45ºF, guests at the lodge will get $45 off their price. If the following day the thermometer rises to 48ºF, they’ll get an additional $48 off the rate for a total savings of $93. All in all, a very simple way to get a cheap rate.

With nearly 300 inches of snowfall for the season, Mammoth still has a solid amount of powder on the ground. As of this writing, the resort is reporting a base depth of more than eight feet on the mountain and 5.5 feet at lower altitudes. The spring weather has been pleasant and crowds are often at a minimum this time of year, which makes it a great time to hit the slopes before the season officially comes to an end. We know that won’t happen before Memorial Day, but skiers and snowboarders will want to take advantage of every opportunity they can. After all, the off-season can be a very long one!

To book a stay click here and for a list of upcoming events at Mammoth click here.

[Photo: Mammoth Mountain]

Cyclists Train Like Locals In Italy, Then Eat Well

cyclists

Top cyclists train daily to race, often on varied terrain and through different weather conditions. Cycling enthusiasts who might dream of racing one day, prepare one step at a time. They find the right gear, become friends with others into the sport and possibly join a cycling club or just meet on Saturday mornings for a ride. Have you seen them? Cycling in packs on a weekend morning or afternoon? Ever wonder what they might be talking about among themselves?

Other than “that guy in the Honda just about hit me,” the conversation might trend in the direction of unique places they have cycled. One such place, and the stuff of dreams for cyclists, would be up and into mountains. Doing so has become so popular that tour operators are offering package deals that come with cycling experts, mountain guides and more.

In their “Train Like A Local” tour, Italiaoutdoors Food and Wine takes cyclists on a six-night bike tour into the foothills of the Dolomite Mountains in northern Italy.cyclistsClimbs on their “Train Like A Local” tour range between 900 and 1700 meters and provide an ideal introduction to riding at higher elevations. Held from May 26 to June 1 and June 16-22, the tour attracts adventure travelers that share a passion for cycling. But cycling is just one focus of the all-inclusive package, which is priced at $3,695 per person.

Along for the ride are cyclist and mountain guide Vernon McClure and cooking instructor/chef/biker Kathy Bechtel. They bring cycling routes unknown to mainstream tour companies, sharing their expertise and passion for cycling. But their programming has more than other tour operators.

Participants also get an in-depth introduction to magnificent Italian regional cuisine and local wines. On a seven-day Bike and Wine tour, they cycle through wine regions in Alto Adige, Trentino and the Veneto. Starting in Bolzano, (also in the Dolomite Mountains) they travel downhill to Lake Garda and the iconic city of Verona.

Really into food? Italiaoutdoors also has cycling and cooking tours in Italy. This one, at the foot of the Dolomites, cycles through a diverse region located along the shores of the Adriatic sea and highlights another element of the Italiaoutdoors programming: history. This tour follows one of the old trade routes used to distribute spices and goods from the east throughout Western Europe.

Boasting personal service and a custom plan for every trip, Vernon McClure and Kathy Bechtel, the owners and operators of Italiaoutdoors offer a variety of ideas for biking, hiking and skiing tours via their ItaliaOutdoors Food and Wine website.

Want to know more about cooking and biking tours in Italy? Check this video:


5 Countries That Are Great Alternatives To Their Crowded Neighbors

It’s the great hypocrisy in the mind of every traveler that they want to tour a place free from other tourists. Grumbling that a place is overcrowded isn’t without grounds, though. Who hasn’t wanted to pull a Dr. Manhattan on the tour groups that take group photos with every single person’s camera? And boy, what we wouldn’t give to disappear the backpackers pretending to make out with statues of the Buddha.

We can overlook these indignities as necessary evils most of the time. In reality, tourists are going to be present at the big attractions everywhere, and the penalty of avoiding tourists would basically be staying at home permanently.

That being said, for those who just can’t take it anymore, we’ve compiled a list of some less infested options. These five countries offer up similar attractions to their neighbors, but see far fewer visitors to the nooks and crannies, which will make any tourist-weary tourist breathe a little easier.

