I started skiing a couple of years ago now with my first few times being in Ohio and Pennsylvania, which seem like bunny hills compared to the resorts in Washington. I decided not to buy my own skis because it was an investment and wanted to make sure I enjoyed it first. The first few times skiing in Washington were in December and January. I had a new found fear: going down steep terrain.
Looking down from the top of a slope is scary at least when you start skiing as an adult. If you have ever skied in Washington, you know that visibility can change your technique and confidence level day-to-day. I have been to Stevens Pass, Crystal Mountain Resort, Mt. Baker Ski Area, Meany Lodge, The Summit at Snoqualmie, and Alpental.
I found out that I love skiing. It is hard to see my first real ski season end, but fortunately I was able to ski a few pow days this spring. I did buy skis to take advantage of the end of the season ski sales and was able to use them a few times before the end of the season.
Hanging out on the slopes at Meany
Stevens is one of the closer resorts to Seattle. It is right on the pass with close parking. I have been to Stevens multiple times since Andy has a season pass. I recommend getting the PNW Advantage Pass if you plan on going more than 4 times. It saves money off the lift ticket and your fourth lift pass is free.
Some tips: Hogsback lift has the most options of runs off it, most of them being blue. This lift will also get you to Tye Mill lift, which will take you to some long blue runs on the backside. Keep track of the lift closing times. Stevens also has night skiing, which I have not done. If you plan an overnight trip with two days of skiing, consider staying on location at the Mountaineers Lodge. You do not have to be a Mountaineer to stay, but it will cost you a little more. They will provide you with breakfast and dinners, and everyone is required to do a chore.
Tracking out fresh pow at Stevens in April (Photo by: Andy Crampton)
This can be a day trip, but I highly recommend staying at the Mountaineers lodge here because you have to catch a Sno-Cat to get to the ski area. Meany is not your typical ski destination. It is not a resort and only has rope tows. The fastest tow rope, mach tow, clocks in at 15 mph, which is faster than some of the chairlifts at the local resorts. The slopes are limited with the best ones requiring use of the mach tow. Leather gloves should be worn if skiing here. They do provide lessons, and it is a great atmosphere for families and kids.
Meany Lodge SnoCat
I was here on a blue bird day with views of Rainier. They also have a gondola lift to see views of Rainier. I enjoyed Crystal Mountain very much. It is a nicer resort than all the other ones I have listed and is the newest with lodges on different areas of the mountain that are easy to get to. You do pay more for the resort-like feel.
Pow Day at Crystal
I also liked Baker, but it is the furthest drive away from Seattle. There are different areas of skiing here, so research what area you will be skiing and park near the area you want to ski. We skied at the White Salmon since it had more blue options. Heather Meadows has more black options.
Alpental (part of Snoqualmie)
Andy had been wanting to go here all season. I was a little hesitant because it only has a few blues and the whole upper lift only has blacks. It is a great place to go for a few hours and is close to Seattle. It is amazing when there is fresh pow. However, the lift lines were really long because of the conditions. The wait time for the upper lift was roughly 30 to 45 minutes. We then tailgated in the parking lot before heading over to The Summit at Snoqualmie. It is easy to hop between the different sections, whether you are driving or hitching rides on the shuttle system. I did notice there were few kids here compared to other resorts.
Pow Day at Alpental
This is the closest option from Seattle. I have only been to Snoqualmie Central in April. The snow conditions were still good because we receive some powder. However, we did go to Alpental for the first part of the day. There are traverses on some of the slopes to get to the lifts, which are pretty far apart from each other. It is a good place to go if you want to hit up night skiing after work in the city.
Advice for new skiers:
1. Know the runs at the resort you are going to. Green runs are the easiest, blues are moderate, and blacks are the hardest.
1. Ski with friends that will wait for you. Getting lost and having to go down a black diamond one of your first times skiing is scary.
2. Take a lesson. I did not have any formal lessons. Fortunately, one of my friends taught me the basics. I picked it up very quickly, but it might be wise to learn from an expert.
3. As you are learning, ski with someone around or just above your experience level. Andy bought skis last spring and has been more than me. He likes to go fast, but he pushes me to get outside of my comfort zone within my ability.
4. Trying new things is ok. I find that at some resorts, blues are just as good to learn on as greens. The only reason I say this is because they are steeper. If the green you are practicing on is very slow, then you might not be working on carving because you are trying to keep your speed up.
5. Learn to skate. This really helps maneuver around people at the lift lines and lodges.
6. Be conscience of people around you. There is nothing that frustrates me more than being in a lift line with the person behind me running into my skis.
Where is your favorite ski/snowboarding destination?
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