What About Winter in Bend Oregon?

What About Winter in Bend Oregon?

A few of you have asked about winter in Bend Oregon. What it’s really like, what to prepare for if you’re coming from Florida, how long it lasts, how cold it gets, how much snow or general precipitation falls in town, and so on. Needless to say, this post is about one of my most beloved things ever: WINTER.

Bend Oregon Weather Stats

It’s mid-May in Central Oregon and today’s snow report for Mt. Bachelor says moderate to heavy snowfall and howling winds. 3-5 inches of snow are expected throughout the day, and potentially another 2-4 inches tonight. It’s spring and it’s still winter in Bend Oregon and I can hear my snowboard talking to me from the garage. Spring skiing and riding anyone?

winter in bend weather bachelor
Mt. Bachelor weather for today, May 16.

While I’m not here to talk numbers, I will point you towards Weather Spark’s Bend Oregon weather stats. If you’re curious about the average temps, cloud cover, daily chance of precipitation, average monthly rainfall and snowfall, sun, humidity, wind, and other neat weather stuff in Bend, this site has what you want. For one human’s perspective on winter in Bend, read on.

Winter In Bend Oregon

Winter in Bend Oregon is awesome. No but for real: WINTER IN BEND IS AWESOME. Not everyone feels this way, I know. But I do.

Whether there’s a lot of snow involved or a moderate amount of snow involved, Bend Oregon winters typically last 6-8 months. Definitely 8 up in the Cascades most seasons, with some kind of swing dance happening in town on any given year. The in-town swing dance means it can be 45 degrees and spitting rain and hail pellets, or like 65/70 with sun and blue skies. Yeah, the Central Oregon weather keeps you on your toes. Just arm yourself with good coffee and sustaining food and you’ll probably do alright.

winter in bend tree riding powder
Tree riding. H-h-h-holler.

When it’s the middle of winter in Bend, things can go either way. In the seven or so years I’ve been here, I’ve definitely seen a wide variety of temps and weather in town. That’s how climate works, whether we’re fucking with it (which, sorry non-believers, we are) or not. OK, so like take for instance this past winter, 2016/17, the one that’s still occurring right now in May. We had so much snow in town, for so long, that roofs collapsed, schools closed (a lot), and the general drivability of the city was zero if you had anything less than good snow tires, decent clearance, and reliable 4-wheel drive. I was fortunate enough to either Subaru it or walk everywhere.

winter in Bend lindsey richter
Buddies in the snow in the trees. Winter in Bend is sometimes like this.

Yes, Subarus are mountain-town cliché. But there’s a reason for that. When it snows, Subarus become the Iditarod sleds of the driving world. Pack your own emergency blanket and source of fat should there be a spill, but otherwise drive smart and a Subaru will usher you steadfastly through winter. Subaru should pay me for this post. 

Things Change. Including the Weather in Central Oregon.

Some winters we’ve received good early-season snow up in the mountains, along with legit spring storms later on, but then gotten hosed on snow here in town. Definitely reason to rejoice for some. Though I can’t remember the details, this blog seems to recall last year’s winter being bountiful. Maybe up top, but I think in town we only saw one good storm. There have also been the drier winters, throughout which some of us got to ride mountain bikes at fairly high elevations. Yeah, those kind of winters make my heart hurt a little.   

All this is to say that winters in Bend are different every year. So be prepared for things to not always be what you want them to be. Plain and simple.

central oregon winter
Frosted AF.

Yes, there are a lot of sun rays that shine themselves all over Central Oregon. But how many days of sun does Bend Oregon get? Many a source likes to claim 300 sunny days a year for Bend. For real? No, not for real. Visit Bend’s climate info tells us that “clear days” average 158 per year, with an extra 105 “mostly sunny” days. It all depends. This winter SAD was in full effect for a lot of Bend folks, particularly those who did not (whether by choice or by circumstance) get to play in the snow. Come summer, I’ll be experiencing SAD from too much sun. Is that a thing?

A Few (More) Things About Bend Oregon Weather

  • Good snow boots are a great idea. You don’t have to spend a lot, either. Good Will and many of the secondhand gear shops, like Gear Fix, carry the hand-me-downs of the people who buy new Sorels every season. Kind of unnecessary and a waste in general, but a score for the rest of us.
  • Doing something active in the winter, preferably outside and in the snow is in your best interest. Both physically and mentally. Remember the SAD thing? Well, it turns out getting outside and sweating and laughing a little helps with that. Note that getting outside during Bend Oregon winters doesn’t have to be cost prohibitive. First, there are the used gear shops I mentioned, where you can get used downhill skis, snowshoes, XC skis, etc. Then there’s the Virginia Meisner Sno-Park, which is comprised of an amazing network of XC ski trails halfway between Bend and Mt. Bachelor. The Meisner Nordic area is maintained entirely through donations. That means if you have a dollar, give a dollar. If you have five-hundo, give that. Either way it’s appreciated. 
bend winter panorama
That’s the boom.
  • Low on gas money or don’t have a reliable vehicle? Try the Mt. Bachelor Shuttle or hitchhiking. One costs some $ the other is free. One will get you from point A to point B, the other is a mixed bag but generally safe. General is a dangerous word. 
  • Winter sports in Bend are NOT for able-bodied individuals only. Oregon Adaptive Sports (OAS) has been running a phenomenal adaptive sports program up at Mt. Bachelor since 1996. I’ve volunteered with OAS before and can vouch: they’re good people creating fucking rad opportunities in the world of adaptive sports.
Plus This PSA

If you’re homeless in Bend maybe you’re not reading this blog post. But I’m not here to exclude and I don’t want to assume. As much as we think Central Oregon winters are hard, us with our gas heat and wood fired stoves and cozy clothing and weather-ready cars, winter in Bend is hard as shit for y’all without a place to call home. I know it is, I’ve spoken with some of you. So yeah, perspective. And not perspective to make us feel better about our own personal situations. More like perspective about what real life is like for real people, especially in winter.

I’m not here to preach. It’s just that this shit definitely enters my mind when I’m all excited about the feet of snow piling up outside. It’s not sexy, I know, thinking about the handfuls of humans trying not to die while we’re paying $97 a pop to ride lifts and complaining about wind closures. But fuck sexy. These things are part of life, part of our Bend community, and I sure as hell am not about to gloss over them so everyone can feel better about moving to Bend. No, m’am.       

Winter In Bend Is What You Want It To Be

Like a lot of things in life, winter in Bend is variable, fickle, ever-shifting. It’s also, more or less, what we want it to be. The realities of SAD aside, winter in Bend is special. And like every other Central Oregon season, Bend winters teach us a great deal about the earth, our surroundings, and ourselves. We just have to be heads up enough and not buried in wishing they were something other than what they are.

red chair bluebird bachelor
See. There are bluebird days in Central Oregon. Lots of them.

Love it or hate it, winter in Bend usually means the strategic employment of long underwear or tights underneath your regular clothes. It means thick socks, a buff, a hat, a puffy coat, gloves, and/or other warm things. And it means the mostly Norwegian, yet largely attributed to Ranulph Fiennes, saying: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.” Go ahead, tell me to fuck off. But you know it’s true.

OK you don’t have to love it. But aside from the whole climate change thing, Bend winters thankfully aren’t going anywhere. So… do with them what you will. And come summer in Bend, when I’m overheating, constantly flushed, pasted with zinc oxide, and seeking shelter in every patch of shade I can find, I’ll do my best to think about this post.

bend oregon weather winter
Missing you already.

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