Here is what I thought about Seattle skiing after moving there from the East. Overall, I thought Seattle is great ski city -- lots of locals ski, few visitors, relatively cheap (lift tickets in low/mid 40s - like Alta). They have it really good -- despite complaints about bases if less than 100", drives more than 1.5 hrs and $40 dollar tickets.
Snoqualmie is where Seattle learns to ski, but Alpental rocks.
Small but mighty. There are no green slopes. Maybe 66% of the mountain is expert. Backcountry is killer. Only 1 hr from Seattle.
While the lower slopes are cruisers and bumps off a HS quad, the Edelweiss chair offers amzing terrain -- the namesake bowl, International and Backcountry. (Unfortunately, this double lift generally has some of the longest lines in WA state on the weekends). The Edelweiss Bowl under the lift has numerous lines and is a series of steep pitches. International drops off the backside and is a big open steep space and branches off into numerous lines for a full 2000 ft. Finally, there is the Backcountry is amazing!!! Many gates available from International. There are numerous 20-30 ft cliffs in it so be really careful. Words do not do it justice -- checkout www.alpental.com
-- a great local site that really shows it off.
Yes, Alpental can have HEAVY snow somedays, but that is why you need a pair of fat skis.Crystal
About 1.75 hrs from Seattle, Crystal legitimately offers some of the best expert terrain in the US. Great views of Rainier, a North and South Backcountry, 3000 vertical top it all off. The good stuff is: 1. the four upper mountain bowls (Snorting Elk, Green Valley, Powder Bowl, and Campbell Basin), 2. top-to-bottom lines like Exterminator, 3. South Country (lines off Silver King and Throne are worth the effort) and 4. North country (huge area on the other side of Northway Peak). Parking at Crystal is a little bit of a hassle and the lodges can be cramped, but slope/lift line is not much of an issue. Unfortunately, Crystal is not located on a pass and sits in Rainier's snow shadow so it only gets about 350" a year.
Being the best intermediate mountain in WA state and only 1.5 hrs from Seattle, Stevens is quite crowded on the weekends. Many lessons are taught here on the weekends and parking can fill by 10am -- and then you are out of luck. There is some expert skiing off 7th Heaven and the Backside, but it is not too extreme. Stevens often has the best condiditions due too high elevation (4000 ft) and the cold air that filters through the pass from Eastern WA (pressure gradient) which can dry the snow.Mount Baker
Although modest in vertical at 1500 ft, Baker offers some good expert terrain on the snowiest mountain in the US (600+ average). Borders love the place since the mountain embraced the sport early, has lots of natural half pipes and can handle the Cascade Concrete with ease. It's a longer drive from Seattle at 2.5 hours, but often is the first resort to open. Storms can quickly dump 40" in 1 or 2 days and open the place. Early season bases tend to be deeper here. I often would ski here Thanksgiving through Xmas waiting for other mountains to catch up. If the sun ever comes out while you are there, the views of Baker and Shuksan are amazing.Whistler
Nothing really needs to be said -- 4 hrs, REI discount tickets, exchange rate. One caveat, Whistler can be expensive mid-season.
Here is just some general WA ski knowledge:Elevation/Snow Quality/Snow
Snoqualmie is lowest at 3000 ft and can feature the sloppiest snow. Stevens at 4000, Crystal at 4400 (most southern) and Baker at 3500 (most northern) lie on a similar snow line. Stevens can benefit from the cool dry air being sucked from Eastern WA. The snowiest is Baker (600"), followed by Stevens and Snoqualmie (400") and finally Crystal (350"). Most WA locals will complain if bases are not 100"+.Snow Line
You can forecast the snow line in the mountains by walking around Seattle. During storms, the following 'rules of thumb' are true:
50 degrees plus -- rain at many/most mountains
45-50 -- wet snow most places
40-45 -- pretty good snow most places
40 below -- good snow quality everywhere
snow in town -- watchout, Utah quality powder everywhere!Discount Tickets
Check Costsco, REI....passes at Alpental/Snowqualmie were/are?? a good deal.OVERALL REC
Living in Seattle, I skied mostly at Alpental and Crystal Mt for terrain and proximity reasons. I did a few trips to Baker, Stevens and Whistler every year too. Stevens does not quite have 'the goods' and Baker is a comparative haul.Others
White Pass and Mission Ridge are about 3-3.5 hrs away, but not advanced. Mt Hood in Oregon is flatter than expected. Mt. Bachelor, OR -- while not very steep -- has 360 degree skiing off its summit for 3000 ft and its snow quality is quite high.