Ski Guide 2009 | If you want it, these hills likely have it

big six: Cascade ski areas still rule Washington’s ski scene

October 25, 2009 

The Big Six – Washington’s Cascade Range ski areas – have almost everything a skier or snowboarder needs for a lifetime of winters.

Crystal Mountain and Alpental are loaded with runs so steep they’ll leave you shaking in your ski boots.

The Summit at Snoqualmie and Stevens Pass have some of the best terrain parks and largest night skiing operations in the Northwest.

Mission Ridge and White Pass are famous for their family friendly feel. And nobody in the Northwest gets more snow than Mount Baker.

There are 17 ski areas in Washington, but for most skiers and boarders these six are the only ones they’ll ever use.

Here’s a closer look at the Big Six:

CRYSTAL MOUNTAIN

The state’s largest ski area plays a starring role in this year’s Warren Miller ski flick “Dynasty.” In an approximately 8-minute segment, the 60th Warren Miller movie depicts Crystal as a family-friendly resort that has produced some of the industry’s best free skiers – Ingrid Backstrom, Bryce Phillips and Tyler Ceccanti.

The movie shows at Tacoma’s Pantages Theater on Nov. 7-8 and at Olympia’s Washington Center for the Performing Art on Nov. 12-13. Tickets are $20 and include vouchers for free and discounted lift tickets around the region.

Crystal marketing director Tiana Enger recently traveled to Boulder, Colo., to watch the premier. The movie includes vintage footage of Crystal, which was also featured in Warren Miller’s 50th film “Fifty.”

“We are very happy (about the movie),” Enger said.

THE TO-DO LIST

1. Arrive early for fresh tracks and to avoid a long, long walk from your car.

2. Explore the expert-only terrain serviced by the two-year-old Northway lift.

3. Test your skills on Silver King’s Pinball Face (or something a little tamer) in Crystal’s famous backcountry.

4. Enter the Dummy Downhill, build a skiing dummy and race it against other dummies. (No you can’t be your team’s racing dummy even if your IQ is smaller than your shoe size.)

5. Stop at the Naches Tavern (children are allowed in the dinning area) in Greenwater and see if you can finish the colossal four-meat Patti’s Mountain Man Special sandwich.

WHAT’S NEW

Crystal has cut the price of season passes by more than $200 this season and extended its early-purchase discount to Oct. 31. The ski area also will start letting kids 10 and younger ski free this season.

“We are trying to help families out a bit,” Enger said. “We know families are pinched right now.”

RESORT STATS

LIFT TICKETS: $60, $55 youth (11-17). $35 seniors (70 and older), juniors 10 and younger are free. Prices include tax.

SEASON PASS: $899, $799 youth (11-17), $349 seniors (70 and older), $50 juniors 10 and younger. $699 midweek. (Discounts are offered for passes purchased by Oct. 31.)

HOURS: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

TERRAIN: 2,300 acres serviced by lifts, 1,300 acres of backcountry, 400-foot long half pipe.

LIFTS: 11 lifts (two high-speed six-passenger lifts, two high-speed quads, two triples, four doubles, and one children’s surface lift)

TRAILS: 57 runs (11 percent beginner, 51 percent intermediate, 35 percent advanced)

SUMMIT ELEVATION: 7,012 feet

BASE ELEVATION: 4,400 feet

VERTICAL DROP: 3,100 feet including backcountry return.

ANNUAL SNOWFALL: 385 inches.

CROSS-COUNTRY: None.

SNOW LINE: 888-754-6199

MORE INFORMATION: 360-663-2265; skicrystal.com.

MISSION RIDGE

As the only major ski area on the east side of the Cascades, Mission Ridge has long boasted the fluffiest snow in the state. Those who’ve skied there on a powder day won’t argue, but Mission Ridge also gets less snow than any of Washington’s top resorts.

That’s why the ski area installed the state’s biggest snow-making system in 2005.

The new snow making has paid off. Mission Ridge was the first ski area in the state to open in 2007 (Nov. 23) and 2008 (Nov. 28).