Montenegro (Crowded Neighbor: Croatia)

Croatia’s attractive coastline is a magnet for tourists. The attendant income from droves of foreigners was one of the reasons Serbs attempted to include it in their “Greater Serbia.” The subsequent Croatian War of Independence ended in 1995, and the current crowds milling about Dubrovnik are the spoils of victory. Little Montenegro, which declared independence from Serbia only in 2006, shares the same coastline and a lot of history with its more famous neighbor. The country currently sees far fewer tourists (1.2 million vs. 9.9 million) visiting its excellent beaches, like the superb spits of sand at Sveti Stefan and Petrovac. Nor do many tourists hike and cycle around Montenegro’s untouched forests at Biogradska Gora and Skadar Lake National Parks. Montenegro’s comparative anonymity provides an experience that can’t be matched in Croatia.

Cambodia (Crowded Neighbor: Thailand)

Cambodia’s main attraction, Angkor Wat, certainly doesn’t dwell in obscurity. This single attraction saw over a million visitors last year, which accounts for more than a third of all visitors to the country. Some of Thailand‘s other neighbors, like Laos and Myanmar, can barely achieve those numbers on a national level. However, when it comes to pretenders to Thailand’s tourism throne, Cambodia is the only one in the region that can offer attractions that go tit for tat with Thailand’s best. Beaches? The empty white sands of Koh Rong and Ream National Park beckon, as does the party-centric seaside town of Sihanoukville. Ruins? Cambodia rolls deep; Angkor Wat is backed up by Koh Ker, the former capital of the Khmer Empire now overgrown in the jungle, and Sambor Prei Kuk, a pre-Angkorian temple complex. Interesting capital? Phnom Penh, the “Pearl of Asia,” boasts French colonial architecture and a park-strewn riverfront. Food? A taste of amok trey or lok lak will make you forget all about pad thai.

Estonia (Crowded Neighbor: Sweden)

Sweden is a huge Scandinavian tourism juggernaut. Estonia? Just a scrappy little Baltic state. What’s the appeal then? A lot, actually. Estonia, like Sweden, is a nature-lover’s paradise. Soomaa National Park, the “land of bogs,” is one of the best canoeing destinations in Europe and is home to wolves, bears, elk and other wildlife. Estonia’s crumpled Baltic coastline contains a mind-boggling number of shallow soft-sand beaches, especially in the summer capital of Pärnu. Estonia’s past is also worth a look. While its Soviet experience is visible in some of the less adventurous architecture, the medieval castles are well preserved and atmospheric. Tallinn, the capital, is flooded with tourists, but island life on Saaremaa is quiet and isolated. Saaremaa boasts a 13th-century castle fortress and other curios like the 100-year-old Angla windmills and a Gothic church bearing symbols of the occult.

Mozambique (Crowded Neighbor: South Africa)

South Africa is head and shoulders above its Sub-Saharan neighbors when it comes to tourist numbers. Its famous game reserves, coastline and unique heritage attract almost 10 million visitors a year. Mozambique can’t match the tourist infrastructure that its neighbor to the south has meticulously erected, but it can offer other competitive attractions. Before its large mammal population was decimated by the civil war, Gorongosa Park was considered to be Africa’s Eden. Efforts to revive the park are underway, and all of Africa’s Big 5, save the rhino, can be seen here. Maputo, the capital, is small and friendly and features Portuguese colonial architecture and an extremely laid-back vibe. Mozambique’s true attraction, though, is its coast, where surfers (of the kite and wind variety) enjoy the unspoiled beaches at Vilanculos and divers explore pristine coral without the crowds at Pemba and Tofo Beach.

Iran (Crowded Neighbor: Turkey)

Turkey sees some 27 million tourists a year and Iran, well … not nearly as many. Official mouthpieces assert some 3 million tourists visited Iran in 2011, though less than 1 percent of those were traveling for nonreligious reasons. Those few tourists had historical sites like Persepolis and Imam Square all to themselves. They experienced Iran’s outstanding natural attractions – lush forests and beaches on the Caspian Sea in the north and deadly deserts and sunny Persian Gulf coastlines in the south – without the crowds that bog down these landscapes in Turkey. Those travelers were also some of the only foreign tourists in Tehran, enjoying its multitude of parks and museums, and were alone again in Yazd, a city of compacted sand reminiscent of Tatooine. Then they joined Iranians on the empty slopes of Dizin, one of the best value-for-money ski resorts in the world, and one of the few spots where Iranians are able to pull back the veil and let loose.

[Photo Credits: Kumukulanui, ecl1ght, (flicts), VilleHoo, F H Mira, Adam Hodge]