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2-3 day trip from Seattle to...?

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
So we* may take a week up in Seattle -- Bainbridge Island, actually -- in January.  If we do, we may leave the kids for two or three days and ski somewhere.

But where?

Whistler on the eve of the Olympics?  The town will probably be fixated on the preparations, but maybe the off piste will be neglected and therefore schweet?  But figure 5 hours each way, and pricey.

Baker?  Half the distance as Whistler, but still pretty far, and no nearby lodging.

Crystal?  Nearby, obviously, and we liked it before.


*"we" = me and The Mom.  We like walks on the beach at sunset, but prefer them along a ridge with our skis on our shoulders.  We prefer powder over anything else, but ski just about anywhere but the park.  Amenities are good, nice is good, fancy is probably overkill. 
post #2 of 12
Originally Posted by TheDad View Post

 We like walks on the beach at sunset, but prefer them along a ridge with our skis on our shoulders.  

Get going early enough & you can do both on the same day... 

Play it by ear a bit. Crystal is Crystal. You can stay there, which is nice. And its reputation is well known. But there are other worthy options.

Everything in western WA is all about what is happening in real time. Baker gets a ton of snow. But Stevens and Alpental can get a ton as well. Google around for info on the Puget Sound Convergence Zone. On the right nights when it forms up, magic happens wherever that sucker parks itself - often over Stevens or Alpy or both... During a dry spell, it can all blow. And while we have OK groomer skiing, this is not exactly groomer heaven.

There's really is no truly convenient lodging anywhere near most cascade ski areas - but you can find lodging "close enough" to make it work for any of the local areas. You might consider staying in tacky/kitschy "Bavarian" Leavenworth. Good access to Stevens and to Mission ridge. Amenities are going to be limited to middling pretty much anywhere local.

There is some great skiing here. Excellent & varied terrain. With or without heading OB. Great snow in a good storm cycle. The only thing missing is "vertical". If you are willing to take your skiing in modest vertical chunks, you won't find much better. The only reason it is not better known - and is unlikely to draw crowds - is that access is a relative PITA for non-locals and there are no real resorts. So there is no resort marketing machine... And no real capacity for out of town crowds.

Check out TRs in the usual places.

Like I said though, staying flexible may pay dividends. You'll also find some serious parochialism wrt to the local hills. Folks seem to be quite loyal - so opinions will likely reflect this.

Oh...one last thought -- Stevens and the Summit have some of the best night skiing going in the US  if you are into that (bonus on a big storm day). They've both cut back nights and in the case of the Summit IIRC started rotating open acreage in recent years - so it pays to check schedules.
post #3 of 12
What Spindrift said.

Conditions in the Cascades can be all over the place.  You need to be here, ready to go at the drop of a hat and then you can get really great conditions at four main places: Alpental, Baker, Crystal, and Stevens (in alphabetical order).  Each has great terrain but the snow is pretty much all over the place. From Bainbridge Island, using the ferry, Alpental is closest; Crystal and Stevens are about the same distance and Baker is a long way off.

You might be able to get some great deals at Whistler because people will be scared off by the Olympics.  It's worth the trip, even though the drive is a pain in the patooey.
post #4 of 12
Spindrift hit it.  Think of this as a sampler, a little of this a little of that. 

Alpental should be hit of r a day, the stuff off of the Edelweiss lift may not be heaven but close, it'll do.  Lots of side country to visit.  That is your closest possibility.

Crystal has lots.  Even a couple of days after a storm you can normally find some place to play.  Also quite a bit higher than Alpental so dryer too.  If you choose to stay up at Crystal go visit the Snorting Elk, hard to miss there aren't too many choices up there.  It could make a nice overnight get away though.

We will try to have some fresh snow for you.
post #5 of 12
 A few more thoughts.

This might be obvious, but try to ski during the week. Not on a weekend. The big exception to this is if a huge system is moving in on a Saturday (which happened a lot last year...grumble...). It is like two different worlds - one in which there are lift lines and one in which they do not exist. Remember, these are not "resorts". On & near mountain lodging pretty much = zero. The implications are Hudge.

For all practical purposes, there is zero snow making in Western WA. Yeah, a little at Mission. And a gun here or there. But really, think 100% reliance on the beneficence of Ullr. So the year & the day are everything. Last year, Feb. was a bust. Sheets of ice all over for weeks. Last few days of Feb. and all of March -- knee deep or better at least 3 days a week. Hence the consistent message here & TGR about flexibility.

