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Your reference guide to winter activities in Baker County.

Welcome S. John Collins/Baker City Herald

We often wake up to a frosty wonderland during the winter in Eastern Oregon.

Like winter? You're in the right place The stats Baker County population: 16,450 Baker City population: 10,160 Elevation: 3,400 in Baker City Average winter high: 35 F Average winter low: 20 F Annual rainfall: 11 inches

For advice, maps...and restrooms • Baker County Chamber of Commerce is located just off Interstate 84 on Campbell Street (Exit 304). The staff can answer questions, and you can find a selection of brochures about area attractions. • Historic Baker City Inc.’s office is at 1901 Main St., located at the corner of Main and Court streets. Here you can find maps and brochures, as well as information about the Main Street Program, historic preservation and more. • Basche-Sage Place, corner of Main and Broadway streets, has public restrooms.



e have all four seasons here in Baker County, but winter always seems to last the longest. But that’s okay because it means more time to ski or snowshoe, go to a movie or an art show, take a horse-drawn wagon ride to see a herd of Rocky Mountain elk or explore the shops in downtown Baker City. It might cold, but there’s still lots to do. Our advice for most activities is simple: wear layers. Days can be sunny and crisp or downright frigid, but if you master the art of layering you’ll be ready for any adventure. And to help, we’ll offer a few tips within these pages for what to bring and what to wear. The rest — the adventure — is up to you.


Baker County Winter Guide

HEADLINE About Winter Stuff

Ski, snowboard, snowshoe



nthusiasm, hard work and volunteers are responsible for the wintertime playground at Anthony Lakes Mountain Resort, where skiers (alpine and nordic), snowboarders and snowshoers can find perfect powder. The resort boasts the highest base elevation of any ski area in Oregon (7,100 feet above sea level), and credits that altitude for its famous deep and dry snow. WHERE: Anthony Lakes is 19 miles west of North Powder from Exit 285 off Interstate 84. The mountain road is well-maintained and has been improved in the past year. PARK AND RIDE: Hitch a ride from Baker City on Saturdays, from Dec. 3 to April 14, and on Sundays from Jan. 8 to Feb. 26. Cost is $7 round trip. The bus departs the Community Bank parking lot, 1190 Campbell St., at 7:45 a.m. and returns at 5 p.m. It also stops at the Haines Mercantile at 8 a.m. and returns at 4:45 p.m. S. John Collins/Baker City Herald

More information


PERMITS: Parking at Anthony requires a sno-park permit displayed in the windshield of your vehicle between Nov. 1 and April 30. Permits can be purchased at the Department of Motor Vehicles — $20 for the season, $7 for three days or $3 for one day (agents may include a surcharge ).

Lift tickets Adult — $35 Student (13-18) — $29 Child (7-12) — $21 6 and under — $5

70 and over — $25 Bunny Hill — $12 Nordic Trail Pass — $13 Snowshoe — $6

BAKER GOLD & SILVER 1812 Main Street, Baker City • 523-2133

Serving precious metals and coin collector clients in Baker City for 30 years. We buy all forms of gold and silver, including scrap. We have a large inventory of collector coins. From cents to $20 gold pieces. We offer free appraisal of your collection 1-800-556-2133

Gas & Propane RV Dump Fish & Game Supplies Hot Deli Snacks Coffee Cold Sandwiches Coldest Coolers in town!

Fletcher’s Shell

940 Hwy 7 • Baker City • 541-523-7480


Photo by Elden Doser

We have miles of trails to explore


Baker County Winter Guide

aker County has more than 1,000 miles of marked trails for snowmobiles, many of which are groomed regularly during the


winter. Major trailheads are Sumpter, Halfway, Anthony Lakes Mountain Resort, and the Burnt River Area. Baker County resident Ryan Phillips is a local snowmobiling hero — he’s even been featured in movies for the series “2 Stroke Cold Smoke.” He’s ridden both local mountain ranges, but prefers the Wallowas over the Elkhorns for superior snow — plus the Wallowas’ winter playground is mere minutes from his Keating home. For information about snowmobiling in Halfway, Sumpter and Burnt River, please see Page 20.

For beginners, he recommends a place near Medical Springs called Big Creek. Little Eagle Meadows is a bit more advanced, but is part of the trail system around Halfway, which Phillips calls “the snowmobiling mecca.” Be aware of the nearby Eagle Cap Wilderness, where snowmobiles are not allowed. For safety, he always rides with friends, and makes sure to dress appropriately — “waterproof is essential,” he says — along with extra gloves, a helmet, a shovel and enough food. He and his buddies also wear avalanche beacons, just in case.

