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The Poo-Bah's Guide to Skiing Western Washington


February 2014

Katie Vincent


We caught up with Larry Schick, former KING 5 TV meteorologist and reigning “Pooh-bah of Powder” for Ski Washington, to get his insider scoop on our area’s ski resorts.

Skiing Photo

summit at snoqualmie

46 miles from Bellevue Club

“Snoqualmie’s great,” Schick says. “You can get some really challenging skiing at Alpental, but you can take the family too.” The Summit’s four mountains appeal to snow lovers of all backgrounds, and all are connected by a shuttle service for those who can’t decide. Its proximity to Seattle is also a plus; in a little over an hour, you’re ready to hit the slopes. And then there’s the night skiing at Summit Central and Alpental, perfect for ripping up the slopes after a hard day at work.

Services: Downhill, Nordic, rentals, lessons, terrain park, tubing, backcountry (Alpental), snowshoeing, racing, night skiing, four day lodges with food service and restrooms.

Daily Lift Ticket: $12-$62
Season Pass: $89-$599

Mountains and Snow Photo


crystal mountain

74 miles 

“I think it’s one of the top 10 ski areas in the country,” says Schick, who adores the resort’s “sidecountry,” or backcountry areas with avalanche control. “You get hundreds of acres of untracked snow after a storm because people don’t want to hike out there.” In-bounds, Crystal offers a diverse mix of runs for all skill levels, plus plenty of high-speed lifts, views of Mount Rainier, and a gondola ride directly to the Summit House mountaintop restaurant. This year the resort will also host two food trucks at the base area. Stick around for après at Snorting Elk Cellar, voted by Skiing magazine the “Top Ski Bar in the West.”

Services: Downhill, rentals, lessons, terrain park, “sidecountry,” snowshoeing, racing, overnight ski service center, ski demo center, three day lodges with food service and restrooms.

Daily Lift Ticket: $41-$74
Season Pass: $549-$999

crystal mountain schick tip! 

Thanks to an epic and precise avalanche, experienced skiers can enjoy a very rare, continuous 1,600-foot vertical run, with continuous fall line skiing on the new run called “Employee Housing.”

stevens pass

75.1 miles 

Confronted with the age-old rivalry between Stevens and Snoqualmie, Schick is as diplomatic as possible. “Stevens is often blessed with the meteorological magic of the Convergence Zone, which usually dumps tons of extra snow on the slopes.” Also, Stevens’ newest Jupiter express quad chair, which opened last December, may break the tie, providing quick access to the powder-heavy back side. Families can look to the front side for all-levels runs, a reputable terrain park, and some steeps up on Seventh Heaven.

Services: Downhill, Nordic, rentals, lessons, terrain park, backcountry, snowshoeing, racing, night skiing, three day lodges with food service and restrooms

Daily Lift Ticket: $15-$67
Season Pass: $99-$799


mount baker

136 miles 

“Baker is the king of snow,” says Schick. “They consistently get over 600 inches of snow a year, and they are the snowiest ski area in the country—probably the world. Being so close to the border, the snow often comes in earlier in the season than resorts in the central Cascades.” Backcountry skiers should be extra cautious, however, as the huge pileup means avalanche danger “as high as a continental environment like Colorado where that light snow just sloughs off really easily.” But in-bounds, the runs are perfectly safe and plenty fun for all levels, with intimate views of Mount Baker and Mount Shuksan on a sunny day.

Services: Downhill, rentals, lessons, backcountry, racing, two day lodges with food service and restrooms

Daily Lift Ticket: $35-$55
Season Pass: $160-$790

Skiier Photo

mission ridge

146 miles

“It’s really a star,” says Schick. “The snow is colder there—it doesn’t have the mild influence of the ocean—so it tends to be more silky.” Being located east of the Cascades, however, does mean fewer powder storms, but as Schick points out, “it’s a good tradeoff for few people and very good-quality snow.” Plus, it’s sunny 300 days out of the year. The small but well-loved ski area boasts a high-speed lift, plenty of runs from green to double black, and unparalleled views of Mount Rainier and Mount Adams. 

Services: Downhill, rentals, lessons, terrain park, backcountry, racing, night skiing

Daily Lift Ticket: $12-$55
Season Pass: $89-$499

mission ridge schick tip! 

Make your own weekend ski trip: Night ski at Stevens, sleep in Leavenworth, ski Mission Ridge Saturday and Sunday, then hit up Snoqualmie for a night ski on the way back home.

The Poo-bah Photos

methow valley

248 miles 

Though Schick is a powder junkie, he recognizes the sunny valley’s exceptional conditions for cross-country skiing. “You’re on the east side, so it’s drier and you have these beautiful blue-sky days, but the snow quality can just stay cold and dry for a long time.” Ideal for a weekend vacation, Methow offers an extensive Nordic trail system from Mazama to Winthrop, as well as longer loops near Sun Mountain Lodge and Rendezvous Mountain. Accommodations abound, from cabin rentals to the quaint Nordic huts along the Rendezvous trail. And for families with little ones who would rather play in the snow all day, there’s that too.

Services: Nordic, hut-to-hut skiing, snowshoeing, rentals, lessons, overnight accommodations, dogs permitted on selected trails, various lodges throughout the valley

Daily Nordic Pass: $22
Season Pass: $325

Skiiers in a Lift Photo

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