With snow falling in the mountains, it’s time to start waxing your snowboard, tuning your skis and dreaming of the impending season.
The heart of Washington’s ski industry is in the Cascades.
Here, skiers and snowboarders can find the state’s six most popular ski areas, each offering something a little different. There are the learner-focused programs at the Summit at Snoqualmie, intermediate runs galore at White Pass, the challenging double diamonds of Crystal Mountain and Stevens Pass, the deep snow of Mount Baker and the extra-fluffy powder of Mission Ridge.
There are more ski areas worth exploring in Washington but, for most, the Big Six have plenty to keep you entertained all winter.
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While ski season is close, the deadline to get a discount on season passes at these resorts is even closer.
Here’s a closer look:
Since the unveiling of the Mount Rainier Gondola in 2011, Crystal has become a four-season resort capable of whisking skiers to the upper mountain where they can shred the last remnants of snow. In the past, the resort has offered skiing as late as July 16.
FAMOUS FOR: Steep, challenging backcountry runs such as Silver King attract skiers from all over.
APRÈS: The Snorting Elk Cellar is a legendary evening experience. Order a pizza, sandwich, schnitzel or ask the barkeep to load up the shot skis.
Lift Tickets: TBA. (2016-17 prices: $74, $50 youth (11-15) and seniors (70 and older), juniors 10 and younger are free. Prices include tax.)
Season Pass: $825 ages 16-69, $625 ages 11-15, $475 seniors (70 and older), $25 children (0-10). Rates increase on Nov. 4
Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Terrain: 2,300 acres serviced by lifts, 1,300 acres of backcountry, 400-foot long half pipe.
Trails: 57 runs (11 percent beginner, 54 percent intermediate, 35 percent advanced).
Summit Elevation: 7,012 feet.
Base Elevation: 4,400 feet.
Vertical Drop: 3,100 feet including backcountry return.
Annual Snowfall: 385 inches.
Snow Line: 888-754-6199.
Summit at Snoqualmie
Traditionally the state’s most popular ski resort, the Summit has four ski areas and each draws a different crowd. Summit West and Summit Central are base camp for more than 500 ski and snowboard instructors. Central also houses the massive Central Park terrain park. Summit East is open weekends and offers a collection of intermediate and more difficult runs, including the Summit’s longest cruisers.
The most challenging terrain is across Interstate 90 at Alpental. Packed with double-diamond runs, Alpental is also a launching point for backcountry adventures. The Summit has one of the largest night skiing operations in the Northwest and additional lights were recently added to Alpental.
FAMOUS FOR: The Summit offers some of the state’s best steep skiing at Alpental, and it also is where most Northwest skiers and snowboarders learn their sports. Summit Central and Summit West combine to make the state’s largest learning center.
APRÈS: Located at the foot of Summit West, The Commonwealth builds 906 Burgers with Washington ground beef and Oregon cheese. Or try the pan-seared steelhead with asparagus if you’re looking for something healthier.
Lift Tickets: TBA. (2016-17 rates: $66-74, $45-50 youth (7-12) and seniors (62-69), $15 children (6 and younger) and seniors (70 and older). Prices include tax.)
Season Pass: $499, $329 youth (7-12) and seniors (62-69), $89 children (6 and younger) and seniors (70 and older), $409 teens (13-18). Prices do not include tax. Prices increase on Nov. 7.
Night Skiing: TBA. (2016-17 rates: $45, $40 youth (7-12) and seniors (62-69), $15 children (6 and younger) and seniors (70 and older).) 15 lifts open at night.
Hours: 9 a.m.-10 p.m.
Terrain: 1,981 acres serviced by lifts. Terrain parks. 523 acres of backcountry.
Trails: 65 runs (14 percent beginner, 45 percent intermediate, 41 percent advanced).
Summit Elevation: 5,450 feet at Alpental, 3,765 feet at Summit West.
Base Elevation: 3,140 feet at Alpental, 3,000 feet at Summit West.
Vertical Drop: 2,310 feet at Alpental, 765 feet at Summit West.
Annual Snowfall: 444 inches.
Cross-Country: 50 kilometers accessed via the Summit East’s Keechelus or the Summit Central’s Silver Fir chair.
Snow Line: 206-236-1600.
There are few places in the Northwest where skiers and snowboarders can rack up as much vertical as they can riding White Pass’ Great White Express. The lift hauls passengers up 1,500 feet in about 7 minutes. Once on top there are many options for getting back down, including some of the resort’s best tree runs.
FAMOUS FOR: White Pass is probably best known for being the home of twins and Olympic skiing medalist Phil and Steve Mahre, but it also has a reputation as a family-friendly resort. That reputation grew with its 2010 expansion that added 767 acres of mostly intermediate terrain.
APRÈS: A large Cruiser’s Special at Packwood’s beloved Cruisers Pizza will set you back $30, but this meat-covered behemoth is an ideal way to cap a day on the slopes.
Lift Tickets: TBA. (2016-17 rates: $63 for first ticket of season/$58 for additional tickets, $43/$38 juniors 7-15; $5/free 6 and younger and 73 and older.)
Season Pass: $579 ages 17-72, $359 ages 9-16, $20 ages 8 and younger and 73 and older. Prices do not include tax. Prices increase on Nov. 1.
Night Skiing: $28/$23, 4-9 p.m., during holidays and on Saturdays through early March.
Hours: 8:45 a.m.-4 p.m.
Terrain: 1,402 acres serviced by lifts.
Trails: 45 runs (30 percent beginner, 50 percent intermediate, 20 percent advanced/expert).