Maps and Information More information about snowmobiling areas is available from these Forest Service offices: Baker District, 523-4476; Pine District, 541-742-7511; Unity District, 446-3351. Also, each snowmobiling area has a map of its trails (we’re talking hundreds of miles), most maintained by local clubs. In Baker City, the Chamber of Commerce has maps for Sumpter, Burnt River-Unity and Halfway. Also, businesses in those areas will have maps available. Baker City shops for snowmobilers are Cliff’s Saws and Cycles, 2619 10th St., and Oregon Trail Yamaha, 1925 Auburn Ave.

Mike Bork Jake Bork 2705 10th St Baker City 541-523-4363

Mon-Fri 8-6 Sat by appt.

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For unique gifts that are one of a kind! Stop in & see what's new! 2175 Broadway • Baker City 541-523-1169 Monday - Saturday • 10 AM - 6 PM

MMW ELECTRIC MOTOR & PUMP REPAIR INC. 41280 Highway 30, Baker City 541-523-2859 MMW Electric Motor & Pump Repair Inc. has been serving Baker, Union and Grant counties since 1984. MMW offers a wide selection of pumps for installation and sale, from lawn to irrigation pumps to domestic well water systems. MMW carries a wide variety wheel line and hand line parts. They are a dealer for Grundfos SQFLELX Solar Systems. Helping our farmers and ranchers get water in remote places, by solar power. MMW sells and services a wide selection of electric motors. Remember them at harvest time and spring.


Oregon Trail history

hile the actual Oregon Trail ruts probably aren’t visible beneath the snow, the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center is open year-round. It is located five miles east of Baker City on Highway 86. Exhibits tell stories — the hardships and the triumphs — of those pioneers who headed West during the Great Migration. The center opened in 1992, and each year it hosts a variety of living history performers, re-enactments of life along the trail and other special events. The winter is quieter, but visitors can still tour the displays, see special performances or learn pioneer crafts during a workshop.

Winter hours From Dec. 6 to mid-Februar, the center is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. The center is closed for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day.

Baker County Winter Guide

The rest of the year, the center operates seven days a week.


Special workshops are offered in the winter.

Winter admission


$5 adults (good for two days) $3.50 seniors Free for ages 15 and younger Federal passes are also accepted

Kathy Orr/Baker City Herald


Workshops Jan. 19 — "I Have a Dream" activity in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Visitors can make a quilt block depicting their own dream. Feb. 18 — "Log Cabins for Kids" in honor of Presidents Day. Visitors will make an edible log cabin to take home. Hours are 1-3 p.m. and pre-registration is requested. Cost is $5 plus center admission. Other workshops may be scheduled — for updates, check the website or call the center.

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Indoors ■■ Baker Family YMCA

• Sam-O Swim Center, 580 Baker St. — Exercise and lap swims offered during the day, and regular open swims are 6:30-8 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday, plus 1-3:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. • Fitness Center, 2021 Main St. — Features cardio equipment and weights, plus classes Monday through Friday. • Information: 541-523-9622,

Baker County Winter Guide

■■ Eltrym Theater


1809 First St. • 541-523-2522 • This art deco theater, located at 1809 First St., opened in 1940, and has undergone various renovations in the last 20 years — most notably creating three separate theaters to show more movies simultaneously. ■■ Elkhorn Lanes bowling alley

3335 10th St. • 541-523-5577

■■ Baker County Public Library

2400 Resort St. • 541-523-6419 • Books, magazines and newspapers at the library, plus high-speed wireless Internet. Also, story time for the children happens every Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. ■■ Community Concerts

The Baker Community Concert Association brings top-notch musicians to Baker City. For concert and ticket information, call 541-523-4600 or 541-523-3124.

■■ Cribbage

The Northeast Oregon Cribbage Club meets every Tuesday, September to April. The gathering starts at 6 p.m. at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Hall, 2005 Valley Ave. It includes nine games with different opponents. There is an initial $5 fee to join the local group and a $15 membership to join the American Cribbage Congress. After that, players pay $7 a night to play, with $5 of that going to prize money. Anyone who isn’t interested in prizes can play for $1. For information, call Carl Heath, 541-523-2185.

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Wildlife Tours Page 16

Road closure The section of the Elkhorn Scenic Byway between Granite and Anthony Lakes — about 27 miles — is closed by snow in the winter. However, it is open to snowmobilers.

National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center Page 8

S an op ing co

Road closure Snow falls here every winter, and the main highways are kept open by the hard work (including many nights) of the city, county and state road crews.


