The conditions began to deteriorate as I ascended the summit of Mt. Bachelor. As I rode the chairlift to the top, the snow fell harder and, with every passing minute, visibility got a little worse.
By the time I reached the peak, I could barely see past my own feet. Visibility: Zero. Even a fellow boarder who knew the mountain well seemed a bit uneasy with the conditions. He invited me to follow him down the trails.
Yes, it was my first run of the day, and I already needed an escort.
But when you’re snowboarding, committing to your path—and to your feet—is crucial. If you don’t, you end up on your face. And trust me when I say I ate more than a few mouthfuls of snow.
Plus, with such low visibility, it was impossible to know if you were heading toward an easy green circle or a tough black diamond trail, and there was no turning away if you chose the wrong one. Yes, this happened more than once.
With my headphones in, my “Winter Shred” playlist ushered me down the mountain.
Experiencing Oregon for the First Time
I should say that, up to this point, I’d never been to Oregon, but it was always on my list. I’d heard of the friendly people, tasty food (let’s not forget about the beer!) and stunning landscapes, but I never had a chance to experience any of it first hand.
(Note: It all proved to be true.)
Beyond that, Central Oregon’s High Desert is an outdoor wonderland.
Endless hiking and biking trails sprawl from the main, small city of Bend, while the Deschutes River carves its way through the basin (water sports, anyone?).
Winter is when the region is at its best, though. The Cascade Mountains that keep watch to the west become prime skiing and snowboarding destinations; there are three solid options within three hours. And those same biking trails become imprinted with cross-country skis, snowshoes and snowmobiles.
Taking Advantage of the Region’s Splendors
But Bend is a lot more than friendly vibes and beer. Its prime location puts you in close proximity to the Three Sisters (crazy beautiful mountain lineup begging to be hiked), summertime kayaking/SUP on the Deschutes River, the gorgeous views from Paulina Peak and an endless number of other outdoor endeavors.
Oh, and you’re less than a two-hour drive from the oh-so-photogenic Crater Lake National Park.
You could spend a whole month exploring the natural wonders around the city and still barely scratch the surface. Just getting a taste of it all left me salivating for more time among the trees and mountains.
I invited my fellow road warrior/writer friend Geoff Nudelman along for the experience. Having a native Oregonian with me, who knew some of the local roads (and best photo ops), would prove to be invaluable.
We also happen to be two guys who are deeply passionate about music, and there were great tunes to accompany our drives between the slopes, Central Bend and our cabin in Sunriver.
Subaru WinterFest 2018 with Harman Kardon (and Gloria Estefan)
Being the unofficial-official car of the state has its perks. Subaru’s celebratory swansong to winter was a two-day event split between downtown Bend and the slopes of Mt. Bachelor 20 minutes to the west.
Straight from the regional Redmond airport, Geoff and I took a 20-minute taxi ride to the local Subaru dealership where we picked up our chariot for the weekend: a fully loaded 2017 Impreza wagon with premium Harman Kardon speakers.
Of course, as we turned the volume up and hit shuffle on our 80's throwback playlist, the first song to come on was the ridiculous 1-2-3 by Gloria Estefan. We didn’t know it at the time, but this song would, hilariously, become our anthem for the weekend.
The Season’s Last Stand
Harman Kardon and Subaru share my sentiment of squeezing every last possible day out of the season, so they planned a series of events to take advantage of the perfect late winter weather in Central Oregon. Between concerts and various activities at the mountain, they captured the essence of this time of year in a fun and charming way.
On our first night, Geoff and I drove into town for WinterFest’s first event: an 80's tribute concert accompanied by all sorts of cool giveaways. Along the way, we tested the limits of the Harman Kardon system, switching back and forth between deep house mixes and throwback hip-hop jams.
While listening to tribute band Funk & Roses, with hot chocolate in hand, we kept warm on the last few crisp nights of Bend’s winter (a couple of local beers helped, too).
The next day, WinterFest brought the party to the mountain with more good vibes from Funk & Roses, along with an all-day coffee stand, a bonfire, chocolate tastings and a skiing “burrito patrol” roaming around Mt. Bachelor handing out, yes, free burritos.
Back in Bend proper that night, blues-y country group Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real (yes, the same Nelson born to Willie!) played to a packed Commons, and I even managed to jump on stage to capture the moment. It was incredible to observe the musicians performing and interacting so intimately with each other on stage, and to witness a sea of a thousand people dancing below them.
Saying Goodbye to the Weekend
All the events of the weekend served as a reminder of why music is such an important part of my life, and especially travel. Certain songs have the ability to bring back memories of trips and faraway lands, and Harman Kardon laid the stage for this in a beautiful and captivating way.
As we wrapped up for the weekend after the show, we kept the music off this time, and the quiet drive back to Sunriver gave me a moment to think about how music plays a central role in my life.
And how fitting, too, because without music, we can’t appreciate the silence. And without silence, we can’t appreciate the music. That’s why, when the music does play, it’s so important to hear it well.
Harman Kardon has done a stellar job of creating the perfect tools to hear everything at that level. Whether it was through the speakers of our Impreza or the Soho wireless headphones back at the cabin, every note came through clear and resonant.
The richness of the sound brought me back to specific moments along my travels, but deeper.
And when I look back on the time I’ve spent in Oregon, I’ll remember the endless miles of open roads: snow-capped mountains, rugged trails and the occasional in-car dance party (featuring Gloria’s satiny voice).
But perhaps more fondly, I’ll remember how something new lay ahead at every turn, with every song leading to a different adventure.