Diamond Lake a snowmobiling hub for adventure
Zach Urness/Daily Courier

Steve Roe rides through the snow on the trails surrounding Diamond Lake.

There’s nothing quite like exploring the snow-packed Cascade Mountains during winter and spring, and for those who enjoy the speed of snowmobiling, Diamond Lake Resort serves as the unofficial hub. A network of around 300 miles of groomed trails allows visitors to zoom through the deep powder and travel to the rim of Crater Lake and the top of Mount Bailey.

To watch video from snowmobiling from Diamond Lake to Crater Lake, click here.

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By Zach Urness of the Daily Courier

The notion that spring would officially begin in two days seemed a distant thought as I gunned the snowmobile's engine and buzzed across a landscape that resembled the inside of a snow globe.

White flakes dropped horizontally from the sky, and rows of frosted pine trees whipped past as we steered through the network of trails surrounding Diamond Lake.

Soon our group crossed into Crater Lake National Park — identifiable only by a toll booth’s roof sticking up through the snow — and began climbing through wide-open tundra made virtually invisible in the wind and whiteness.

“Maybe we should turn around,” said Steve Roe, the leader of our group, pointing out that the trail was disappearing below an accumulating layer of powder. “It’s getting pretty difficult to see.”

In the process of turning around, though, one of the sleds lurched off the trail and sunk into the soft powder. The engine whined, and the track slipped and spit, but the snowmobile was stuck.

It was two days before the official start of spring, and we stood atop 108 inches of snow in semi-blizzard conditions, wondering what to try next.

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There’s nothing quite like winter in the Southern Cascade Mountains, and for those who enjoy the speed of snowmobiling, the unofficial hub is Diamond Lake Resort.

The year-round compound offers sled rentals and 300 miles of groomed trails, along with restaurants and lodging.

Paths to Crater Lake and the summit of Mount Bailey are groomed five mornings each week, and there are connections to trail networks that travel all the way to Bend and Klamath Falls.

The season typically lasts from December to April, but is subject to the whims of Ma Nature, and people often continue riding until Diamond Lake itself opens up and fishing becomes the order of the day.

The economic slowdown and bizarre winter weather patterns in the Cascades have hurt the resort the past two seasons, but the trails remain groomed and the restaurants open.

“We had almost too much snow two years ago, and then this year we hardly got any snow and didn’t get rolling until after Christmas,” said Steve Koch, the president and general manager of Diamond Lake Resort. “Those conditions, along with the slow economy, have brought business down a little.”

Snowmobiling occasionally has been the subject of controversy, mostly concerning where the sleds are allowed to travel, but the activity remains popular.

“Snowmobiling is such a fun sport, where you can really get back and see nature,” said Roe, general manager of Roe Motors in Grants Pass. “It’s really relaxing after a week at work.”

There are downsides to snowmobiling, of course, including the process of dislodging a sled stuck in deep powder.

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The goodwill of fellow travelers always has been something I’ve enjoyed about the outdoors community.

In town, people will routinely drive past a car that’s broken down and a person standing on the side of the road.

In the outdoors, such indifference would be unthinkable.

So it was that a friendly guy with a Swedish accident came upon our beleaguered snowmobile and began helping us dig and pull it out. I never caught his actual name, but soon our sled was free and we were roaring uphill, zooming across a powder trail toward the rim of Crater Lake.

The weather had been temperamental all morning, but during our time digging out it turned downright bipolar, mixing blizzard and blue sky into 20-minute interludes. In one moment the gray blanket would be lifted back, the sun would illuminate the landscape, and we’d be riding through a world of cliffs and ridges and distant mountains. Then a patch of storm would close back in, wrapping us in wind and horizontal snowflakes, and we’d have to squint just to see the trail.

The visibility was so low that it was good Steve and our new friend knew where they were going. Because when we finally reached the rim of Crater Lake ... there was no Crater Lake. The weather had enveloped the country’s deepest lake in gray abyss.

So we turned around and headed down, back through the powder trail, across the wide-open tundra and the buried toll booth that marked the border of Crater Lake National Park. We gunned the engines and zipped into the trails where the frosted pine trees whipped past on each side.

Finally we reached Diamond Lake Resort, where a downstairs restaurant called the Bailey Room provided the much-needed warmth of burgers and beer and the satisfying feeling of a journey completed.

In the Rogue Valley that day, it was raining and warm, and the fact that spring would begin in two days would have felt natural. High in the Cascades, we watched the snow fall through a glass window and enjoyed the perpetual winter at Diamond Lake.

Notes: For information about snowmobile rentals and pricing at Diamond Lake, visit www.diamondlake.net or call 541-793-3333.


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