Washington Ski Resorts: Evergreen State Fun
Don’t let Seattle’s relative lack of snow fool you. Just outside of the city lies tremendous snow-covered slopes that provide Washington ski resorts with some of the best, and more underrated, skiing in the entire country. With the Upper Cascades running through the western half of the state, the high peaks take advantage of the moisture-laden air coming in off the Pacific, turning it into buckets of snow. There are eight major Washington ski resorts with a slew of smaller ones scattered across the Cascades.
Washington Ski Resorts
- 49 Degrees North
- Crystal Mountain
- Mission Ridge
- The Summit at Snoqualmie
- Spokane Ski Park
- Mount Baker
- Stevens Pass
- Badger Mountain
- Loup Loup
- Hurricane Ridge
49 Degrees North
49 Degrees North is named for the parallel that forms the border between Canada and the United States. Located just north of Spokane, this ski area has a vertical drop of 1851 feet. There are 75 marked trails that cover 2325 acres of skiing across two peaks, Chewelah and Angel. The longest run is 2.5 miles as the Dutchman winds its way down from Chewelah Peak. Seven lifts provide movement up the mountain with a total capacity of roughly 4000 skiers per hour. 49 degrees features two terrain parks and four separate expert-rated glades for those who like to stretch their limits. Daycare is also available on the weekends at Little Calispell Lodge for kids ages 2 to 10.
Crystal Mountain is located on the southern face of Mt. Rainier and receives about 486 inches of snow every year. It is the largest of the Washington ski resorts with 57 named trails spread over 2600 skiable acres. Nine starting points across the southern ridge provide ample trails of all difficulty levels. If you’re a fan of off-piste skiing, Silver Basin, Avalanche Basin, and Campbell Basin have wide-open bowl skiing with no set lines. There are 11 lifts on Crystal Mountain, with two high-speed quads and a gondola that ferries skiers from the main lodge to the summit house for a full vertical of 2472 feet.
Mission Ridge has over 2000 acres of skiing with a vertical of 2250 feet. Located on the eastern side of Mission Peak near Wenatchee, this resort has 36 designated trails with a difficulty mix of 4 easy, 21 intermediate, and 11 expert. There are six different lifts with a total capacity of 4910 skiers per hour. The liberator Express is the primary quad lift that takes skiers to the summit where intermediate or expert runs await. There are two freestyle parks, glade skiing at Bowl Four. While this region receives just under 260 inches of snow per year, Washington ski resorts are no slouch when it comes to snowmaking equipment. Mission Ridge can cover 66 acres with an 18 million gallon reservoir.
The Summit at Snoqualmie
You better know what you’re getting into with Washington ski resorts. Located east of Seattle on I-90, the Summit at Snoqualmie covers four peaks with a total of 1981 skiable acres. The four peaks are Alpental, Summit Central, Summit West, and Summit East. Alpental has the highest vertical at 2280 feet and the most extreme terrain coming off of the peak. Once you get off the Edelweiss lift, your only way down is a double-black diamond plunge down Adrenalin or a run through the unmarked and unpatrolled Alpental Back Bowls. Summit East offers much of the same, as the path down Mt. Hyak takes you through some amazing open bowl skiing all the way down its 1100-foot drop. For less advanced ski trails, West and Central offer a diverse mix of easy and intermediate runs with a vertical of 765 and1025 feet respectively. There are two terrain parks at The Summit and 25 lifts with a total capacity of 34,490 people per hour. The lines at Snoqualmie are there during the weekends and holidays, but the wait is never long and the people are friendly.
Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park
The Mount Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park was founded in the 1930’s and has since grown into one of the most popular Washington ski resorts, especially in the eastern part of the state. There are 45 runs across 1425 acres of skiable terrain, with a vertical of 2000 feet. The front side of the mountain has four lifts to take you to two destinations. At the peak, near Vista House, there lies a huge expanse of expert rated open terrain, designed to let you carve your own path down the mountain. Whether you take the wide sweeping lines of the South Meadows and No Alibi or the groomed straight run of Two Face, if you’re an expert skier, you’re going to love this mountain. For less experienced skiers, the runs from the top of chair 3 are gently pitched and let you see the view without many worries. When you reach mid-mountain, you can either push into a wide bowl or take the rim and end up back at Lodge 2. There are two terrain parks for extreme enthusiasts, accessible from the top of chair 3, which also opens up the back of the mountain and four expert runs and two intermediate trails.
If you’re looking for one of the Washington ski resorts with deep fresh powder, Mt. Baker is a great choice. This mountain has averaged over 800 inches of snow annually over the past ten years, with nearly five feet falling in April. Located about three hour’s drive north of Seattle, Mt. Baker is famous not only for The Chute (which has you zipping between a pair of cliffs on your way to the base area), but also for its amazing backcountry skiing opportunity. The vertical in park is 1500 feet from the highest lift serviced area to the base, but going off-piste can get you access to neighboring Mount Shuksan, which has thousands of acres open. Remember, if you are going to go backcountry, to take the proper precautions and get the right safety gear. Once you go out of bounds, the area is no longer avalanche prepped or patrolled. For less adventurous skiers, there is still plenty to do. There are 31 marked trails, seven easy, fourteen intermediate, and ten expert. With ten lifts, eight of which are quad chairs, the lines at Baker are never long.
Bluewood is located just north of Walla Walla, close to the border of Oregon. This resort is a little smaller with only 400 skiable acres and 24 trails. Still with a base elevation of 4545 feet above sea level and a vertical of 1125 feet, the view is spectacular. Bluewood has garnered a well-deserved reputation for off-piste skiing, as its glades are amazing. The primary triple chair express lift takes you to the summit where you can pick one of six glades to zip through on your way down. There are also four expert steeps and four cruisers that you can take down the mountain. If you’re just getting your skis used to the snow, there’s an annex with four easy runs and two intermediate cruisers to help you get acclimated. Add three growing terrain parks into the mix and you have something for everyone.
Stevens Pass is located at the crest of the Cascades in between Cowboy and Big Chief Mountains and takes advantage of both peaks to bring the best of glade, bowl, and cruiser skiing to the mix. The vertical from Cowboy is 1784 feet, and 1539 feet from the Big Chief Peak. There are 37 named runs that cover 1125 acres of skiing, with numerous glades and bowls to give you an off-piste experience you won’t forget. The annual snowfall for Stevens pass is 450 inches, with over 100 inches of snow pack. Stevens Pass also has night skiing with six of the ten lifts lit up. As Washington ski resorts go, Stevens Pass doesn’t neglect freestylers, either. There are four terrain parks with half pipes, boxes, bumps and tables aplenty. Back Country access is allowed, but as always, take the appropriate safety precautions and take a buddy.
Badger Mountain isn’t the tallest mountain in Washington, but it is a popular ski destination. This ski area has a lodge, a selection of rentals and a kitchen. Ran by the local Waterville Lions Club, this mountain has a relatively low elevation of 3,145 feet so it takes a little longer to accumulate adequate snowfall. The peak season at Badger Mountain usually doesn’t begin until January. This location is small and is a hidden gem, so there are rarely long lines. This family friendly ski resort is going to let you have a lot of time in the snow.
Loup Loup Ski Bowl is a fabulous family-oriented destination that is open four days of the week during the peak season. This ski resort is operated as a nonprofit volunteer-based organization with an emphasis on growing the love of skiing for today and future generations.
Though it is a small, family-oriented ski area, traveling to Hurricane Ridge can give you a variety of options for a fantastic vacation. This resort is conveniently located in the Olympic National Park. Hurricane Ridge features one of the only remaining lift operations in the National Park. The average snowfall amounts to 400 plus feet of snow and the highest summit elevation is 5,240 feet.