A couple lodging thoughts. If you want the slightly lux get away from the kids thing, consider Salish Lodge or Willows Lodge. Both are a definite "cut above" and are local "escape" standards. Salish is perched on Snoqualmie falls, half an hour from Alpy (which is closed Mondays BTW). Willows is in the Woodinville wine country a stone's throw from several wineries. And a mellow 1.5 hours from both Stevens and Alpental. The Woodinville area is unique in that the grapes are grown in Eastern WA and trucked over at harvest. But don't let that fool you -- there's some truly fine juice made in the neighborhood. There are worse things to do than ski early & get back down early enough for a nice meal & local wine. If you want to splurge big, the Herb Farm is on the grounds of the Willows.

Alternatively, as hinted at elsewhere, if the weather is looking right - book two nights in Leavenworth (a much tackier, but well located choice). Head up to Stevens & ski a day, stay in Leavenworth, ski the next day at Mission Ridge, stay at Leavenworth a second night, ski another day at Stevens & then head back to BI.

There are other more budget lodging options in those general areas. Some closer to Stevens - but I'd be wary of staying in some of the places along Hiway 2. Maps & google will tell the story.

The only challenge with using BI as a daily base is the ferry. It'd blow to allow that extra travel time every morning & afternoon.

edit: If you are a beer fan, the Red Hook brewery is a 60 second walk from the Willows... The beer is very good & as a rule the pub style food is passable.
Edited by spindrift - 12/8/09 at 10:35am
post #6 of 12
My first choice would be Whistler, unless you really don’t want to do the drive. Bookings are down, as they always are whenever a town hosts the Olympics, because everyone’s scared off thinking, incorrectly, that it’s crazy and expensive. I've seen some good lift/lodging packages advertised. And Whistler is actually not expensive IMO—get a small condo through alluradirect.com, cook in, buy discount lift tickets in Seattle at REI (disclaimer: they have sold these in recent years but I haven’t checked this year).
Second choice, Crystal, since they have lodging. Since this is a ski getaway for you I just think it would be a drag to stay someplace where you have to drive quite a bit to ski. Also, if it’s snowing heavily it’s not uncommon for our highways to shut down for avy control, which would make getting to the slopes impossible if you aren’t staying there. Like others said wait to see what conditions are like to choose, if you decide to stay in WA.

Though if the idea of a fake Bavarian village doesn't make you want to throw up (Leavenworth rubs some people the wrong way), the idea of staying in Leavenworth and skiing Stevens and Mission Ridge isn't bad. I'd stay in Leavenworth before staying in any other town that you might stay in to access Baker, Stevens, Alpental, etc. It's touristy but it has a good variety of lodging and restaurants, and it's in a pretty setting.
post #7 of 12
Whistler is about 4.5 hours unless you get stuck (and you will) behind all the PNW'er's who will clog the highway at EXACTLY 60mph in every lane.

Conditions should be fine, and the Olympics won't infect Blackcomb in any case. It's not terribly pricey, and there's been LOTS of specials because it appears everyone's staying away in droves because of the Olympics.
post #8 of 12
Originally Posted by snofun3 View Post

Whistler is about 4.5 hours unless you get stuck (and you will) behind all the PNW'er's who will clog the highway at EXACTLY 60mph in every lane.

So that was YOU behind me!
post #9 of 12
Whistler is about 4.5 hours unless you get stuck (and you will) behind all the PNW'er's who will clog the highway at EXACTLY 60mph in every lane.


Whistler is only 4.5 hours if you don't get stuck in any traffic on I-5, and don't get stuck in border lines, which almost never happens (to me anyway). Last couple trips we've waited over an hour to get into Canada, and this was on a weeknight at 9 or 10 pm. But they've also been doing construction at the border for ages, which probably made the crossing slower...does anyone know the status of that?
post #10 of 12
The highway construction is basically done, you shouldn't have any stoppages or slow downs because of that anymore.

As for the border, I rarely cross, but have heard it can be quite a delay at times.
post #11 of 12
Yeah, I know the Sea to Sky is done, I'm talking about construction at the border. US Homeland Security has been doing major construction and so there have been fewer lanes/booths, causing major backups. I haven't been up since last winter so I don't know the status. I don't believe they will be completely done until next summer, but I wonder if they are onto a new phase in construction that means there are now more lanes/booths.
post #12 of 12
I don't cross the border that often, but this month, at around 6 PM daily, I've been going under the big electronic sign over I5 just south of Bellingham that gives border wait times four crossings and usually the waits are shown as from 5 to 10 minutes, sometimes as long as 20.  I saw one listed at 45 minutes but that was one crossing once. 

I don't know how the construction is going but the original idea was to finish by the time the Olympics hit.  I think that they're behind and they won't meet the deadline for the entire project but they will have all of the lanes working.
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EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › Mountain/Resort Related Forums › Resorts, Conditions & Travel › 2-3 day trip from Seattle to...?