NORTH POWDER — A little more than a week ago, pedaling a mountain bike probably was the fastest way to descend the slopes at Anthony Lakes Mountain Resort.
Today, anything with wheels would be about as useful there as a motorboat.
Anthony Lakes’ Broadway Flow bike trail is gone.
Well, the trail itself is still down there, somewhere, probably with the indentations from knobby tires preserved in the soil.
But you’d need a shovel and a stout back to see the marks.
Since record-setting warmth made the first week of November feel more like late summer than mid-autumn, a series of decidedly wintry storms has plastered the ski area.
The blizzards have been beneficent enough that the resort could potentially open the weekend of Thanksgiving.
That hasn’t happened often in the past couple decades, and only once, in 2011, during Peter Johnson’s 10-year tenure as the resort’s general manager.
“Things are looking really good right now,” Johnson said on Thursday, Nov. 12. “It’s easily the best start we’ve had since I’ve been here.”
The situation is dramatically different from a year ago. In 2019, Anthony Lakes didn’t open until Dec. 21.
“We could be looking at an earlier opening than we’re used to,” Johnson said. “A Thanksgiving weekend opening is realistic this year.”
Storms over the past week or so have dropped about 36 inches of snow at Anthony Lakes, Johnson said.
Snow settles during lulls, and he said that as of Nov. 12 the base depth was about 15 inches.
That’s not enough to start skiing, but Johnson was watching with glee the National Weather Service forecast.
The agency on Nov. 12 issued a winter storm warning for the latest blizzard, which was scheduled to arrive Friday, Nov. 13, and continue into the weekend.
That storm could bring from 1 to 2 feet of new snow.
“I don’t want to jinx it,” Johnson said, while clouds were beginning to stream into Northeast Oregon but the first flakes of the latest tempest had yet to fall. “But it looks promising.”
Despite the prospect for what amounts to an early holiday gift for skiers and snowboarders, the specter of the COVID-19 pandemic looms over the upcoming ski season, Johnson said.
Although he’s still working on the operating plan — some details will depend on how things go for the first few days of skiing — Johnson said Anthony Lakes will have to limit the number of people on the mountain each day.
The first priority, he said, is for people who buy a season pass. They won’t have any limits on how many days they can ski or snowboard, nor will they have to make a reservation.
Chelsea Judy, the ski area’s marketing director, said that in past seasons, on a typical day about 25% to 30% of the visitors have season passes.
The second priority constitutes people who have a discount ticket from one of the resort’s 48 lodging partners, which includes motels, vacation rental homes and other establishments.
A list of those partners is available online at https://anthonylakes.com/almr-lodging-partners/
The ski area will also have 20 lift tickets for each operating day, at a 50% discount, for guests who have a receipt for a purchase of at least $40, from the past 7 days, from a locally owned restaurant or retail shop in Baker, Union, Grant, or Wallowa counties.
Lodging partner and local business support discount tickets will be available only at the ticket window at Anthony Lakes. Visitors can show their voucher or receipt and have a ticket printed.
Once the priority groups have been counted, a certain number of general one-day tickets will be available, Judy said.
Those tickets are sold online only, at www.anthonylakes.com — there will not be any general day ticket sales at the ski area. These online tickets will be available for any operating day during the season.
In a letter posted on the resort’s website, Johnson wrote: “We will not be completely cutting back on ticket sales, just reducing the amount of day tickets sold each day to the point where we can manage day-to-day operations while comfortably practicing social distancing,” Johnson wrote. “The number of day tickets available for any given day will be based solely on previous years ticket sales.”
The effects of the pandemic will be more noticeable inside the lodge.
About half the usual complement of tables and chairs will be available to ensure guests can keep a proper distance.
Employees will be disinfecting tables, chairs and high-use areas between each user.
The cafe will be open — with a streamlined menu — but Anthony Lakes is asking guests to limit their time inside the lodge to 30 to 45 minutes to ensure everyone has a chance to warm up and fuel up, Judy said.
In the letter posted on the website, Johnson wrote: “Of course, our staff will be available to guests with families if additional time is needed, but we request that each of our guests respect each other by ensuring people who need a place to sit down and warm up for a bit have it.”