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Whales, Wine, and Skiing Among the Pines

By Amanda Christensen

While winter may mean something a little different for places across the country, in Oregon, it’s all about slowing down and enjoying all that the chilly temperatures have to offer. Depending on where in the state you choose to visit or host your next gathering, snow may be a rarity—but that doesn’t take away from the myriad activities available this season.

Whether you choose to stick with winter tradition and hit the ski slopes or slow down a bit and get cozy next to a fireplace with a flavorful glass of local wine, the Beaver State is nothing short of bountiful with winter cheer.

As Long As You Are Looking

As winter approaches and peak tourism season fades, Seaside offers a quieter side to Oregon. Situated on the north coast of the state about 90 miles from Portland, the quaint little town is best known for its summer fishing and “quintessential beach experience,” says Joshua Heineman, director of tourism marketing for the city of Seaside.

Transitioning from warm summers to the cooler fall and winter seasons often brings out a different sort of traveler to the town, Heineman notes, and you will more often see visitors roaming the stormy beaches looking for sand dollars or searching for whales.

“You just never know. As long as you are by the ocean and you are looking, you might see [a pod of whales],” says Heineman. This increased chance of spotting the sea creatures is due to their migration patterns as they move up and down the coast. Along with being home to farm-to-table restaurants, a rich history, and serene lodging for any season, Seaside might just offer something truly extraordinary—as long as you are looking.

Hit the Slopes

One of the largest ski areas in the country, Mount Bachelor Ski Resort offers 360-degree ski slopes around the large volcano after which the resort is named. Views of the nearly 2.5 million acres of surrounding forest will have visitors in awe of Mother Nature.

“The mountain can average 450 inches of snow per year,” says Reese Thedford, director of sales for the ski resort and Sun Country Trails. The resort’s dedicated events team works with visitors to arrange gatherings from intimate corporate meetings to large multiday festivals. While there is no convention center at the mountain, there are two base lodges with space for events.

Dining and catering are coordinated by the events team with meeting planners for gatherings of up to 200, and the resort is closely connected to the nearby city of Bend—where visitors can find hotels (there are no accommodations on the mountain), good eats, and other activities.

If planners wish to add winter-focused activities to their event itineraries, the resort offers myriad options alongside skiing, including dog-sledding and snowshoeing. “It’s a very playful place to ski and be active on the mountain; it’s a place [without boundaries]—you can go anywhere,” says Thedford.

Peaceful Wine Country

The Salem region of Oregon, encompassing Polk County, Marion County, and the capital city of Salem, is situated in the heart of the vast Willamette Valley. Downtown Salem offers a bustling, walkable downtown rich in history. The majority of meetings and events are held in the Salem Convention Center that has lodging available at the adjoining Grand Hotel.

“It’s a very approachable area,” says Kara Kuh, deputy marketing officer for Travel Salem. And “20 minutes outside of town, you have rolling hills and farmland and wineries, and some really accessible outdoor recreation like waterfall hikes.”

Boasting nearly 50 wineries nearby, visitors can explore the vineyards year-round. “A lot of them have fireplaces and cozy indoor setups because we are [in] a cooler climate that has a longer rainy season than other places,” says Kuh. While guests may need to bundle up a bit, these small- to medium-sized wineries offer a variety of personalized experiences, from tastings to ATV tours, and comfortable places to sit back and relax.

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