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Great skiing is close by in the Northwest

Guide outlines top 10 ski areas within 5-hour drive of Seattle; Mount Hood among easily reached options

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Skiers ride the Rainier Express at Crystal Mountain ski resort Dec. 2, 2020. Washington's biggest ski area is the closest thing to a true resort in the state.
Skiers ride the Rainier Express at Crystal Mountain ski resort Dec. 2, 2020. Washington's biggest ski area is the closest thing to a true resort in the state. (Erika Schultz/The Seattle Times) Photo Gallery

SEATTLE — Winter has come to the Pacific Northwest, and it’s not getting much brighter outside in the Seattle area any time soon.

But the silver lining of the season sprawls across the region, with slopes for skiers, snowboarders and every kind of winter-sport enthusiast spread from northern Oregon to British Columbia, with plenty of lifts in between. Hop in the car this winter and sample the excellent ski options reachable from Seattle on a weekend trip.

Not sure where to even begin? Check out this breakdown of ski areas within a five-hour drive of Seattle to find out the ins and outs of the mountains of the Pacific Northwest.

Note that lift tickets often fluctuate in price, so be sure to check listings before you go.

Crystal Mountain Resort

33914 Crystal Mountain Blvd., Crystal Mountain; 360-663-3050; crystalmountainresort.com/

What it’s known for: Classic slopes and Rainier views.

Washington’s biggest ski area is the closest thing to a true resort in the state, a spot where you can ogle Mount Rainier up close and personal, enjoy après-ski on an outdoor patio, tie one on at the Snorting Elk Cellar and then stay overnight so you can do it all again tomorrow. With its highest point cresting 7,000 feet, Crystal has extensive above-tree-line terrain, another rarity among Cascade ski areas, and wins hands down for sheer variety. As a dead-end road rather than a mountain pass, the drive is less prone to avalanche closures than Snoqualmie or Stevens, but the upper mountain also suffers from wind holds. With all the bells and whistles, Crystal is priced accordingly.

Lift tickets: Dynamic pricing at $89-$185 for adult daily; $27-$55 children ages 5-12; $70-$144 ages 13-22; $30-$55 for seniors.

Amenities/other activities: Weekend/holiday night skiing, scenic gondola rides, snowshoe trails, rental and gear shop, ski school, two on-mountain restaurants, day lodge (cafeteria, espresso stand, two bar/restaurants), outdoor dining, three on-site hotels, RV lot.

Accessibility: Crystal Mountain Road is a two-lane road with curves and some exposure. Chains generally not required but should be carried just in case. Resort runs free shuttle trailers from parking lots to base area. Free shuttle bus on Fridays/weekends/holidays from Enumclaw Expo & Event Center; reservations recommended. Parking is $20 on Fridays and Sundays, $30 on Saturdays and holidays. Free with valid season pass or carpools of four or more.

Public health protocol: Masks required indoors and recommended outdoors in crowded areas. Chairlifts will load full but guests can make a request of lift operator if they only wish to ride with their own party. Proof of COVID-19 vaccination not required.

Grouse Mountain

6400 Nancy Greene Way, North Vancouver, British Columbia; 604-980-9311; grousemountain.com/

What it’s known for: Tourist-friendly Vancouver, B.C., escape.

The North Shore Mountains rise so steeply from the edge of Vancouver that shredders at the three local ski areas — Cypress, Grouse, and Seymour — feel like they are carving turns on top of the metropolis below. Grouse Mountain offers the most tourist-friendly attractions, from a mountaintop skating pond to dedicated snowshoe trails and a first-of-its-kind glass viewing pod, housed inside a wind turbine with 360-degree views from the Gulf Islands to the Coast Range. It’s also supremely easy to reach from downtown Vancouver without a car.

Lift tickets: CA$75-$79 for adult daily; CA$29-$31 children ages 5-12; CA$55-$59 ages 13-18; $55-$59 for seniors (convert to USD for current exchange rate).

