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Bend recreation group wants Mt. Bachelor access

After two years of disappointing snow conditions at lower elevations, a Bend nonprofit is lobbying for more access to Mt. Bachelor’s nordic ski trails.

Bend Endurance Academy runs outdoor recreation programs for children and teens, including rock climbing, cycling and nordic skiing. When it began in 2009, the group tried and failed to reach an agreement with officials at Mt. Bachelor ski area to allow students access to Mt. Bachelor Nordic Center, which already hosts students from Mt. Bachelor Sports Education Foundation, a nonprofit that operates independently of the resort, and high school nordic ski teams.

Since then, BEA has run its nordic programs at Virginia Meissner Sno-park.

“The main message here is that we’re looking for equal and reasonable access,” said Cris Himes, BEA’s board president.

But Mt. Bachelor officials say they are trying to accommodate BEA while ensuring their trails don’t get too crowded.

“My take on this is that they’re trying to portray us as not allowing the kids to ski at the Nordic Center, which is not the case at all,” said Dave Rathbun, president and general manager at Mt. Bachelor. “What this is all about is the use of the Nordic Center as the home base for their business.”

Lackluster conditions at Meissner last year drove BEA to seek higher elevation, and in February Mt. Bachelor officials agreed to allow the group paid access for the last two weekends of the nordic season.

This summer, the two sides were in talks for a long-term deal, but BEA was told its paid access this season would be limited to Tuesdays, Thursdays and weekends after noon, with some weekends excluded. BEA runs many programs Wednesday afternoons when Bend schools have early release and in the mornings on Saturdays and Sundays.

BEA students can buy their own passes, but for BEA instructors to coach the students while there requires permission from Mt. Bachelor, said Ben Husaby, BEA’s executive director.

Now BEA is asking its supporters to send letters to Rathbun. The group has also posted a petition on its website that had more than 480 signatures as of Tuesday.

Rathbun noted the deal proposed this summer was contingent on poor snow conditions this season. So far, that has not been the case.

“We’re feeling a little bit caught off guard by the timing of this,” he said. “We’re getting all this snow — these should be happy days.”