2005 | Go east, you skiers

November 6, 2005 

"People are still discovering us," says Mark Milliette, general manager of Mission Ridge Ski Resort. The resort is located on the eastern flanks of the Cascade Mountains and was open for 49 days during last year's ski season.

CHRISTINE T. SMITH/SNOWDRAGON ADVENTURE SHOTS

Olympic slalom skier Tom Rothrock says his favorite ski run in the state is Skookum at Mission Ridge.

How popular is this run?

“Tom loves Skookum because it’s our race hill,” Mission general manager Mark Milliette says of the intermediate run. “He grew up skiing the run and has a lot of good memories there.” On race days, Milliette says, as soon as the gates come down skiers flock to Skookum for uninterrupted top-to-bottom runs.

Since Mission Ridge is located on the eastern flanks of the Cascades, many from the west side never make the trip. How underrated is this ski area?

“We’d prefer not to be underrated,” Milliette said. “People are still discovering us. We have enormous terrain and longer vertical drops than a lot of areas. We are a bigger hill than people from the west side think. Plus, with Wenatchee and Leavenworth so close, we are like a mini-destination resort.”

Speaking of vertical, how does Mission Ridge stack up against the state’s more popular resorts?

The new Chair 2 lift gives Mission Ridge 50 more feet of vertical starting this season. Starting at 6,820 feet, you can take any number of top-to-bottom runs, dropping 2,250 feet. Only Crystal (3,100 feet) and Alpental (2,310) offer more vertical. And nobody in the state has a higher base area than Mission’s, situated at 4,570 feet.

After a down year, most resorts are putting off making big changes. How big of a chance is Mission taking by adding a new lift now?

We’ll have to wait and see, Milliette says. The new detachable quad lift built by Poma of America would have cost $4.1 million. However, Mission dedicated eight employees to work on construction along with one person contracted from Outback Construction in Ashland, Ore. As a result, the lift and the expanded snowmaking cost just under $2.5 million. As a result, adult ticket prices were bumped up only $2 and, Milliette hopes, the risk was minimized.

With the lack of snow last year, how is it Mission managed to stay open for 49 days, more than The Summit (21 days) and White Pass (25) combined?

“We have the most extensive snow-making in the state,” says Milliette. Last year the resort was able to stay open later than most resorts thanks to 13 snow guns. For this season Mission is adding 11 new snow guns and an 18 million-gallon reservoir that should be full by next season. “There are no guarantees,” Milliette said. “But there is a high probability we will be able to open by late November now.”

WHAT’S NEW

Mission Ridge made the biggest changes of any resort this season by replacing Chair 2. The Ridge has also beefed up its snow-making system with the new snow guns and an 18 million-gallon reservoir.

WHAT’S STILL NEW

The Ridge opened Quan, an intermediate run, last season, added more seating to the lodge and increased the size of its ski school to accommodate 30 percent more students.

SURVEY SAYS

 • Best Snow: Readers

 • Best Eastern Washington Resort: Unanimous

NO-SNOW BOARDER

Mission Ridge-based Ryan McDonald, a member of the U.S. Snowboard Team, has discovered how to board on pavement. McDonald recently started cross-training on the T-Board, a skateboard look-alike with just two wheels, and he’s now the primary endorser of the product. Pictures of him riding the T-Board ($205 and up) and video of other riders can be viewed at tierneyrides.com.

RESORT STATS

Lift tickets: $42 general, $35 young adults (13-17), $25 youths (7-12), $25 seniors, $5 children (6 and younger)

Season pass: $449 general, $289 young adults (13-17), $189 youths (7-12), $79 children (6 and younger), $289 seniors (62-69), $229 super seniors (70 and older)

Night skiing: $10; only five planned nights of skiing

Hours: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursdays-Mondays

Terrain: 900 acres including a 3.5-acre terrain park, the highest in the state at 6,400 feet

Lifts: Four two-seat lifts

Trails: 36 runs (10 percent beginner, 60 percent intermediate, 30 percent advanced)

Summit elevation: 6,820 feet

Base elevation: 4,570 feet

Vertical drop: 2,250 feet

Annual snowfall: 135 inches

Cross-country: Ten miles of trails located four miles away at Squilchuck State Park

More info: 1-509-663-6543; snow line 1-509-663-3200; missionridge.com

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