Outdoors

Craig Hill: 15 ways for skiers to make the most of ‘event season’

After hucking off a rock, a skier falls during his run in the finals of a Freeride World Tour qualifier competition held on Silver King at Crystal Mountain last March.
After hucking off a rock, a skier falls during his run in the finals of a Freeride World Tour qualifier competition held on Silver King at Crystal Mountain last March. Staff file, 2016

Tiana Anderson calls March and April “event season.”

It’s the part of the ski season when almost every weekend is packed with extra entertainment for those heading to the slopes. There are parties, demo days, races, world-class freeskiing competitions and pond skimming.

“It’s always a fun time,” said Anderson, Crystal Mountain’s marketing director.

This stretch is also a long goodbye to the ski season, but as Kathleen Goyette of White Pass says, “it’s been a great season and we still have a long way to go.”

The highlight of any skiing event, however, should be good snow. And there’s been plenty of that this season. The most recent (Feb. 15) Northwest Avalanche Center snow-depth totals show Crystal Mountain (60 inches) and the Summit at Snoqualmie (83) with normal snowpacks while White Pass (55) is 104 percent of normal.

“People are definitely responding to fresh snow,” Goyette said. The resort drew an estimated crowd of more than 1,000 on Feb. 21, more than three times what the ski area draws on a typical Tuesday.

For a season that seems poised for a strong finish, events season is a nice bonus. Here’s a look at some highlights:

FREERIDE COMPS

March 2-5, Crystal

March 25, Alpental

Some of the best junior skiers and snowboarders in the country will compete on some of the area’s toughest terrain. Competitors pick gnarly lines through the trees and over cliffs and are judged on technique, control and style.

WINTER CARNIVAL

March 4-5, White Pass

One of the oldest Northwest skiing traditions turns 31 this year. The two-day Winter Carnival is White Pass’ largest event and includes live music, fireworks, competitions, a poker run, a prime rib dinner and the traditional snow castle. The castle is large enough for kids to walk inside and explore. On March 11, the snow structure is turned into a miniature terrain park for an event called Castle Jam.

FORMAL DAY

March 11, Crystal

Grab your cummerbunds and gowns, it’s time redo your prom with another entertainingly awkward experience. At Crystal’s Ski Prom, visitors hit the slopes in formal attire. Organizers are encouraging participants to err in the direction of goofiness when picking attire. Dresses with taffeta sleeves and glitter bow ties are a few of their recommendations. Prizes and contests will be held on the slopes and a party with live music and dancing starts on the sun deck after the lifts close.

WINTERFEST

March 11-12, The Summit

A busy weekend at the Summit includes Subaru WinterFest, at which visitors can eat s’mores, drink coffee, sample new gear and pet an avalanche dog. At Alpental on March 11, skiers and snowboarders can participate in a demo day ($59-89). On March 14, Summit East will host a snow-skate competition called the Serpentine Massacre.

SKI RACING

March 11, Crystal

Gold Hills will be turned into a race course for the day as young skiers compete in the 21st Sallie McNabb Giant Slalom. The race is named for a longtime Crystal Mountain Alpine Club volunteer.

MARCH OF THE KING

March 17, Crystal

“A lot of people know their (personal record) for how long it takes them to get from the top of Chair 6 to the top of The King (Silver King),” Anderson said. “Now they can see how that compares to other people.” Competitors pay a $20 entry fee then, starting in 1-2 minute intervals, race across the mountain ridges in hopes of claiming cash prizes. The top three finishers get $750, $500 and $250 respectively. Very little skiing is required during the race, but only experts should enter because double diamond runs are the only way to get back to the lodge after the race.

HOPE ON THE SLOPES

March 18, White Pass

This traditional ski-athon is getting downsized in an effort to be accessible to more people. Instead of a 24-hour competition, this year’s Hope on the Slopes will be contained to the resort’s regular operating hours. Hope on the Slopes, founded by Tacoma’s David Ludwig, raises money for the American Cancer Society. Awards will be given to the skiers who can rack up the most vertical feet and to those who raise the most money. Stevens Pass is hosting a 24-hour version of the event that wraps up Sunday (Feb. 26).

DUMMY DOWNHILL

March 18, Mission Ridge

For 17 years, Mission Ridge has lured visitors from around the Northwest for its annual celebration of gravity and creativity. Dummy Downhill participants build a skiing or snowboarding dummy then shove them downhill toward a ramp. Whichever flies the farthest wins its builder a season pass for next season.

HEMISPHERE CHAMPIONSHIPS

March 21-24, Crystal

After hosting the Freeride World Qualifier last season, Crystal’s Silver King will be the site of a bigger competition this year. Some of the world’s best skiers will take on the steep slopes in the International Freeskiers and Snowboarders Association’s Northern Hemisphere Championships. Once again, spots in the world championships will be on the line.

HIGH CLASS AND A DITCH

April 8, White Pass

A pair of early April events at White Pass couldn’t be much different: Stunt Ditch and High Class at White Pass. Stunt Ditch is a freestyle event held in a hand-built pipe near the resort’s terrain park. The event ($18-$38 registration fee) includes a DJ, barbecue and a beer garden. In the evening, the resort hosts an Italian-style dinner and wine tasting ($35). High Class at White Pass is a fundraiser for the resort’s ski patrol.

POND SKIMS

April 15, White Pass

April 16, Stevens Pass

Few activities celebrate the transition from ski season to summer like pond skimming. Skiers and snowboarder race down a slope toward a shallow pool of frigid water then try to skim across the surface without falling. In its second year, White Pass’ swimsuit-clad pond skimmers raise money for the ski patrol.

EASTER

April 16, Crystal, White Pass

Crystal’s traditional sunrise Easter service requires an early arrival to catch the gondola up the mountain. Ticket booth opens at 5:45 a.m. and the gondola operates until 6:20 a.m. The service starts at 6:35 and sunrise is at 6:55. This year’s service will be outdoors. Skiing and snowboarding is not allowed after the service and visitors must download on the gondola. When the resort opens at 9 a.m., the Easter Bunny will hit the slopes handing out candy to anybody who can catch him (or her).

At White Pass, the resort will be used for a massive Easter egg hunt.

DEMO DAY

March 25, Crystal

For $20, skiers and snowboarders can spend the day sampling 2017-18 gear on the slopes at Crystal. At least 15 manufacturers are expected to be at the event. Registration opens at 8 a.m. Participants are limited to two runs per set of gear. Bring your own boots and poles.

FREE SKIING

April 3-9, 49 Degrees North

Easily the best deal in the Northwest, the state’s second-largest ski area lets visitors ski free during the last week of the season. The cost is underwritten by Toyota. The only catch for South Sound skiers and boarders is that a road trip is required. 49 Degrees North is located north of Spokane, more than 330 miles away.

BIKINI DOWNHILL

April 22, Crystal

In its sixth year, the Bikini Downhill has become a signature spring skiing event. Men race in Speedos-style suits or board shorts while women wear bikinis or one-piece suits. Participants race five at a time with winners advancing to the finals where they race for a 2017-18 season ticket. Registration opens in early April.

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