Martin Volken gets a kick out of seeing adults coming into his North Bend ski shop to buy Alpental stickers.
“Grown men buying stickers to put on their car,” Volken said with a chuckle. “People around here have a strange emotional connection to this place.”
As owner of Pro Ski and Guide Service, Volken understands this connection.
“Alpental is a gem,” Volken said. “It’s a throwback. It’s a place to park your car and ski double-diamonds all day.”
Volken, 40, grew up in Switzerland before moving to Western Washington in his early 20s. Since then he’s made a name for himself as one of Washington’s best backcountry skiers.
Like most expert skiers who spend most of their time at the Summit at Snoqualmie, he rarely leaves Alpental.
The Summit’s other three areas – West, Central and East – don’t have much to offer experts.
“But they are the best beginner areas in the state,” Volken said. “That’s the one thing the Summit is missing. It is great for experts, backcountry skiers and beginners, but it’s missing the stuff in the middle for the intermediates.”
That said, Volken still loves the place. Here’s his tips for experiencing the Summit.
GO INTERNATIONAL AT ALPENTAL
“It’s a mini-freeride paradise,” Volken said. “It’s the Summit’s rowdy child.”
The backcountry is loaded with expert terrain, and skiing International, a steep double-diamond run, is considered a right of passage in Washington.
“Alpental’s terrain is wild and rowdy, and that’s why people like it there so much,” Volken said. “When I get done up there I feel like I’ve been on a crazy rodeo ride.”
The terrain park at Summit Central has a reputation as one of the best in the Northwest.
“It’s a high-end experience that brings an expert level to the small terrain,” Volken said. “It’s part of the beauty of that young sport.”
TRY TRIPLE 60
“Back in my days of ample cartilage we used to make some pretty good bump runs on Triple 60,” Volken said of the advanced run at Summit Central. “It’s the perfect pitch even though it’s not a long run.”
TRY SUMMIT EAST
Formerly Hyak, this two-lift hill is a nice place for family skiing even though it offers only 1,100 vertical feet, Volken said.
“It also is surprisingly scenic,” Volken said of the views of the Gold Creek Valley.
TAKE A COFFEE BREAK
Red Mountain Coffee opened last season in an old Department of Transportation maintenance building and is already becoming a favorite stop because of its coffee, pizza and views of the ski hill.
No Washington resort has more kid-friendly terrain or more instructors. Alpental’s International is arguably the state’s most storied run. The terrain park is loaded.
The lift lines are pure torture on weekends and holidays.
THE BIG RUN
Vertical drop: 2,280 feet
Lifts: At Alpental, take the Armstrong Express to the Edelweiss Chair.
Hardest way down: Take the sheer slope of Upper International to another steep double-diamond face called Adrenalin. Finish up on single-diamond Lower International, the base area’s intermediate slopes.
Easiest way down: Take the advanced Edelweiss Bowl to the intermediate Cascade Traverse run and finally the beginner St. Bernard run.
Alpental has a new 10,000-square-foot heated plaza with fire pits. The road to Alpental has been resurfaced. New features have been added to Summit Central’s terrain park.
Lift tickets: $50 general, $33.73 ages 7-12 and 62-69, $9.79 ages 6 and younger and 70 and older
Season pass: $399 general, $299 ages 7-12 and 62-69, $259 ages 13-18, $359 college students, $59 ages 6 and younger and 70 and older. Prices good through Oct. 31.
Night skiing: $33.73 general, $28.29 ages 7-12 and 62-69, $9.79 age 6 and younger and 70 and older; 15 lifts
Hours: 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Terrain: 1,916 acres served by lifts; one superpipe, two terrain parks, two beginner parks
Lifts: 26 (two high-speed quads, two fixed quads, four triples, 11 doubles, three rope tows, two carpets, two handle tows)
Trails: 65 runs (14 percent beginner, 45 percent intermediate, 41 percent advanced)
Summit elevation: 5,450 feet at Alpental, 3,765 feet at Summit West
Base elevation: 3,140 feet at Alpental, 3,000 feet at Summit West
Vertical drop: 2,310 feet at Alpental, 765 feet at Summit West
Annual snowfall: 444 inches
Cross-country: 50 kilometers accessed via the Summit East’s Keechelus or the Summit Central’s Silver Fir chair.
More info: 425-434-7669; summitatsnoqualmie.com