Burnt River In this area, the highways stay open, but some secondary roads turn into snowmobile trails. Burnt River Snowmobile Club grooms 200 miles of trails, and ties in with trails to Sumpter and Grant County. Snowmobile maps: Baker County Chamber of Commerce, Premier Auto Body (Burnt River area), Oregon Trail Yamaha, Cliff’s Saws and Cycles, and some kiosks along the trails.

That said, be aware that the scenic byways — Hells Canyon and the Elkhorn Loop — are not fully open from November to May, and sometimes as late as June. However, those snow-covered roads also provide miles and miles of snowmobile routes. Call 800-523-1235 or 541-523-5855 for conditions. For more information about Hells Canyon, call the visitors center at 541-785-3395.


T sce an full Ma Jun ere an

C 585 F He ce

Art and Books Baker County Winter Guide 14


elow-freezing temperatures are a perfect excuse to stay inside for painting, pottery, or whatever artistic endeavor strikes your fancy. The artists of Baker County follow that advice, and downtown galleries schedule monthly openings on the first Friday to highlight new works. Art galleries stay open late for the First Friday event, with music and refreshments to welcome the month’s featured artists. These receptions usually last for two hours or more, and the featured artists are on hand to talk about their work and technique. Even better, all the galleries are clustered around downtown Baker City, and the artwork can be seen any time the shops are open. Plus, winter is the perfect time for warm drinking chocolate — a specialty of chocolatier Alyssa Peterson at Peterson's Gallery.

Movies about art

S. John Collins/Baker City Herald

Art decorates Crossroads Carnegie Art Center.

Art galleries Crossroads Carnegie Art Center, 2020 Auburn Ave. Short Term Gallery, 1829 Main St. Peterson's Gallery, 1925 Main St. The Dancing Elephant Gallery, 2034 Main St.

Once a month, the Eltrym Theater, 1809 First St., hosts a special artthemed film sponsored by the Baker Art Guild. The evening is called Thursday Art Night and happens on the last Thursday of each month, beginning with a panel of local artists at 6:30 p.m. and the film at 7 p.m. Admission is $6 for adults, $4 for seniors and students. Tickets may be purchased at the theater box office. Proceeds are donated to a different Baker County nonprofit organization each month. For more information, visit the website

Literary Nights Betty’s Books and Crossroads Carnegie Art Center sponsor the Second Friday Literary Night, which is held — you guessed it — on the second Friday of each month. The events begin at 7 p.m. at Crossroads, 2020 Auburn Ave., and feature new authors each month who read excerpts and talk about their writing process. Some months feature local authors, and almost all are from Oregon. For information, stop by Betty’s Books at 1813 Main St.

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Where the elk watch you


ocky Mountain elk may be elusive for most of the year, but every winter visitors are guaranteed a close-up view of these majestic animals. The place is Anthony Creek feed site, about eight miles west of North Powder. This is one of many feed sites located at the base of the Elkhorn Mountains operated by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to keep elk S. John Collins/Baker City Herald from foraging for food in ranchers’ haystacks. In 1991, Alice Trindle and Susan Triplett started Oregon’s only elk-viewing operation using a horse-drawn wagon, and it has remained such for the past 20 years. “Things have changed a lot in our world over the past 20 years with technology, the Internet, cell phones, and Begin Dec. 15 and continue every Saturday digital cameras,” Triplett said. “When we first began the and Sunday through March 3, 2013. tours, the elk were pretty suspicious of our human inter(Special tours will also be held Dec. 24, action, and little things would send them running.” Dec. 31, and Jan. 1 and 2) Now the elk munch on their hay and stare right back at the visitors staring at them. The rides go every half hour, from 10:30 The horse-drawn wagon, which is equipped with a a.m. to 2 p.m. wheelchair lift, takes people to within five feet of the herd. Other common visitors to the site include wild Cost is $5 children, $7 adults turkeys, red tail and rough-legged hawks and bald eagles. Coyotes, fox and bobcats have also been spotted. The Anthony Creek feed site is about eight The tours run Saturdays and Sundays from Dec. 10 miles west of North Powder on North through the end of February. Powder River Lane. Follow the "wildlife" Tours begin at 10:30 a.m. and take place every halfsigns. hour, with the last one leaving at 2 p.m. Cost is $5 for children, $7 for adults. During the ride, Trindle and Triplett talk about the life cycles of the elk, the reason for the feed program and the partnership with ranchers and hunters. Visitors are encouraged to dress for the weather — lots of layers, gloves, hats and even a blanket.