This season the ski area expects to open Nov. 27.

Mission Ridge has established a program where visitors get discounts on lift tickets if they stay in Wenatchee, Leavenworth and Chelan hotels (check out missionridge.com for a complete list of hotels).

THE TO DO LIST

1. Rub the wing of the B-24 Liberator that crashed here in 1944. Rubbing the wing, mounted at the top of Bomber Bowl, is supposed to ensure a snowy winter.

2. Visit the region my rail. Amtrak added service to Leavenworth on Sept. 25.

3. Drop by La Bonne Terre in Wenatchee to visit the Chateau Faire Le Pont winery – even order wine with personalized labels – and dine on ginger and maple glazed salmon in the restaurant.

4. Go night skiing and enjoy the live music in the lodge on Saturday nights in January and February.

5. Grab a trail map and a camera and visit the three photo sites listed on the map. From the top of the ridge you’ll get a better view of Mount Rainier than you will from some Western Washington ski areas.

WHAT’S NEW

Mission Ridge will expand its season starting in 2010. The ski area has traditionally closed in early April, but this season it will stay open into mid April.

Resort staff hopes the experiment goes as well as last year’s when they doubled its night skiing operation to 10 days. It will be open for 10 nights this winter too.

RESORT STATS

LIFT TICKETS: $50, $44 young adult (13-17), $32 youth (7-12), $32 seniors, $9 Children (6 and younger). Prices include tax. Lift tickets are more expensive during holidays and weekends.

SEASON PASS: $559, $429 young adult (13-17), $279 youth (7-12), $52 children (6 and younger), $429 seniors (62-69), $259 super seniors (70 and older). Prices include tax. (Discounts are offered for passes purchased by Oct. 31.)

NIGHT SKIING: $15

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: Three two-seat lifts and one high-speed quad.

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

SUMMIT ELEVATION: 6,820

BASE ELEVATION: 4,570

VERTICAL DROP: 2,250

ANNUAL SNOWFALL: 135 inches.

CROSS-COUNTRY: Ten miles of trails located four miles away at Squilchuck State Park.

SNOW LINE: 509-663-3200

MORE INFORMATION: 509-663-6543; missionridge.com

MOUNT BAKER

This season marks the 25th anniversary of the Legendary Banked Slalom and it promises to be the biggest of them all.

The LBS is the Northwest’s most well-known snowboard event and this year it takes place Feb. 5-7, less than a week before the Olympics begin 80 miles away in Vancouver. The U.S. Snowboard Cross team is considering competing in the event as a tune up for the Olympics. The LBS is a race through gates posted on the walls of a natural halfpipe.

While it’s not a mass-start event like the Snowboard Cross, the race is over similar terrain.

“The Snowboard Cross team competed last year but they were surprised how much three days of racing took it out of them,” Mt. Baker spokeswoman Amy Howat said. “So it’s not clear what they will do this year. They might just do a run on that Saturday or Sunday.”

Skiing magazine recently named Mount Baker North America’s resort with the shortest lift lines.

THE TO DO LIST

1. Go on a powder day.

2. Stop at the Wake ‘n Bakery in Glacier or the Harvest Moon Bakery in Maple Falls for breakfast on your way to the slopes.

3. Try to qualify for the Feb. 5-7 Legendary Banked Slalom. Enter the lottery before Nov. 11.

4. Hunt for one of 5,000 plastic Easter eggs hidden in the snow during the April 3 Golden Egg Hunt.

5. Explore Mount Baker’s famous backcountry terrain.

WHAT’S NEW

Most of the improvements at Baker this season will go unnoticed, Howat said. There day lodge has a new roof. “It might not be exciting, but it’s necessary,” Howat said. The most noticeable upgrade on the hill will be the regarding of a short section of the White Salmon run. A hump on the run was smoothed out over the summer and should make the run friendlier for beginner and intermediate skiers.

RESORT STATS

LIFT TICKETS: $39.50, $30.50 youth (7-15), $36.50 seniors (60-69), $26.00 super seniors (70 and older), children 6 and younger are free. Fifth-graders can also register online to ski free. Prices include sales tax. Prices are higher are on weekends and holidays.

