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OFF PISTE by Allyson Marrs

Five millennia—that’s how long skiing has been around. Know what else is that old? Rock drawings. The sport has come a long way since emerging out of necessity to navigate slick terrain to blossoming into an incredibly popular sport and an Olympic favorite. Now, skiers, and more recently, boarders, have an overwhelming number of options when it comes to runs. With these options, a slew of communities were born. Basically, the Pacific Northwest is a hotbed for snow addicts.

No matter your style, it’s safe to say that skiers and boarders of all abilities have something to cherish here. Washington is defined by its beauty: acres upon acres of evergreen trees, idyllic lakes and versatile terrain. Oh, that terrain!

It’s all about the fun and the escape for a couple of hours. It’s about feeling the speed and the crisp bite of winter on your gums while smiling until it hurts. It’s about feeling one with nature after a day in the cubicle. For the recreationalist, it’s about adding to life’s schedule as a way to have some serious fun.

These snow hounds may not live on the mountain or crave adrenaline-rushing jumps, but they do like to spend free time gliding down the hills. With the new season, they take on their favorite winter sport, much like baseball in the spring or swimming in the summer. Recreationalists need a summit nearby, so they can make a quick jaunt between life’s other obligations.

Poles down, the Summit is the most accessible mountain for Eastsiders and Seattleites. Perfect for after-work runs and weekend day trips, spend more time gliding down the mountain than driving to it.

45 miles from Bellevue
Skiable Terrain: 1,981 acres
Summit Elevation: 5,420 feet
Night Skiing: Yes, 600 acres, making it one of the largest night-skiing operations in the country.
Annual Snowfall: 435 inches
Overnight Lodging on Mountain: No

They’re all over the news. Those men and women who try and defy gravity and Mother Nature herself by hurling their bodies down a mountain all for the sake of adventure.

Oftentimes, they’re successful, leaving the mountain with incredible, death-defying video evidence of their stunts. Once the task is over, they’re busy planning for the next over-the-top insane run.

These snow-hungry savages most likely grew up on the mountain, vanquishing any fears that often appear in adulthood once we learn the effect aspect of cause and effect. They’re fast, maybe a little impatient with lines and first-timers and willing to go the extra mile (or 300) for the thrill.

Roughly 25 percent of 49 Degrees North is all yours, advanced skiers, with another 5 percent for the experts.

320 miles from Bellevue
Skiable Terrain: 2,325 acres
Summit Elevation: 5,774 feet
Night Skiing: Yes
Annual Snowfall: 300 inches
Overnight Lodging on Mountain: Ski and Stay packages are offered with local motels.

It’s a culture. It’s actually a late-blooming culture with the majority of ski resorts banning it from their mountains until the late 1970s.

Until quite recently, boarders were looked at as reckless hooligans, tearing down the mountain and performing tricks on any immovable object they happened to stumble across. Skiers feared for their lives and their peaks, and did what they could to try and rally mountain personnel to declare their resorts “skiing only.”

But in the 1990s, snowboarding popularity boomed, and with that boom, resorts made some changes to their landscapes, adding in rails and half-pipes for the new crowd that all but saved the slowly sinking ski-resort business.

A few decades later, things still may not be in total harmony with the “two plankers” and “knuckle draggers,” but most of the stereotypes have disappeared with people of many ages and backgrounds riding both the board and the planks. But, if you are a die-hard boarder, then you’ll need a mountain with a tricked-out terrain park.


60 miles from Bellevue
Skiable Terrain: 200 acres
Summit Elevation: 5,500 feet
Night Skiing: No
Annual Snowfall: 400 inches
Overnight Lodging on Mountain: No

A weekend getaway is the perfect cure for boredom. A close weekend getaway is an even better remedy. The vacationers yearn for the separation of weekend from workweek. Those two precious days are meant to be spent anywhere but home. For them, skiing is an event; it’s meant to be enjoyed and savored. These vacationers are most likely toting a family of little snow bunnies along, so spending a few days on the peak is much more sensible than toting gear back and forth between home.

A mountain that offers a selection of intermediate courses (try 65 percent) is ideal for those who ski to get lost in the sensation and melt in the scent of fresh powder. But it wouldn’t be a vacation without a place to stay. The vacationers crave a “ski to your front door” kind of option.

They need to escape city life for more than a few hours and indulge the whole family in a trip that feels like a world away.


105 miles from Bellevue
Skiable Terrain: 43 Trails
Summit Elevation: 6,500 feet
Night Skiing: Yes
Annual Snowfall: 350 inches
Overnight Lodging on the Mountain: Yes

To take advantage of all that the Club has to offer, join Ski Masters, for ages 3 and older. Gray Line coach services are also available for a relaxing experience. To register, call Ski Masters at 425-392-8260 and mention your Bellevue Club membership to receive a discount.

*Mountain facts courtesy of SkiWashington

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