Baker County Winter Guide

Elk Tours



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Fishing and Hunting Baker County Winter Guide 18

File photo


ith winter comes the migration of steelhead to Hells Canyon, and that means anglers get up before dawn to drive Highway 86 past Halfway and Oxbow to Hells Canyon Dam to claim a spot along the Snake River. The season runs through April 15. The bag limit for steelhead this year is three per day. If the fish aren’t biting, Hells Canyon (the deepest gorge in North America) offers spectacular scenery, so bring a camera — for the views and for that monster fish. In addition to an angling license, you need a Hatchery Harvest Tag for steelhead and salmon. Steelhead aren’t the only fish around here — local lakes are also a good bet for trout, and even when the water freezes, ice fishing is an option at several nearby reservoirs, including Phillips, Unity, Malheur, Thief Valley and Pilcher Creek. Wait until the ice is 4 to 6 inches thick before venturing out.


inter is also upland game bird season, and hunters chase wily chukars, Hungarian partridges and California quail from early October through January. In addition to a hunting license, you need an Upland Game Bird Validation, which is good through June 30, 2012. The hunting season for all three bird species continues through Jan. 31 in most of Eastern Oregon, including Baker County. However, the season ends Dec. 31 in Umatilla and Morrow counties. Hunting for rooster pheasants closes Dec. 31 throughout Oregon.

Kathy Orr/Baker City Herald


Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife La Grande office: 541-963-2138 Baker City office: 541-523-5832 In addition to a fishing license, anglers need a Hatchery Harvest Tag for steelhead and salmon. Hunters chasing chukars need a hunting license and an Upland Game Bird Validation.


he Geiser Grand Hotel has graced Main Street since 1889. After it fell into disrepair, Dwight and Barbara Sidway purchased the building in 1993 and began restoration work. It re-opened in 1997. Winter events include:

Geiser Grand Hotel 1996 Main St. 541-523-1889

■■ Horse-drawn sleigh rides: Happen every Saturday at 7 p.m. through February. The rides include a stop at a bonfire, s’mores, hot spiced cider and more. $24 adults, $12 children younger than 12 (free for under 6). Advance reservations requested. Proceeds go to Historic Baker City Inc. ■■ Victorian Christmas Tea: 2 p.m. Dec. 15 and 22. Inspired by actual historic menus with white linen and silver service at a table next to the tall Christmas tree under the stained-glass ceiling. Tea at 2 p.m. and a historic tour at 3:30 p.m. Princess Tea (14 and younger) $12; Adults $24 per person. Advance tickets required. ■■ Grand Hotel Tour: At 3:30 p.m. every Saturday, a costumed docent leads a tour through the Geiser Grand, sharing the hotel’s story as well as local history. $2

Elk Viewing Tours

2101 Main Street, Suite 106 Baker City • 541-523-6215

Oregon’s only via Horse Drawn Wagon Saturdays & Sundays 10:30 AM - 2:00 PM Mid-December through February Trips depart every 1/2 hour


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Snowmobiling in Halfway


alfway is in Pine Valley, about 53 miles east of Baker City on Highway 86. The Wallowa Mountains soar above this valley, and also cause lots of snow to fall. The area has about 280 miles of designated snowmobile trails, and 100 to 150 of those miles are groomed on a regular basis thanks to the Panhandle Snowmobile Club. Halfway offers restaurants, motels, groceries and gas. The Panhandle Snowmobile Club has a snow-

Eagle Cap Extreme Sled Dog Race

Baker County Winter Guide



he annual Eagle Cap Extreme sled dog race will once again have a layover near Halfway. This race offers three distances: 100 miles, 200 miles and 62 miles. Those who choose the longer distance — a qualifier for the Iditarod and Yukon Quest — must take a six-hour rest at the Halfway checkpoint. The races start at Ferguson Ridge Ski Area near Joseph at 1 p.m. Jan. 24, 2013. The second stage of the 62-mile pot race begins at 1 p.m. Jan. 25. The 200-mile teams will arrive at Halfway between 6 a.m. and noon on Jan. 24. For information, visit the website at

mobile map available — check at the Baker County Chamber of Commerce on Campbell Street in Baker City, or inquire at Halfway businesses. Also, the club hosts a poker run every February on the Sunday of Presidents Day Weekend (Feb. 20, 2011). The 30-mile route begins in Halfway and goes up into the Wallowas to end at Twin Lakes, near 7,000 feet elevation. For information, contact Whitey Bloom, 541742-7277.

