close range mt baily
Image: Kirk Devoll

MOUNT BAILEY

Diamond Lake, OR

AT LEAST ONCE in your lifetime, you must book a ski day on 8,300-foot-high Mount Bailey; the experience is likely the closest you’ll ever come to skiing your own private mountain. With no lifts marring its slopes and no lodge to attract the crowds, Bailey is served solely by Sno-Cat and thus hosts no more than a dozen skiers per day.

In between the 30-minute rides up the hill in the tireless (and heated!) canary-yellow cat, expert skiers with legs of steel can log up to 20,000 vertical feet. Such exclusivity is matched only by the outfit’s stellar guides, who pack and carry everything you’ll need, from bag lunches to avalanche beacons. More important, they’ll deftly steer you to the best lines, which streak down all sides of this dormant volcano—and course through 27 different avalanche chutes, as well as glades of hemlock and fir. Sure, daily tickets are nearly as steep as the terrain, but then you’ll never face the disappointment that often befalls those who book heli-skiing trips: Sno-Cats can bully up the mountains even in a powder-dumping storm.

Trips to Mount Bailey convene at Diamond Lake Resort, where skiers (and bevies of snowmobilers who use a nearby trail system) typically overnight before the cat’s 7 a.m. departure time. Considering that Diamond Lake bills itself as a "blue-collar resort, with middle of the road accommodations," you can’t expect luxury here (much less mints on your pillow), but after skiing with the cat all day, even spartan cabins or motel-style rooms are a welcome rest stop for a body weary from a hardworking day of pure downhill pleasure.