Senior News Writer

Mt. Bachelor is bringing wood-fired renewable energy to its slopes. Photo: Visit Bend

The Inertia

With wood-based heating solutions for several of its buildings, Bend, Oregon’s Mt. Bachelor Ski Resort will soon go back to the future.

Back? As in heating buildings with wood. To the future? As in using a biomass boiler that will burn byproducts of federal wildfire reduction activities, according to a press release.

In it, parent company POWDR said the resort’s new 3,412 MBH (1000 kW) boiler will heat four of its base area facilities with an estimated 1,000 tons of “minimally processed” wood chips each year.

POWDR anticipates big results at Mt. Bachelor: 150,000 gallons in propane savings and 1,000 tons fewer CO2 emissions annually.

Construction will begin in June 2023, and the facility should go operational by January 2024. When it does, it should produce energy savings on a variety of levels.

First, the resort will source the wood chips it burns from National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)-approved forestry activities in the surrounding Deschutes National Forest. The fate of that byproduct otherwise? It would end up burning in open slash piles. In Mt. Bachelor’s high-temperature boiler, it will burn more efficiently and emit less CO2 than it would in open air (along with, of course, utilizing the material rather than just disposing of it).

Mt. Bachelor also pointed out that the project will reduce fossil fuels that result from trucking fuel in from elsewhere.

“Given the scale of this project, all of those effects are very meaningful to our sustainability goals and our partnership with the USFS [United States Forest Service],” Mt. Bachelor general manager John McLeod said in the press release.

The facility will supply space heating to the ski patrol building, West Village Lodge, Mountain Gateway building, Todd Lake building, and the snow melt system. The heat will channel in via insulated underground PEX piping.

mt. bachelor heating loop

Photo: POWDR

The U.S. Forest Service, Deschutes County, and the Oregon Department of Energy all rendered grants to help ease project development costs for the resort.

Mt. Bachelor expects the construction project to create 16-20 jobs. Ongoing operations and maintenance, it said, will create four to six jobs.

Kevin Larkin, Bend-Ft. Rock District Ranger for the Deschutes National Forest, weighed in on the project’s potential impact for the region.

“Reducing the impact of wildfires to the forest and risk to local communities is a priority for the Forest Service. This new facility will support our restoration and hazardous fuels reduction goals because it allows us to dispose of woody underbrush in the Deschutes National Forest while also creating a renewable source of energy,” Larkin said in the press release.


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