Out Sumpter way


n winter, snowmobiles are almost as common as cars in this historic town. Once a booming place established by mining, Sumpter now has about 190 residents. And in the winter, it’s a perfect base camp for snowmobile adventures and other snow activities, such as snowshoeing. The Sumpter Dredge State Heritage Area offers miles of trails in the summertime, and in the winter transforms into pristine gentle rolling hills of snow. You might even see some wildlife. To get there, head south from Baker City on Highway 7. After about 25 miles, turn right at the sign for Sumpter. This park is located on your left, just as you arrive in town.

Poker runs Burnt River Snowmobile Club (Unity): Jan. 26 Sumpter Valley Blue Mountain Snowmobile Club: Feb. 16 Panhandle Snowmobile Club (Halfway): Feb. 17

Winter driving

Please use extreme caution

Road conditions


5-1-1 on your cell phone he Oregon Department of Transportation and the Oregon State Police advise travelers to be extra cautious when 800-977-6368 stranded or stopped along the side of the road, especially during poor weather conditions. In some cases, especially during winter storms, the best way to help is to get to a phone as soon as possible and report the incident, giving clear directions so emergency responders can arrive quickly. Just don’t talk on a cell phone while driving. Another wintertime hazard for drivers traveling through Northeastern Oregon is black ice, a thin layer of ice on the roadway that appears wet instead of icy. Also, bridges and overpasses are the first to freeze and the last to thaw.

■■ Slow down and keep your distance from vehicles in front of you. Allow about three times as much space. ■■ Turn off your cruise control ■■ Look for signs of ice other than on the roadway: on windshield wipers, side view mirrors, road signs, trees or fences. If ice has formed on any of these things, it may be on the road. ■■ If your vehicle feels like it’s floating, gradually slow down; don’t slam on your brakes or you may skid out of control. ■■ Studded tires are allowed from Nov. 1 to April 1. Usually chains or traction tires are required on snowy roads, and ODOT recommends that drivers practice chaining up.

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Christmas trees


aker County’s forests are filled with fragrant Christmas gifts — and no fancy ribbons or bows to fiddle with. You might, though, have to endure the icy indignity of a snow-laden bough dumping its frozen burden down your back, as if you had been ambushed by pranksters on a primary school playground. Of course some people prefer to prowl a parking lot to find the perfect Christmas tree. Yet no commercial venture can surpass for sheer selection in the national forests. For $5 you can cut your Christmas tree almost anywhere on the Wallowa-Whitman, Umatilla or Malheur national forest. The toughest dilemma is picking the type of tree. At least eight local conifers make suitable Christmas trees — about seven more than you’ll find in most sales lots. It’s true, though, that those city-bound trees tend to be the supermodels of the holiday season. Out in the woods, by contrast, where trees rarely grow in S. John Collins/Baker City Herald orderly rows and no one prunes the unsightly limbs, almost every specimen shows at least a superficial flaw or two. For most tree-hunters, though, the main attraction to cutting their own tree is the adventure. Vying for your attention are:

Baker County Winter Guide

■■ Grand fir


This species probably graces more local living rooms during the holidays than any other type of tree. Grand firs are abundant, they grow at lower elevations that aren’t always plagued by SUV-swallowing snow drifts by Thanksgiving, and their well-placed branches invite creative ornament placement. A telltale trait of the grand fir is its needles. They form flat rows on opposite sides of each branch, as if someone had placed the branch between the pages of a thick book and then slammed the book shut. And then sat on it for an hour. ■■ Engelmann spruce

A person might mistake a spruce for a fir, but there’s an easy way to tell which is which: grab a limb. If you think you just poked a porcupine, you just touched a spruce.

■■ Subalpine fir

Full-grown subalpine firs are easy to recognize from their slender, dart-like shape. But in juvenile form they sometimes resemble grand firs. A distinguishing characteristic is the tree’s needles. They grow at all angles from the limb, rather than in flat, orderly rows as a grand fir’s do. Although subalpine firs usually grow at higher elevations than grand firs, the two species occasionally mingle between about 5,500 feet and 6,000 feet.

■■ Lodgepole pine

Lodgepole pines are easy to find, but lodgepole pines that make good Christmas trees are not. Lodgepoles of the right height tend to be a bit sparse of limb and a bit unkempt in appearance, as though they had slept in an alley. The best places to hunt are near Granite. But snow presents a problem: By mid-December the prime places often are inaccessible except to snowmobilers.

Baker County Winter Guide  

Guide to winter activities in Baker County, Oregon

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