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Oregon: Sunriver, Winter Family Fun - Skiing, Snowshoeing, and Making Cowboy Snowmen. Making a snowman that also looks like a cowboy is a daunting task but at Sunriver, the land of Kit Carson and pioneer legends, the idea makes perfect sense.

Here's the scoop. Veteran snowman builders may now build snow people but the techniques remain the same, and identity sensitivity is essential. During every creation the rolling snow takes on its own personality. With patience and endurance it is possible to make a likeness of grandpa or pay homage to the “Wild West”  by creating a cowboy or cowgirl, or both. On holiday in Oregon the options for fun are plenty but snow-person building is at the top of the list.

Possibilities for unique experiences exist in many forms and yet it is the perfect place to do absolutely nothing and not feel guilty. Assembled below are a few ideas for families in vacation mode.

Track on snowshoes. During the winter months Wanderlust Tours conducts daily escorted snowshoeing excursions guaranteed to provide memories for a lifetime.  Their Natural/Cultural History Snowshoe Tours depart daily 9am and 1pm. More intriguing for older kids, the full moon snowshoe excursions conducted monthly based on, guess what? The moon.  Naturalist guides who provide interpretation of the area and its uniqueness on the planet lead the snowshoeing adventures. Sound boring? It’s not. They love Sunriver and snow and convey that energy to the excursions.

Try snow tubing.
 For a high-energy day snow tubing is the choice of every 10-year-old and every 10-year-old wanna-be. It is always tops on the family fun scale because almost everyone can do it. The Mt. Bachelor Snowblast Tubing Park provides multiple lanes and a wild ride complete with twists, turns and rolls. From the top there are several sculpted lanes from which to choose, all designed to be fun. For any parent still feeling the tension of work try tubing with your kid, laughing comes naturally. ( Mt. Bachelor, Bend. Toll-free 1-800-829-2442, (541) 382-7888 or www.mtbachelor.com)

Walk the lava beds. The Northwest Interpretive Association conducts snowshoe nature walks led by Forest Service volunteers. The walks are free of charge but lift tickets may be needed for Alpine routes. This is an excellent way to gain a sense of place and try out the idea of snowshoeing at the same time. Participants meet with a naturalist outside the West Village Bachelor Ski & Sport Shop for a one-hour, one-mile walk. Best of all the snowshoes are provided. The program is available to those 10 years of age and older. They also conduct snowshoeing walks at Lava Lands beginning each January. (www.nps.gov/joda)

Trace cross-country trails. Another energy burn, navigating the cross-country trails, easy to do with a Mountain Pass. The trails are groomed and marked and lead through the beautiful Deschutes National Forest. Snowshoers also use the same trails. This newly discovered family activity looks easier than it is and is more fun than it looks. Just rent the shoes, step outside and start shoeing. Laughing and heavy breathing will follow. (www.fs.usda.gov/centraloregon)

Ride with the dogs. When it seems more appealing to expend less effort, yet experience the richness of the area, then dog sledding is high on the family adventure list. Combining dogs and snow and fresh air makes for fun, no matter the age. In Sunriver "Oregon Trail of Dreams" Dog Sled Rides provides journeys through the Deschutes National Forest. In the distance Mt. Bachelor, Broken Top and the Three Sisters provide the perfect wilderness backdrop for a movie. The one-hour rides include an orientation and a chance to participate in the care and feeding of the dogs. For young children there is a mini ride that lasts about 10 minutes. Dog kisses are free. (Oregon Trail of Dreams Dog Sled Rides. Toll-free 1-800-829-2442 or www.visitbend.com)

Have a llama encounter. A unique day outing that is just as much fun as meeting sled dogs, llama encounters will delight all ages. At Halligan Ranch visitors may have an authentic hands-on experience that includes petting, leading, grooming and obstacle course. Located north of Bend in Redmond, the ranch has more than fifty resident llamas of varying ages and sizes. Kids of all ages have an opportunity to lead a llama on a hike through sagebrush, Juniper trees, hay fields and irrigated pastureland. (Llama Encounters. Halligan Ranch. 9020 S. Hwy. 97, Redmond. (541) 389-6855 or www.halliganranch.com)

Ride the horses. Yet another snow time animal encounter is possible at Sunriver Stables. Located on the west side of Sunriver along the Deschutes River they provide guided trail rides, weather permitting all year long. The length and time on the trail depends on the desires and skills of the riders. The Sunriver guides like kids and horses and make all ages feel at home. For the youngest family members not yet trail ready, they offer pony rides. (Sunriver Stables, 17600 Center Dr. Sunriver. (541) 593-6995 or www.sunriver-resort.com)

Enjoy the High Desert Museum.
For a morning out the High Desert Museum is ideal. Located thirteen miles north of Sunriver on Highway 97, this is a world class participatory museum with a wide variety of indoor and outdoor exhibits and presentations on nature, art, science and history. Indoor exhibits feature walk-through dioramas on the history of the American West. Also inside is the Desertarium showcasing bats, kangaroo rats, burrowing owls and other small and seldom seen animals of the region. Live animal presentations feature river otter, porcupine and birds of prey. (High Desert Museum. Located thirteen miles north of Sunriver on US97, 59800 S. Highway 97, Bend. (541) 382-4754 or www.highdesertmuseum.org)

Ride the train. Crooked River Dinner Train provides another great family outing with a modern-day moving tribute to frontier spirit.  Located on Highway 20 in Sisters, the 1800's Western themed dinner train features characters from the Wild West. Journey back in time as the staff on board entertains with living history vignettes and a glimpse of frontier life when Oregon was a territory. (The Crooked River Dinner Train. Located approximately 20 miles west of Bend on Highway 20 in Redmond. (541) 548-3230 or crookedriverdinnertrain.com)

Content and images courtesy of Sunriver Resort. TUpdated Copyright 2014.
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