2005 | A place to play

November 6, 2005 

Snowboarders make up about 35 percent of White Pass' clientele. Cross-country skiers rank it among the state's best.


News Tribune readers voted the White Pass Winter Carnival the state’s best event.

How did it get started?

Inspired by winter carnivals held by colleges when he attended the University of New Hampshire, general manager Kevin McCarthy and some friends hatched the idea 20 years ago. The centerpiece is a giant snow castle kids can inner-tube through. The original castles were built by Yakima’s Dave Mahre, who died earlier this year. Because White Pass doesn’t hold many events, it crams everything from demos to ski races into the carnival, which will be March 4-5.

The Vertical Challenge started at White Pass two years ago and seems to be catching on around the nation. How did this event get started?

Tacoma businessman Dave Ludwig came up with the idea for a 24-hour skiing fundraiser for the American Cancer Society as a winter answer to the Relay for Life. The event raised $60,000 the first year and $35,000 last year despite not having enough snow to ski. This year, seven other ski resorts around the nation will host a Vertical Challenge. White Pass’ event is March 11-12.

Why doesn’t White Pass have more freestyle terrain?

While the half pipe and rail garden are popular with freestyle riders, McCarthy is sticking to his old-school guns and fighting the urge to build bigger features. He says 35 percent of his clientele are boarders. “No matter what they say, at the end of the day they love to ride the mountain,” he says.

White Pass’ downhill terrain is often overshadowed by other resorts, but that’s not the case with the Nordic Center. Why is cross-country skiing so good at White Pass?

“I think it has to do with the grooming and the wide trails,” McCarthy says. There are two cross-country tracks as well as a skating track around White Pass Lake. The 18 kilometers of Nordic trails also are open to snowshoeing.

What does the future hold for White Pass?

The U.S. Forest Service has released its draft of the environmental impact statement for White Pass’ proposed expansion and hopes to have it finalized by the end of this season. The expansion would double the amount of terrain without clearing much timber, McCarthy says. White Pass would get two new lifts and a new midmountain lodge.


White Pass would have been open more than 25 days last season if it had better snowmaking ability. So, this year, White Pass added four more snow guns, enough to cover the lower mountain with the man-made stuff. The ski area can now open with as little as 18 inches of snow.


White Pass didn’t make major upgrades before last season after remodeling the lodge before the 2003-2004 season.


 • Best Event: Readers (Winter Carnival)

 • Best Cross-Country Skiing: Readers and TNT


The most famous regulars at White Pass are twin brothers Phil and Steve Mahre. They learned to ski on the mountain and went on to the Olympics. Phil took the gold and Steve took silver in the slalom at the 1984 Sarajevo games. You can watch their winning runs online at mahretrainingcenter.com/gallery/gtkolympicmedalists.html.


Lift tickets: $41 general, $26 juniors and seniors; 6 and younger and 73 and older are free

Season pass: $600 general, $400 juniors and seniors

Night skiing: $17, 4-10 p.m., two lifts on Fridays, Saturdays and holidays as scheduled

Hours: 8:45 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Terrain: 635 acres serviced by lifts, terrain park

Lifts: Six (one high-speed quad, one triple, two doubles, one platter pull, one carpet)

Trails: 32 runs (20 percent beginner, 60 percent intermediate, 20 percent advanced/expert)

Summit elevation: 6,000 feet

Base elevation: 4,500 feet

Vertical drop: 1,500 feeet

Annual snowfall: 350 inches

Cross-country: 18 kilometers of trails

More info: 1-509-672-3101; snow line, 1-509-672-3100; skiwhitepass.com

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