No matter where you are in Seattle, once October hits, you’ll get glimpses of snow in lower elevations of the region’s mountains. For those who ski and snowboard, the approaching white veil of winter is an enticing sight—it’s a sign to start putting away your hiking gear and to prepare for incredible, snowy experiences in the mountains of the Evergreen State.
2019 should be a great year; the snowpack at the end of October was higher than average in nearly every corner of the state. While the ski and snowboard areas won’t open until Thanksgiving, the excitement is stacking up like the flakes, reaching an avalanche of stoke.
While those who frequent the ski and snowboarding areas around the Pacific Northwest know where to go, let’s took a look at seven destinations within a few hours of driving from Seattle. From both sides of the Cascades near towering volcanic peaks, to a remote wonderland on the Olympic Peninsula, the skiing and snowboarding venues found a short drive from the Emerald City are celebrations of snow, mountains, and stunning views.
Known as Seattle’s home mountain, Snoqualmie Pass is hard to beat. You’ll find variety of terrain for all levels of snow enthusiasts at Snoqualmie. It’s home to incredible snowboard runs, from night skiing to family-friendly snow tubing, as well as cross-country skiing.
The Summit at Snoqualmie is just 52 miles from downtown Seattle, and has been a local favorite since the 1930s, and boasts the first chairlift ever constructed in Washington State, which opened in 1949. Snoqualmie receives an average of 426 inches of snow each winter, so it is easy to see why so many flock to the slopes. Across its four base areas—Alpental, Summit West, Summit Central and Summit East—you’ll find 25 chairlifts to access 62 runs on nearly 2,000 skiable acres. You’ll also be able to rent equipment for the day if you don’t own your own. With the four areas, you’ll also find four different types of terrain for any level.
Beginners and those looking to refresh their skills on the slopes should head to Summit West for the best learning terrain. The area includes Summit Learning Center, providing a variety of lessons for the whole family to hone their skills, plus four places to dine and relax, serving pizza, Bloody Marys, poke bowls, and deli foods.
Bring increased skills and confidence to Summit Central, which offers a wide variety of runs for all levels, including a large terrain park. While this is the most popular area to ride, you’ll still find slopes that allow you to take your time and enjoy the day. Between runs, four dining areas give you a chance to enjoy beer, espresso, Greek foods, snacks, and even mixed drinks.
For some Alpine and Nordic-style skiing or some fantastic snowshoe routes, Summit East is the place to go. Here, you’ll find a variety of terrain for skiing and snowboarding, as well as nearly 31 miles of groomed and tracked trail to cross-country ski. Snowshoeing trails include access to Lake Keechelus on the Iron Horse Trail. Between trips, stop by the Milwaukee Lodge Cafe for burgers and pizza, or the Broken Tip Bar for beer and mixed drinks.
Those looking for the steepest runs and the deepest snow will find bliss at Alpental. The adventures found here are for those looking for thrills and the best of what the area has to offer. Between exhilarating trips down the slopes, refresh and refuel at the area’s three dining spots, serving craft beers, tacos, pizza, spirits and sandwiches.
For costs and operating hours, check the Summit at Snoqualmie’s website. The general hours, once night skiing is open, are from 9 a.m. until 10 p.m. each day, but conditions and other factors can change those hours. You should always check in advance before heading out.
Since 1937, Stevens Pass has been a beloved destination to hit the slopes and experience the powdery wonderland of the Cascade Crest. Located about 80 miles from downtown Seattle, Stevens is a natural progression from Snoqualmie, with terrain designed more for intermediate to advanced skiers and snowboarders. Stevens receives around 460 inches of snow each winter, which mostly falls as dry powder thanks to cold air blowing over from the east side of the mountains.
At Stevens, you’ll find over 1,000 acres of skiable terrain and 52 major runs, including a terrain park and and night skiing, with incredible views. You’ll be able to rent gear, take lessons, and explore on your own, giving all riders a chance to enjoy the deep snows. Between runs, you’ll find numerous places to grab a drink, a snack or a full meal just a few feet from the lifts. Expect to spend a full day and evening on the slopes.
Stevens Pass also is known as a great place to go for snowshoeing and snow tubing. The tubing area, located northwest of the ski area, is free of charge, making the area a fun family stop on your way to or from Leavenworth. The snowshoeing area requires a trail pass, which will allow you to trek through the snow along beginning, intermediate, and advanced trails.
For hours and updated conditions—and everything else you need to enjoy a day out on the slopes—check the Stevens Pass website.
Ever wanted to stare directly at Mount Rainier before blasting down a powder-filled slope? You need to go to Crystal Mountain, which is 85 miles from downtown Seattle. The resort opened in 1962, and sits right next to the iconic mountain.
You’ll find a full day’s worth of rides extremely close to Washington’s tallest volcanic peak. Crystal’s offerings among its 57 runs include 10 lifts, a terrain park, and more than 3,000 feet of vertical drop. It receives around 480 inches of snow each winter, making it one of the snowier places to ride in Washington State. Crystal is another destination for intermediate to advanced skiers and snowboarders, although beginners will still enjoy Crystal with numerous gentle runs and lessons.
Between runs on the 2,600 skiable acres, you can dine at a handful of places, including the high-altitude Summit House Restaurant at 6,872 feet. At the base area, where ski and snowboard rentals can be found, you can dine on snacks, grilled foods, cold beer, and gourmet meals. Once you’ve refueled, head back on the slopes, or switch into a pair of snowshoes and explore the six new snowshoe trails around the resort.
For hours of operation and lift ticket prices, which change throughout the year, head over the the Crystal Mountain Resort website and start planning your trip.
Beyond the big three
While the most popular resorts for Seattle residents are Crystal, Stevens, and Snoqualmie, there are four more ski areas within a three-hour drive from Seattle with incredible powder and stunning views.
The first is the Mount Baker ski area, found about two and a half hours from town and 10 miles from the Canadian border. It’s rumored to have the highest average annual snowfall of any resort in the world, with an average of 640 inches of snow each winter. With that deep of snow, the area isn’t huge in amenities, but what it lacks in infrastructure it makes up for in powder, views, and unique experiences among its 31 runs.
The White Pass Ski Area is a favorite for those who live in the southern areas of western Washington, and a hidden gem for riders of all levels and styles. About a three-hour drive from downtown Seattle, White Pass is a fantastic place to ski and snowboard, as well as cross country ski. The area, which receives about 350 inches of snow each year, has a terrain park, six chairlifts, 45 runs, and more than 1,400 acres to ride, about a third of them great for beginners.
Also about three hours from Seattle is northeastern Washington’s Mission Ridge, which offers more than 300 days of sun. When the storms are slamming the west side of the Cascades, a trip to Mission Ridge gives incredible powder, with around 200 inches of snow each year. Nearly 2,000 acres of skiable terrain include a small terrain park and four chairlifts. It also offers night skiing. If you’re passing through Wenatchee, this is a great stop.
Largely overlooked as a ski area, the Olympic Peninsula is home to one of only three ski and snowboard areas in any United States national park. The Hurricane Ridge Ski and Snowboard Area in Olympic National Park gets an average of 400 inches of snow each winter, and offers unique views of the Salish Sea. While it’s just three hours from Seattle, these slopes offer limited crowds, include 10 runs, three surface lifts, and even a small terrain park.