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Skiing in Washington

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 

I'm considering taking a quick trip out for 3 days of skiing to Washington and trying to make the most of my visit.

 

I like to try different resorts and am not opposed to driving a bit.

 

Curious to know if it is feasible to hit both Stevens Pass & Crystal Mountain on the same trip or is it completely different canyon roads and truely not realistic to drive those distances? 

 

If not what 2/3 resorts would you recommend skiing so not driving 3/4 hours each day and any good places to stay that are somewhat affordable with decent food and good drinks that are not breaking the bank? 

 

I'll be coming out solo.

 

Thanks in advance!

post #2 of 18

There are a number of better WA experts on here, but I've driven to both areas - they're in opposite directions. Google says about 3 hours. Alpental and Mission Ridge are both under 2 hours from Stevens and would be my choices on a short trip. Alpental has some gnarly terrain and is a pretty straight shot down the interstate from Seattle. Mission Ridge supposedly has drier snow and better weather than typical of the Northwest because it's on the east side of the mountains. It also appears to have some cool terrain.

 

I went to Oktoberfest last year and drove out I-90 past Alpental to Wenatchee, the base town for Mission Ridge, and then to Leavenworth, a base for Stevens. It didn't seem like it'd be a terrible drive in winter (I had beautiful fall weather, so I might be mis-remembering), and it'd make a nice loop to maximize the resorts you see. Beautiful area, too.

 

Wenatchee was cheap to stay in and a decent-sized town with plenty of places to eat. I'd think Leavenworth would be more expensive, but it's a cool, little German-emulating town with a lot of German cuisine and drink. There's also a microbrewery, and that part of Washington is wine country, so local wine flows liberally.

 

Hopefully WA guys will chime in and point out anything I got wrong.

post #3 of 18

You could do Stevens and Crystal in 3 days. 3 hours between them sounds right. Since Crystal has lodging at the base, and is the only WA area with lodging at the base, you should take advantage of that, ideally staying there the night before skiing. It will probably be overpriced and don't expect too much of the food, but you can't beat the conveniece. Then after skiing Crystal, get in the car and head toward Stevens. You could stay in Monroe, which is the last large town before you head toward Stevens Pass; it has chain motels and chain restaurants and will be affordable, though nothing special. It's an hour to Stevens from there. Others might have ideas for staying closer to Stevens but those little towns on the Stevens Pass Hwy aren't very appealing; I think making meth is probably the main industry.

 

If you are coming on weekdays, tell us, because you don't want to be traversing the metro area between the two, or going from Seatac to either one, during commute hours.

 

Here's a couple threads you might want to check out:

http://www.epicski.com/t/111990/crystal-stevens-baker-etc-recs-and-lodging-intelligence

http://www.epicski.com/t/116790/seattle-skiing-for-the-tourist

 

 

Quote:

is it completely different canyon roads

The Cascades run like a spine, north-south, bisecting Washington. The ski areas are generally all at different points along the spine, but the roads all go east-west, so you will generally need to backtrack to get from one area to another. There are a couple loops you could make; one would be Stevens Pass and Mission Ridge (and if you had time, were an expert skier, and the freezing level wasn't too low, you could even tack Alpental on to that). The problem with Mission Ridge is that is gets very little snow compared to our other resorts. And I'd suggest the Crystal/Stevens combo over any other. You really don't want to miss Crystal IMO.

post #4 of 18

IMHO, as nice as Stevens can be, if it's going off, or even if it's not, Crystal offers more terrain choices and types... and length as well.

I'd do a day of Stevens and two of Crystal and call it good. 

post #5 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by markojp View Post

IMHO, as nice as Stevens can be, if it's going off, or even if it's not, Crystal offers more terrain choices and types... and length as well.

I'd do a day of Stevens and two of Crystal and call it good. 


+1 on this recommendation.

 

Get reservations at the Cascadia Inn (Google them), a small, odd little place in Skykomish, 16 miles from Stevens Pass on the west side.  If you want a more normal place try the Dutch Cup motel in Sultan, about 40 minutes from the pass.

 

Ski one day at Stevens and then hightail it to Crystal that evening.  Make reservations for yourself at the lodging at Crystal and ski two days.

 

 

However, if you have time to be touristy another itinerary could be worked out.

post #6 of 18

You could do Crystal, Alpental. and Stevens in 3 days.  They will be about 2 hours driving apart in that order, on decent roads.  You will go through lots of towns with motels, and there are a bunch of micro-breweries on the routes.  

 

As mentioned above Crystal is the big dog.  Was my home mountain for 6 years, and would be happy to ski there the next 420 years or so.  Size and personality wise it has some stuff Snowbird would like to have.  You could easily spend 3 days there and not hit the same line twice, and save a lot of driving.  If the storms are going off, like this week, would suggest you tuck it in tight there and hang out at the Snorting Elk.  

 

Mission is a good area but does not get nearly the snow.  Personally would stay on the West side of the hills, it would save you some driving.

 

Enjoy.  Hope you get the storms.

post #7 of 18

Microclimate drives everything. It is all about the moment. I'd stay as flexible as possible until 2-3 days before you arrive - so you have a prayer of a decent forecast. While the distance from Crystal to Baker is not that far as the crow flies, snow amounts and quality can vary by factors. You'd hate to be skiing glop at Crystal while Stevens has powder. Or dust on crust at Stevens while Crystal has the goods. And you'd hate to be at either if it is dumping rain... Other than that .02, lots of good info above.

post #8 of 18

We're having some heavy snow, which is good!  But make sure you check the pass reports for closures and avalanche control.  

