Summit at Snoqualmie
The Summit at Snoqualmie is a huge park that showcases some of the most varied skiing in the Northwest. And it should; after all, it used to be four separate ski areas before it was combined into one resort. Now there is nearly 2000 acres of skiing across Alpental, and East, Central, and West Summits. Each has their own lifts, vertical, and trail mix. After all, this isn’t like your typical multiple peak resort with one large peak and several lower peaks. The Summit stretches for close to five miles along the highest pass on I-90. All just an hour’s drive from Seattle.
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Alpental has some of the steepest terrain and best bowls and glades here. There is one green rated trail at Alpental, and three intermediates. The rest are crazy single and double blacks. And those are just the named trails. The Alpental Back Bowls don’t have any named trails or lifts. Just three gates to give you “at your own risk” access to crazy chutes, rock lined steeps and cliff areas that will gift you with drop ins that you’ll never find anywhere else. There are five lifts here with one high-speed quad that takes you up to a dizzying 4400-foot altitude so you can take another double up another 1200 feet to the top of the Edelweiss Bowl. The vert at Alpental is 2280 feet, and if you’re crazy enough, you can take the entire thing in one fell swoop. The double black International will take you around the sheer cliff faces (which are permanently closed) and all the way back down to the base.
Summit Central is a little tamer than Alpental with a 1025 foot vertical and a peak elevation of 3865 feet. Nine lifts sprawl across the park with three separate lifts taking you to the ridge top. The ski area’s top is a ridge, so the park is wide instead of narrow, but that just means there’s so much west coast bowl skiing to be had. Two freestyle parks mix it up with four novice, nine intermediate, and twelve expert trails. There are also four expert gladed chutes that can be accessed from near the drop off for the Triple 60.
Summit east peaks at Mt. Hyak with a peak elevation of 3710 feet and a fun vertical of 1100 feet. There are three lifts here at the smallest section of The Summit. The trail mix is a little more even with five novice, eight intermediate, and seven advanced runs. Summit East has two halves, the frontside and the backside. The front has easy cruisers along the outside edge, with difficult ramping up as you get closer to the midline. The backside is much the same way with Solitude, a beginner-rated cruiser skirting around the edge and Eclipse, a fast steep on the opposite side. Keep in mind that East is usually only open on weekends, however.
Summit West has a peak elevation of 3765 feet and a sedate vertical of 765 feet. There are six chairs and two surface lifts here get people around the two novice, six intermediate, and five advanced trails. Like the rest of the Summit, most of the terrain is wide open with only changes in pitch really making the difference between a blue and a black. This area is a fun place to explore with your family while the kids are getting used to skis. However, once they can handle the intermediate Dodge Ridge, you’ll want to move to Central and start exploring trails off the Trip 60 lift.
The Bottom Line
A lot of territory to ski and a lot of snow every year, all within an hour of Seattle? Yes. Although the lodges and base facilities are pretty basic, The Summit isn’t a destination resort. Additionally, with The Summit located on a major interstate, it’s always easy to get to. While this does mean that there can be crowds, most head to Alpental and tend to ignore Central. Even then, there’s rarely a wait for a chair. As stated, there are really no apres-ski activities aside from basic cafeteria-style lodges. But the locals are always friendly and the snow is as perfect as you could want. If you’re on a week vacation, you won’t regret the days you spend at the Summit.