Amenities/other activities: Rental and gear shop, ski school, night skiing, snowshoeing, sledding hill, zip line, scenic gondola, skating pond, viewing pod inside wind turbine, light walk, two restaurants, espresso bar.

Accessibility: Must have proper ID to cross U.S.-Canada border (U.S. passport, NEXUS card, Washington Enhanced Driver’s License) and proof of COVID-19 vaccination for travelers 12 and over. A 15-minute drive north of downtown Vancouver, all on-site parking is paid. Frequent bus service from North Vancouver’s Lonsdale Quay, accessible from downtown Vancouver by SeaBus.

Public health protocol: COVID-19 vaccination required to access resort if born before 2009; show proof of vaccination you used to enter Canada, as well as passport if 19 or older. Masks required indoors and on Skyride aerial tramway.

Mission Ridge Ski & Board Resort

7500 Mission Ridge Road, Wenatchee.; 509-663-3200; missionridge.com/

What it’s known for: Great powder, short lines.

Why schlep east of the crest? For the allure of drier, lighter snow and 300 days of sunshine per year, try Mission Ridge. Perched high above the Wenatchee Valley, on clear days with no valley fog, you can ski with a view of the bone-dry desert below. With a smaller nearby population, lift lines tend to be shorter, though the modest ski area has just one high-speed lift, which boasts Washington’s only bubble chair. Mission Ridge is also the only hill where you can demo Washington-made Lithic skis, handcrafted in nearby Peshastin.

Lift tickets: $77-$97 for adult daily; $15 children up to age 9; $57-$77 youth ages 10-17; $67-$87 for ages 18-24; $29-$39 ages 70 and up.

Amenities/other activities: Night skiing Thursday through Saturday through the end of February, snowshoe trails, rental and gear shop, one on-mountain restaurant, day lodge (cafeteria, espresso bar, pub), RV lot.

Accessibility: From Seattle, travelers must cross at least one mountain pass. Check the Washington State Department of Transportation website before you go. Free SkiLink bus service from downtown Wenatchee to the resort runs seven round-trips on weekends and holidays through mid-April.

Public health protocol: Masks required indoors. Chairlifts load full. No proof of COVID-19 vaccination required.

Mount Baker Ski Area

Mt. Baker Highway, Deming; 360-734-6771; mtbaker.us/

What it’s known for: Snow, snow and more snow.

It snows here. A lot. Mount Baker Ski Area still hangs its hat on the world-record-breaking 1998-1999 season, when it snowed 1,140 inches. Modest elevation can affect snow levels, so watch the weather closely before making this long day trip from Seattle. Overnight in nearby Glacier for a weekend getaway. If you nail the forecast, bring your fattest skis and your brightest goggles — sunny days are a rarity here in the North Cascades. Famous for its ski-at-your-own-risk “extreme danger” zones and a natural half-pipe that hosts the annual Legendary Banked Slalom (Feb. 11-13), no-frills Mount Baker still feels like a locals’ secret in an era of ski-industry consolidation.

Lift tickets: $81.50 for adults ages 16-59; $51 for youth ages 11-15; $35 for children ages 7-10; $68.50 for seniors ages 60-69; $48 for seniors ages 70+.

Amenities/other activities: Rental and gear shop, ski school, three day lodges (Heather Meadows weekends only), snowshoeing to Artist Point, RV lot.

Accessibility: State Route 542 (Mount Baker Highway) is a narrow, winding, two-lane road with exposed sections; it dead ends at the ski area. Baker Bus runs one round-trip per day from Bellingham via Glacier for $10-$20, cash only.

Public health protocol: Masks required indoors and recommended in crowded outdoor settings; chairlifts will not automatically load mixed parties.

Mount Hood Meadows

14040 Oregon State Route 35, Mount Hood, Ore.; 503-337-2222; skihood.com/

What it’s known for: Family-friendly amenities, room to roam.

The largest and most sprawling resort on the flanks of Mount Hood, Meadows may offer the most family-friendly amenities — day care for children as young as 6 weeks old is nearly unheard of at ski resorts. With 2,150 skiable acres, there is room to roam, but even with six high-speed quads, lift lines can back up to half an hour on busy weekends.