Summit Elevation: 6,500 feet.
Base Elevation: 4,500 feet.
Vertical Drop: 2,000.
Annual Snowfall: 350 inches.
Cross-Country: 18 kilometers of trails.
Snow Line: 509-672-3100.
Stevens Pass has a reputation for being a well-rounded mountain and perhaps that’s why it draws some of the biggest crowds in the Northwest. Traditionally the state’s second-busiest ski area (behind the Summit at Snoqualmie), skiers can find plenty of beginner terrain, intermediate runs and expert steeps. In fact, in some places you can string all of those things together into one long run.
The terrain park is one of the best in the Northwest, and so, too, is the backcountry for those who have the skills.
Make sure to visit classic runs like Wild Katz, 7th Heaven and Andromeda Face.
FAMOUS FOR: Challenging terrain (both in-bounds and out) and the Top Phlight Terrain Park make Stevens a classic destination for skiers and snowboarders.
APRÈS: The Foggy Goggle has a solid sandwich selection and offers live music on some Saturday evenings.
Lift Tickets: $79, $53 youth (7-15), $20 seniors (70 and older), free for children (6 and younger). Prices include tax and are reduced on non-Holiday weekdays and non-peak weekends.
Season Pass: $649 ages 16-69, $429 ages 7-15, $129 ages 70 and older and free for children 6 and younger. Prices do not include tax. Prices increase when limited number of discounted tickets sell out.
Night Skiing: $40, $35 youth (7-12), $15 seniors (70 and older), free for children (6 and younger). Prices include tax. Six lifts run at night.
Hours: 9 a.m.-10 p.m.
Terrain: 1,125 acres serviced by lifts including a 25-acre terrain park.
Trails: 37 (11 percent beginner, 54 percent intermediate, 35 percent advanced).
Summit Elevation: 5,845 feet.
Base Elevation: 4,061 feet.
Vertical Drop: 1,784 feet.
Annual Snowfall: 450 inches.
Cross-Country: 28 kilometers.
Snow Line: 206-634-1645.
Mission Ridge claims to get more sunny days than Western Washington resorts. While its location on the eastern slope of the mountains means it also gets less snow, but when it does have powder days, the snow is usually much fluffier than it is on the West Side.
FAMOUS FOR: A wing from a B-24 bomber that crashed in the area in 1944 is displayed above Bomber Bowl at Mission Ridge. Local lore states that rubbing the wing will ensure a good snow year.
APRÈS: Western Washington’s influence on Wenatchee is obvious if you visit Pybus Market on the river. Its “Public Market” sign bears an uncanny resemblance to the sign at Seattle’s Pike Place Market. Grab a burger and a scoop of gelato.
Lift Tickets: $69, $59 young adult (18-24), $49 youth (10-17), $20 senior (70 and older), $7 children (9 and younger).
Season Pass: $519. $399 youth and young adult (10-17), $45 children (9 and younger), $129 masters (70 and older). Prices increase when limited number of discounted tickets sell out.
Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Thursdays-Mondays.
Terrain: 900 acres including a 3.5-acre terrain park, the highest in the state at 6,400 feet.
Trails: 36 runs (10 percent beginner, 60 percent intermediate, 30 percent advanced).
Summit Elevation: 6,820.
Base Elevation: 4,570.
Vertical Drop: 2,250.
Annual Snowfall: 135 inches.
Cross-Country: 10 miles of trails located 4 miles away at Squilchuck State Park.
Snow Line: 509-663-3200.
Warm up on White Salmon, then take a few cruiser runs on Daytona before deciding just how much you want to challenge yourself. Find steep terrain in The Canyon or, if you have the training, gear and a partner, explore the famous backcountry.
Mount Baker is the starting point for the annual Ski to Sea Relay (May 27). The seven-event team race opens with cross-country and alpine skiing legs in the ski area before the third participant begins the journey to Bellingham with an 8-mile run. Additional legs include road biking, canoeing, cyclocross and kayaking.
FAMOUS FOR: Deep snow. No ski area in the Northwest gets more snow thanks to a constant barrage of moisture-packed fronts coming in from the Strait of Juan de Fuca. And the annual Legendary Banked Slalom is a celebration of snowboarding draws competitors ranging from local athletes to Olympic Gold Medalists. Maelle Ricker, an Olympic gold medalist for Canada in 2010, won the women’s LBS 2007-2013. Two-time U.S. Olympic gold medalist Seth Wescott won the 2013 race but finished third in 2014.
APRÈS: Seafood with pasta is a popular order at Milano’s Restaurant and Bar, located about 19 miles down state Route 542 from the ski area.
Lift Tickets: $61, $40 youth (11-15), $30 child (7-10), $53 seniors (60-69), $40 super seniors (70 and older), children 6 and younger are free. Fifth-graders can also register online to ski free. Prices include sales tax. Prices reduced on weekdays.
Season Pass: $730, $625 full-time college student, $495 ages 16-17, $285 ages 13-15, $210 ages 7-12; $435 ages 60-69, $125 ages 70 and older. Prices include tax. Prices increase on Nov. 4.
Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Terrain: 1,000 acres serviced by lifts including a half pipe and a terrain park.
Trails: 50 runs (24 percent beginner, 45 percent intermediate, 31 percent advanced).
Summit Elevation: 5,050 feet.
Base Elevation: 4,300 feet main base; 3,590 feet lower base.
Vertical Drop: 1,460 feet.
Annual Snowfall: 647 inches.
Cross-Country: 4 kilometers and backcountry trails
Snow Line: 360-671-0211.