 

Here's the site for Interstate 90 - you can navigate to the other passes from there.  http://i90.atmos.washington.edu/roadview/i90/

 

Alpental is my home ski area.  It's got a lot of steep, challenging and funky terrain.  It does not have a lot of groomers or long runs with steady fall lines.  If you go to Alpental here's some directions:  It's part of a larger ski area called "The Summit at Snoqualmie."  You want to get off I-90 at exit 52, turn left, go under the freeway and keep driving to the end of the road (1-1/2 miles?).  The only places to eat that aren't annoying are the lodge at Alpental and Red Mountain Coffee back by the freeway exit.  This ski area is so close to Seattle it doesn't have a brew pub.

 

If you ski Alpental there is a big backcountry available through several gates.  Get a local to show you around, bring your avalanche gear and don't go alone! 

 

And if you go to Crystal go to the Snorting Elk - a bar that's hidden away and hard to find at the base.  The Naches Tavern in Greenwater is a good place to eat on the way back from Crystal.

 

I would also look into going to Baker.  It's a bit out of the way, but it's a lot of fun.  It's about 3 hours from Seattle.

post #9 of 18

And while Alpental is a great local place that'll kick most visitors both local and non hard in the rear end, unless it's snowed/snowing a lot, there really isn't a point to going if it's not going off. There's just too much more terrain at Crystal if you're traveling by plane for some turns.

post #10 of 18

Mission is only worth your while if they have fresh storm rolling and you are in the area. Crystal is the best choice. 

post #11 of 18
My suggestion is to look for cheap lodging in Bellevue. Priceline it, or hotwire. Then you are 90 minutes or so to Stevens Pass, and about the same to Xtal. You are then just 50 minutes to Alpy and Snoqualmie Pass. Then depending on conditions, you have your choice of ski areas. It could be going off at all 3 as some times occurs, or one of them might be getting the goods. I-405 lodging in and around Bellevue/Issaquah gives you the flexibility plus decent restaurants to choose from at the end of the day.
post #12 of 18

I can't recommend dealing with 405 weekday traffic  by choice at almost any time of day related to getting to a ski hill. It's a horror show.

post #13 of 18

405 in the early AM is not a big deal. If you leave early enough to make xtal opening, it is a short quick stint on 405. As it is 90 to hit Alpental. Likewise, leaving by 6:30, 520 is no big issue last I did that. Weekends are generally not a problem unless it is a "game day".

 

To the broad point - daytime traffic anywhere in the greater Puget Sound area is bad. Commute hours are really bad.

post #14 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by spindrift View Post

405 in the early AM is not a big deal. If you leave early enough to make xtal opening, it is a short quick stint on 405. As it is 90 to hit Alpental. Likewise, leaving by 6:30, 520 is no big issue last I did that. Weekends are generally not a problem unless it is a "game day".

 

To the broad point - daytime traffic anywhere in the greater Puget Sound area is bad. Commute hours are really bad.

The traffic is a PITA but really not any worse than say, I-70 in Denver or going up the canyons in SLC on a snow day.  Traveling against the traffic helps a bunch, but it can still suck.  

 

Seattle is rated top 10 in the bad traffic lists, but you're going skiing so who cares.

post #15 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by markojp View Post

And while Alpental is a great local place that'll kick most visitors both local and non hard in the rear end, unless it's snowed/snowing a lot, there really isn't a point to going if it's not going off. There's just too much more terrain at Crystal if you're traveling by plane for some turns.

 

And if it is going off, I'd still skip it if you're going to be there on a weekend.  Longest lines I've ever seen in WA have been Chair 2 at Alpental on Saturdays with good snow.  I've stopped skiing Alpental altogether because I'm primarily a weekend skier and that place is just a mess when the conditions are good.  Despite the reputation for crowds at Stevens and Crystal, I find that Alpental takes the prize.  Now, a weekday would be a different story of course.

post #16 of 18
Quote:
The traffic is a PITA but really not any worse than say, I-70 in Denver or going up the canyons in SLC on a snow day. 

 

 

To clarify for the OP, you aren't going to encounter traffic in or near the mountains, just if you try to traverse the metro area getting between ski areas at rush hour. I do think that's easy enough to avoid, though. And on a weekend there shouldn't be traffic at all--it's not a Colorado I-70 type situation here.

post #17 of 18

take a serious look at mt baker. its about 2.5 hr drive from seattle and if there is fresh snow it is heaven. better than crystal and stevens.

post #18 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by hozman View Post

take a serious look at mt baker. its about 2.5 hr drive from seattle and if there is fresh snow it is heaven. better than crystal and stevens.


While I love Mt. Baker, and am a big booster, I disagree.  For a first timer on a powder day, you wouldn't have enough time to orient yourself before the whole place was shredded.  Stevens has as much great terrain as Baker, it's lots easier to figure out the layout of the area, and the powder lasts longer.  Crystal is just bigger and has tons of great terrain.

 

Baker is a small, local ski area with a large percentage of expert terrain.  If you're going OB, then it's the biggest place imaginable.

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