Lift tickets: $79-$149 for adult daily; $29-$79 for children ages 7 to 14; $59-$139 for ages 15 to 24; $49-$99 for seniors.

Amenities/other activities: Rental and gear shop, ski school, night skiing, Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, snow tubing, three restaurants, three on-mountain restaurants, child care.

Accessibility: State Route 26 is a highway over a mountain pass susceptible to winter weather. Consult Tripcheck.com before you go.

Public health protocol: Face masks required indoors.

Stevens Pass

Stevens Pass Highway, Skykomish; 206-812-4510; stevenspass.com/

What it’s known for: Enticing intermediate and advanced runs.

Stevens was lovably scruffy until Vail Resorts purchased the resort in 2018. That acquisition has brought investment, however, which should ease notorious front-side lift lines, with the Daisy and Brooks lifts upgraded to quad chairs, though the back side can clog up at the bottom of Jupiter Express and Southern Cross. Stevens boasts exceptional fall-line runs like Wild Katz and Andromeda Face, as well as delectable open skiing in Big Chief and Tye Bowls. With limited parking available, plan to leave early, especially on weekends, as lots can and will reach capacity. Carpools of four or more get free VIP parking. Take advantage.

Lift tickets: $89-$129 for adult daily; $60-$86 for children ages 7 to 12.

Amenities/other activities: Night skiing, Nordic center with snowshoe trails, free snow-play area, rental and gear shop, ski school, three day lodges containing five restaurants and two pubs, RV lot.

Accessibility: State Route 2 is a highway over a mountain pass that is susceptible to winter closures for avalanche control and spinouts. Carry chains — they can be required under penalty of fine. Check WSDOT before you go. Resort runs free shuttle buses from satellite parking and Nordic center to main base area. Carpools with three or more passengers can park in lots A-G on peak days. Shuttle bus service from Monroe available for $30 for the round-trip.

Public health protocol: Masks required indoors, proof of COVID-19 vaccination required to dine indoors for ages 12 and over.

The Summit at Snoqualmie / Alpental

1001 State Route 906, Snoqualmie Pass; 425-434-7669; summitatsnoqualmie.com/

What it’s known for: Seattle’s ski and snowboard training ground.

The motto “Where Seattle learns to ski and snowboard” couldn’t be truer. An hour from the city with easy interstate access and abundant parking, the Summit at Snoqualmie began as a project of the Seattle municipal park board in 1934. Eight decades later, generations of Seattle skiers still carve their first turns along the gentle slopes at Summit West and graduate to the steep cliff runs that mark Alpental’s Edelweiss Chair. On busy days, locals know to lap the Silver Fir high-speed quad at Summit Central. In addition to a comprehensive ski school, Summit at Snoqualmie earns its family-friendly chops with an extensive snow tubing center. The state’s largest night-skiing operation entices for post-work shred sessions.

Lift tickets: $71-$109 for adult daily; $17-$21 for children ages 6 and under; $40-$74 for children ages 7 to 12; $40-$74 for seniors.

Amenities/other activities: Night skiing, Nordic center with snowshoe trails, snow tubing, rental and gear shop, ski school, 12 restaurants, four bars, outdoor food trucks. The Pass Life has brewery, restaurant and ski museum.

Accessibility: Interstate 90 is an interstate highway over a mountain pass susceptible to winter closures for avalanche control and spinouts. Carry chains, which might be required under penalty of fine. Check WSDOT before you go. Resort runs free shuttle buses between base areas.

Public health protocol: Masks required indoors, proof of COVID-19 vaccination required to dine indoors at Alpental and Summit West but not required at Summit Central or Summit East.

Timberline Ski Area

27500 E. Timberline Road, Government Camp, Ore.; 503-272-3311; timberlinelodge.com/

What it’s known for: Summer skiing and “The Shining.”