SEASON PASS: $680, $600 full-time college student, $485 young adult (16-17), $273 youth (13-15), $190 children (7-12); $375 senior (60-69), $65 super seniors (70 and older). Prices include tax. (Rates increase Nov. 1)

HOURS: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

TERRAIN: 1,000 acres serviced by lifts including a half pipe and a terrain parks.

LIFTS: 8 (four fixed quad chairs, two doubles, two rope tows)

TRAILS: 50 runs (24 percent beginner, 45 percent intermediate, 31 percent advanced)

SUMMIT ELEVATION: 5,050 feet

BASE ELEVATION: 4,300 feet main base; 3,590 feet lower base

VERTICAL DROP: 1,460 feet

ANNUAL SNOWFALL: 647 inches

CROSS-COUNTRY: Four kilometers and backcountry trails.

SNOW LINE: 360-671-0211

MORE INFORMATION: 360-734-6771; mtbaker.us

STEVENS PASS

Stevens Pass is one of the state’s most well-rounded ski areas.

It has ample night skiing, a 25-acre terrain park and, many weekends, live music at the Foggy Goggle bar. Alternative rock band Dead Confederate played at Stevens Pass last season.

If you like steeps, tight lines, tree runs and terrain park features you can hit them all on one run if you play your cards right.

The ski area also has some of the best backcountry skiing in the state.

Stevens Pass is also home to the most expensive lift ticket in the state, $63, so buy your lift tickets on their website before you go. Tickets are $3 less expensive online.

THE TO DO LIST

1. Make your first run of the day in Seventh Heaven before the double-diamond slope gets skied off.

2. Go “Around the World” by making runs off the Skyline Express, Tye Mill, Jupiter, Southern Cross then Double Diamond lifts.

3. Ride Kehr’s Chair, formerly Big Chief, and try not to think about the fact that the 46-year-old lift is so old the parts are no longer manufactured.

4. Catch some air in the Top Phlight Terrain Park.

5. Stop at Zeke’s Drive In in Gold Bar for a burger and shake.

WHAT’S NEW

Some small additions at Stevens Pass could be a big hit with snowboarders and terrain park junkies. Stevens Pass is adding a Burton Learning Center, joining Mission Ridge and the Summit at Snoqualmie as the only ski areas in the state to offer the snowboarding teaching program. Stevens’ ever-evolving terrain park will get some new features this season including a new wall ride.

RESORT STATS

LIFT TICKETS: $63, $40 seniors (62-69), $40 youth (7-12), $15 seniors (70 and older), $8 Children (6 and younger). Prices include tax. There is a $3 discount most rates for purchasing online.

SEASON PASS: $879, $439 college pass, $679 Student (13-18), $549 youth (7-12), $89 super senior (70 and older) and children (6 and younger). Prices do not include tax.

NIGHT SKIING: $40, $35 seniors (62-69), $35 youth (7-12), $15 seniors (70 and older), $8 Children (6 and younger). Prices include tax. Six lifts run at night.

HOURS: 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.

TERRAIN: 1,125 acres serviced by lifts including a 25-acre terrain park with a super pipe.

LIFTS: 10 (two high-speed quads, one quad, four triples, three doubles).

TRAILS: 37 (11 percent beginner, 54 percent intermediate, 35 percent advanced).

SUMMIT ELEVATION: 5,845 feet.

BASE ELEVATION: 4,061 feet

VERTICAL DROP: 1,784 feet

ANNUAL SNOWFALL: 450 inches.

CROSS-COUNTRY: 28 kilometers.

SNOW LINE: 206-634-1645

MORE INFORMATION: 206-812-4510; stevenspass.com

SUMMIT AT SNOQUALMIE

The Summit is the state’s most popular ski area (591,000 skier visits last season) thanks to its easy access, terrain parks, Alpental’s killer expert terrain and the state’s largest ski school.

