The Crux Series - Mt. Bachelor with Josh Dirksen
The Crux Series is a collection of interviews with climbers and riders that have a wealth of knowledge about each of the peaks in our glasses. We explore their experiences with the mountain and specifically what the crux of the climb was for them. In this instance we talk about the crux of the perfect day at Mt. Bachelor with the local legend, Josh Dirksen.
Josh has been a professional snowboarder for over 20 years and has made Mt. Bachelor his home. His local knowledge of Mt. Bachelor and the surrounding area is unparalleled. Josh’s commitment to fundraising and supporting the local community, with the Dirksen Derby at Mt. Bachelor, has created an iconic kickoff to every season.
Known for his flowing, iconic riding style Josh has driven equipment innovation with both Salomon and Patagonia for over a decade. North Drinkware was fortunate to work with Josh and Salomon on the 2020 Super 8 design and continue to support the Dirksen Derby with custom trophies in collaboration with Mike Dirksen, Josh’s dad, every year. We connect with Josh to dive deeper into his connection to Mt. Bachelor and the surrounding cascade mountains.
WHAT IS YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH MT. BACHELOR?
My mom and dad grew up in Oregon. I grew up in Creswell - a small town south of Eugene. I grew up snowboarding at Willamette Pass, unfortunately they are not open very often any more...they just don’t get the snow. When I got my license I moved to South Eugene and went to South Eugene High School and that’s where I met all my skateboard and snowboard buddies including, Jason McAlister. When we graduated, in 1994, Jason and I moved over to Bend together for the big mountain of Mt. Bachelor with the highest elevation, the best snow and quickest access to the mountain on any day.
Over the years I’ve learned to appreciate how special Mt. Bachelor is compared to every other mountain, and I think it shows in my snowboarding. In pro snowboarding it’s important to find a way to be different, and Mt. Bachelor has really set my unique style of riding that has proven to stand the test of time. There's a lot of little jumps, a lot of turning, and a lot of working for speed. The mountain features relate closely to the cement skateparks that are all over Oregon, where you have to work for speed to get your tricks. It’s all about how well you can ride the terrain and less about having the guts to jump off the biggest thing around. I have really appreciated how Mt. Bachelor has set my style of riding making me a more unique rider in the world of snowboarding.
I’ve been riding Mt. Bachelor for a long, long time. Even when we lived by Eugene we’d come over to ride Bachelor, so a quick guess would be that I’ve ridden Bachelor for the past 30 years. Having all of those days at the mountain really pays off at Bachelor. Most people who ride Bachelor the first day have a hard time. They think it’s flat, and that there's not a lot going on but, the more you ride it you get to know what to look for and where to hold your speed and where the good jumps and lines are. The way we ride the mountain are not on the set runs but zig zagging around the mountain to different jumps. I’m really lucky to have nearly 2,000 days riding Mt. Bachelor, and I know where to zig and where to zag, and what board to ride and what wax works. It’s pretty common for me to ride a 172cm board at Mt. Bachelor to hold speed across the flats and to get across deep sections to hit all of the jumps on the good days.
It’s really satisfying to know that after understanding the mountain so well, after all of those days, I can really appreciate the mountain more than most. Now, the mountain feels like a good friend, one you don’t even need to talk to to know what they’re thinking. It feels like home. It’s the place that has set my style of riding everywhere else I go. If I go to Alaska there is still Mt. Bachelor riding in me and it shows through.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE FEATURES ON MT. BACHELOR?
Mt. Bachelor is known for its natural features. It’s set up with a unique orientation, the storms come off the Pacific Ocean and blast into Mt. Bachelor hard, with a lot of wet snow and wind which really forms up some amazing transitions. On one side of the mountain it’s mostly left side waves, and on the other side it’s mostly right side waves, thanks to the wind and wet snow. People talk about great days being champagne powder, but the best days at Bachelor are 4 inches of 30°F snow. That way you can stay on top of it, keep your speed but it’s deep enough to sink into. We don’t look for those 2 foot deep days, those are the days where you really have to plan your line, have a big board and make sure your wax is good. It’s the average days that are spectacular at Mt. Bachelor. My buddy, Jason McAlister once said that riding Bachelor on a good day is “The best 4in powder day you’ll ever have!” It’s just so special how the snow forms into perfect transitions and waves all across the mountain.
The best features change based on the snow and the wind. There are jumps like No-Name and, Zimmermans that are always good but based on the snow, temperature and wind they are good on different days. Everybody's favorite at Mt. Bachelor is Northwest, it’s where it’s the most wind affected and the most featured terrain. Over on the other side of the mountain off of Cloudchaser, I call it a retirement plan, there is not as much wind affected snow and more traditional pow runs, which are what you look for on more mellow days. But, the west side of the mountain, with the bigger wind lips, is really where the fun begins.
CAN YOU SHARE MORE ABOUT YOUR DERBY EVENT?
