When the great White way calls

October 29, 2006 

Thick snow and beautiful panoramas greet skiers and snowboarders at White Pass. The ski resort offers a wide scope of activities for families and beginners as well as expert outdoors enthusiasts.

GEORGE WAYMIRE/WHITE PASS

One of the things Dave Bliss likes best about White Pass is that he’s been skiing there since 1978 and it hasn’t changed much.

Over those 28 winters, the resort has added three trails on the west side of the hill. But for the most part White Pass has stuck with what’s always made it popular.

“It has smaller crowds and a homey feel,” said Bliss, who owns White Pass Sports Hut in Packwood. “Mission Ridge might have the best snow and other places might have more variety, but White Pass is a great family experience. A place you can feel comfortable bringing the kids.”

That’s not to say there aren’t places to keep the expert skier entertained.

Yakima’s Andy Mahre, the son of 1984 Olympic silver medalist Steve Mahre, says his favorite run at White Pass is Mach V to Execution. But Andy might spend more time on more traditional runs these days as he follows in the footsteps of his dad and uncle – ’84 gold medalist Phil Mahre – and launches a racing career this winter.

Mahre, who appears in this year’s Warren Miller movie, tells people White Pass is his favorite ski area even though he’s skied all over the world.

“I read recently where he said White Pass has everything you need,” Bliss said. “And he’s right.”

Here are some of Bliss’ tips for finding what you need at White Pass.

VISIT Hourglass

Cascade is a 1,510-foot, top-to-bottom cruiser run that draws the majority of the traffic.

Bliss suggests passing up this run in favor Hourglass.

GO MACH V

The locals love the steep slopes of Mach V, and Bliss is no exception.

“It’s a great run on powder days,” Bliss said. “It’s also fun to hit the tree runs.”

JOIN THE CARNIVAL

The White Pass Winter Carnival, March 3-4, and the U.S. Luge Team day, March 10-11, are White Pass’ big social weekends. The carnival offers innertubing through a giant snow castle. On luge day, you can meet the U.S. team and enter a low-key luge race.

SKI MIDWEEK

Not only can you almost guarantee yourself of never waiting in line if you ski midweek, but lift tickets are also only $31.

TRY THE NORDIC CENTER

White Pass is well-respected among cross-country skiers for its Nordic Center with 18 kilometers of groomed trails.

“It’s not just an Alpine ski area,” Bliss said. “You have to try cross-country skiing or snowshoeing to fully experience the place.”

VISIT PACKWOOD

Most can’t make it the 120 miles back to Tacoma without a food break.

Packwood is best known for Cruisers pizza, but Bliss also recommends Peter’s Inn and the new Italian place, Dooby’s.

YOU’LL LOVE

If you’re looking to pad your stats, the Great White Express gets you up the hill in about five minutes, allowing you to rack up more vertical in an afternoon than any other Washington ski area.

YOU’LL HATE

The secondary lifts creep along.

THE BIG RUN

Vertical drop: 1,510 feet

Lifts: Take the Great White Express all the way to the summit.

Hardest way down: The most challenging part of the ski area is the front side. Descend single-diamond Mach V to double-diamond Execution. Finish up on the intermediate Lower Roller.

Easiest way down: Take a leisurely run down the 21/4-mile beginner Holiday trail.

WHAT’S NEW

Nothing major, just regular maintenance to the lodge and the slopes.

RESORT STATS

Lift tickets: $43 general, $27 juniors and seniors; 6 and younger and 73 and older are free. Midweek: $31, $21 juniors and seniors

Season pass: $589 adults, $339 juniors and seniors

Night skiing: $19, 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

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 feet

Annual snowfall: 350 inches

Cross-country: 18 kilometers of trails

More information: 1-509-672-3101, skiwhitepass.com

Fast Fact

The lodge sells most of its $1 brick-size Rice Krispies treats at the end of the day to Westsiders with 100-mile drives home, marketing director Kathleen Goyette says.

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