The ski area will be a little smaller again this year with Summit East expected to be closed most of the season, resort spokeswoman Holly Lippert said. Summit East, known as Hyak to regulars, is only open on weekends but a landslide last winter ruined the lift.

The lift will be closed again this season with hopes of replacing it next summer, Lippert said. The Summit has already received approval from the National Forest Service to replace the lift.

Lippert said the ski area might run Summit East’s small lift, Easy Gold, occasionally this season.

THE TO DO LIST

1. Challenge yourself with a run down International at Alpental.

2. Enter or watch one of the Summit’s many terrain park events like the Feb. 20 Holy Oly Revival.

3. Hit the slopes under the lights in Washington’s largest night skiing area.

4. Spend a day in Central Park, the state’s largest terrain park.

5. Stop at Twede’s Café in North Bend for a slice of cherry pie a la mode or one of their 50 burgers.

WHAT’S NEW

Last winter News Tribune and Olympian readers voted the Summit as the second worst ski area parking in the Northwest behind Crystal Mountain. The ski area hopes to correct that this year with a new 550-spot parking lot at Summit Central. The parking lot is near the Silver Fir lift, which was upgraded last season.

Alpental gets new restrooms this season.

RESORT STATS

LIFT TICKETS: $57, $38 youth (7-12) and seniors (62-69), $12 children (6 and younger) and seniors (70 and older). Prices include tax.

SEASON PASS: $519, $369 youth (7-12) and seniors (62 and older), $439 teens (13-18), $229 seniors (70 and older). Prices do not include tax. (Pass rates increase Nov. 1.)

NIGHT SKIING: $38, $32 youth (7-12) and seniors (62-69), $12 children (6 and younger) and seniors (70 and older). 15 lifts open at night.

HOURS: 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.

TERRAIN: 1,916 acres serviced by lifts. One superpipe, two terrain parks and 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.

SNOW LINE: 206-236-1600

MORE INFO: 425-434-7669; summitatsnoqualmie.com

WHITE PASS

If you like skiing White Pass because it’s the little kid on the block, this is your last season enjoy that experience.

Next season, the 635-acre ski area will double in size when the long awaited expansion is complete. Not only will the ski area be infused with new terrain, but it will get a mid-mountain lodge.

“This year visitors will see the construction,” White Pass spokeswoman Kathleen Goyette said. “And they’ll see what looks like a lot of nice new runs out there. But those rooms are not groomed ... and the ski patrol will not be out there at all.”

You’re going to have to hike if you want to ski there this year, Goyette said.

“It’s so exciting,” Goyette said. “It’s just one year away.”

THE TO DO LIST

1. Enter Hope on the Slopes (March 13-14) and see how many runs you can do in 24 hours while raising money for the American Cancer Society in the process.

2. Visit during the Winter Carnival (Feb. 27-28) when kids will be able to inner tube through a giant snow castle.

3. Rip down the local’s favorite run by linking Mach V with double-diamond Hourglass.

4. Pose for a picture on top of Pigtail Peak with Mount Rainier as your backdrop.

5. Visit Packwood’s Butter Butte Coffee Company for coffee, cookies, sandwiches and off-piste skiing tips.

WHAT’S NEW

As has been the case the last few years, there won’t be anything significantly new this season at White Pass because resources are being directed toward next year’s expansion. Expect to see new lift towers being installed over the snow – to limit the impact on plants – during the season.

RESORT STATS

LIFT TICKETS: $50, $30 juniors (7-12) and seniors (65-72); 6 and younger and 73 and older are free. Midweek: $45, $31 juniors and seniors.

SEASON PASS: $639 adults, $359 juniors and seniors. Price are good through Nov. 30 and do not include tax.

NIGHT SKIING: $20, 4-9 p.m., Saturdays and Holidays. Free with purchase of a daily lift ticket.

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

TERRAIN: 635 acres serviced by lifts.

LIFTS: 6 (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.

ANNUAL SNOWFALL: 350 inches.

CROSS-COUNTRY: 18 kilometers of trails

SNOW LINE: 509-672-3100

MORE INFORMATION: 509-672-3101. skiwhitepass.com

The News Tribune is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service