I started the Dirksen Derby in 2007 as a fundraiser for our buddy Tyler Eklund who was injured with no health insurance. It started out of inspiration from the Baker Banked Slalom which I’ve been going to for about 30 years or so ( winning it in 2018, we might add ) and wanted to do something like that at Mt. Bachelor. There are some big differences though. We hold the event in mid December and usually have about only 20in of snowpack. We hand build every berm and farm snow to get it to come together so we can style the terrain. I really try to make that course represent the style of Bachelor riding. Snowboarding doesn’t have to be scary, or full on to be fun or challenging. I enjoy seeing the top riders win the race. It’s not just who charges the hardest, it’s about who's the best at snowboarding. I work hard to bring that out in my race, and I think it’s a perfect reflection of what riding at Bachelor is like.
We get a great turnout from the snowboarding community, it’s early season and feels like a family reunion. You get to see your friends, and talk about what you're going to try to do that year. It’s a nice warm up to the season. We’ve raised money not just for Tyler but for Protect Our Winters and Oregon Adaptive Sports. It’s fun to raise money for good causes, organize this event, and to show off my home mountain.
RATHER THAN TALKING ABOUT THE CRUX OF MT. BACHELOR, LET’S TALK ABOUT WHAT A PERFECT DAY THERE WOULD BE FOR YOU.
My perfect day would be a little bit warmer temperature, so the snow sticks to the natural features all the way to the top of summit. You could say that 4 or 5 chairlift rides is the perfect day at Mt. Bachelor if you end up at the right chair at the perfect time. The mountain has so much weather, and rime ice to manage that the operations teams first work hard to get one lift open, then go on to the next and the next. With that, the mountain doesn’t open all at once so timing is critical. If you’re in the right place at the right time you get a run in on that chair and then head to the next chair while everyone else is coming over to where you just were.
My perfect pack of runs at Mt. Bachelor would be riding up Pine Marten early, and having Outback open up quickly, and I’d then drop in towards Outback. Then, hearing that Northwest is going to open I’d ride from the top of Outback to Northwest and take a run out there. Then, hearing that Summit is going to open, I’d head up Northwest and traverse over to Summit to head to the top. Anyone’s perfect day includes riding off the top at Mt. Bachelor, which means you’d get to ride the Summit chair, and is always special. Once at the summit you have the choice to ride down any side of the mountain, a full 360°, with catch lines bringing you back to reality and other chairs on the mountain. Once you’re up there you feel like you’re exploring pretty quickly. From the top I’d drop off the South side, where you can be alone pretty quick. On that side of the mountain it’s all right side wind-lips and waves, which changes it up as most of the wind lips on the other side of the mountain are left sides, that makes it exciting. I’d then traverse back to Northwest and head up, traverse back to the Pine Marten Lodge to drink a coffee.
HOW HAS YOUR SNOWBOARDING EVOLVED OVER THE YEARS?
As the years have gone on I’ve got into splitboarding more. The idea of going to places that people can’t get to, and not having to panic to get the good snow on the mountain, has been fun. In the Sisters Mountains, around Mt. Bachelor there is similar terrain, that I’m used to riding, but only splitboard access. We go out there and camp to spend a few days accessing really special terrain.
I also love the fitness side of splitboarding. Touring to the top, feeling warmed up and healthy and then taking a run feels so good. In the past I’ve been on heli trips where you get out of bed at the hotel, climb in the heli and drop into your run. No warm up and no getting ready, just game-on! As I’ve gotten older I appreciate being ready, being prepared mentally and physically.
I’ve also evolved into more family days too. It’s really easy to ride Mt. Bachelor with the family. My daughter is 7 and she can pretty much ride anywhere she wants which makes it a perfect family mountain.
WE HAVE LOTS OF OTHER CASCADE MOUNTAINS IN OUR GLASSES, DO YOU HAVE ANY EXPERIENCE ON MOUNT ST. HELENS?
Yeah, when I was filming jumping that used to be a really popular spot. We went to St. Helens all the time with Mack Dawg. That was a long time ago, but we’d head out there to massive gullies and make big step down jumps into them. Low speed takeoffs and you’d drop for 100ft and if you don’t land you rag-doll for another 500ft to the bottom. It’s probably why my neck is sore to this day! There was also a famous quarterpipe, from my perspective, up there on Mount St. Helens were a lot of influential tricks went down. Kurt Heine, a snowboard filming legend, used to organize the trips to St. Helens in the spring when the weather got better and the days got longer.
WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU’RE NOT RIDING BACHELOR?
I skateboard, I surf, I stand sideways. When I was young, I skateboard a lot and then I got into surfing. As I’ve gotten older surfing is definitely appealing, the low impact and getting washed around. The travel to waves is also a really cool part of the surfing experience. It gets you to some really cool places and cool cultures. I really appreciate staying in shape and road bike a lot. I didn’t like it as much as a kid but I really enjoy it these days, zoning out and staying balanced. When I was young, all I did was skateboard and snowboard and my back leg was probably twice as big as my front leg! As I get older, yoga and biking are a way to make sure both legs are the same size and I stay balanced and make me feel good everyday.
THANKS FOR THE TIME JOSH, WE HOPE TO SEE YOU ON THE MOUNTAIN SOON.