Imposing Timberline Lodge is a Northwest architectural icon dating to the 1930s, instantly recognizable to anyone who has seen “The Shining.” The historic resort has other claims to fame, like the Palmer Chairlift that stretches up to 8,500 feet on Mount Hood, allowing for summer skiing on the Palmer Glacier. Come winter, though, the terrain is mellower than neighbors like Skibowl and Mount Hood Meadows. An easy day trip from Portland, but if you are looking for a snowy weekend getaway, there are lodging options in nearby Government Camp, the historic lodge itself and the coveted high-mountain lodge Silcox Hut.

Lift tickets: $114 peak and $97 weekday for adults; $97 peak and $86 midweek for youths ages 15 to 17; $67 peak and $64 midweek for children ages 7 to 14 and seniors.

Amenities/other activities: Rental and gear shop, ski school, Friday and Saturday night skiing, historic lodge, on-mountain overnight hut, three restaurants, two bars, one on-mountain restaurant, snow-cat skiing, snow tubing, snowshoeing.

Accessibility: State Route 26 is a highway over a mountain pass susceptible to winter weather. Consult Tripcheck.com before you go.

Public health protocol: Face masks required indoors.

Whistler Blackcomb

4545 Blackcomb Way, Whistler, B.C.; 604-967-8950; whistlerblackcomb.com/

What it’s known for: The best skiing in the Pacific Northwest.

Host of the 2010 Olympic Alpine and Nordic events, Whistler Blackcomb is the big kahuna of Pacific Northwest skiing, a true international destination resort that regularly tops “best of” lists. With a vertical mile from top to bottom, 200-plus trails and , you can spend a week here and barely scratch the surface.

The Resort Municipality of Whistler is no mere ski town; the entire place is laid out perfectly to encourage walking (or a short bus ride) from lodging to lift, a stroll through a wonderland village so popular that people visit with no intention of skiing. Pro tip: Don’t get discouraged by rain in the village. Stay dry in the gondola and know that means it’s snowing up high.

Lift tickets: CA$132-$199 for adult daily; CA$66-$100 for children ages 7 to 12; CA$112-$169 for teenagers ages 13 to 18; CA$119-$179 for seniors age 65+.

Amenities/other activities: Everything you can imagine or reasonably expect from a ski resort and then some, like a Scandinavian day spa, Olympic-class cross-country skiing, dog sledding and bobsled track.

Accessibility: Must have proper ID to cross the U.S.-Canada border (U.S. or Canadian passport, NEXUS card, Washington Enhanced Driver’s License) and show proof of COVID-19 vaccination for ages 12 and up, winter tires required on Sea to Sky Highway under penalty of fine. Check DriveBC.ca before you go. Regular bus service to and from Vancouver International Airport and downtown, reliable free and paid local bus service throughout Whistler.

Public health protocol: Face coverings required indoors, including gondolas; proof of COVID-19 vaccination required to dine indoors.

White Pass Ski Area

48935 U.S. Highway 12, Naches; 509-672-3100; skiwhitepass.com/

What it’s known for: A sleeper resort with stunning views.

A sleeper ski area most popular with South Sound residents, White Pass nevertheless starts at 4,500 feet, higher even than Stevens Pass. Like Crystal, the resort boasts stunning panoramic views of Mount Rainier — in this case, of the mountain’s south side. A 2011 expansion has largely eliminated clogged lift lines, and an on-mountain yurt makes for a cozy midday cocoa or beer break. With a charming inn and a respectable Nordic center, White Pass is an overlooked overnight destination.

Lift tickets: $74 for adult daily; $5 for children ages 8 and under; $52 for children ages 9 to 16; $5 for Super Seniors ages 73 and older.

Amenities/other activities: Night skiing on Saturdays and holidays through end of February, tubing hill, Nordic center, snowshoe trails, rental and gear shop, ski school, one on-site hotel with child care, two on-mountain restaurants, two lodge restaurants, espresso bar, pub, RV lot.

Accessibility: State Route 12 is a highway over a mountain pass. Carry chains — they can be required under penalty of fine. Check WSDOT before you go.

Public health protocol: Masks required indoors.

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