Powder Stashes Abound In Northwest, But Heavier Than Most
In most seasons, the Pacific Northwest can claim the most snow in the country -- and the heaviest powder. So, skiers and riders who head up to the Cascades know they have to work a bit harder to carve up the freshies.
Veteran instructors recommend fatter skis to keep you more on top of the heavier snow, and both a more distinct pole plant and a pre-loading bounce to get skis up and ready to turn.
Here's a look at four Washington state ski and snowboard mountains -- all within a couple hours' drive of Seattle -- where hittin' the "coastal concrete" is the call of most days.
The three mountains at Summit at Snoqualmie offered quite different experiences. If powder's in your future, head to Alpental. The upper mountain contains powder stashes galore. Locals typically ride Edelweiss two-seater to the top where, hopefully, ski patrol has cleared Nash Gate and Elevator Gate to open into the back bowls.
From there, a massive selection of tree skiing and riding awaits. It's steep -- major cliff-ey sections -- and often tight. A good study of a trail map or hook-up with a local means top lines.
Officially, Stevens Pass isn't large -- 1,200 acres, 37 runs -- but sitting atop the Pacific Crest invites mega-storms to dump an average of 450 inches a year. High up on the front side, powder hounds can find lines in the chutes under Cowboy Mountain. But where stuff piles up is in Mill Valley, the backside in-bounds terrain with expansive bowls, faces and gulches chock full of snow.
Backcountry skiers and riders flock to the Washington state mountain to slip under the ropes into a quiet wonderland. The area is avalanche prone -- a slide in 2011 killed three accomplished skiers -- so backcountry equipment and knowledge are of the utmost.
Located near weather-grabbing Mount Ranier, White Pass gets pounded (400+ inches a season) on its 2,000+ feet of vertical. On powder, the steeps off Great White Express lure early-birds. On the other side, the terrain is more moderate, but making laps on the Coilour Express opens up tons of lines in the trees -- and access to some renowned backcountry steeps.
Sitting on the eastern slope of the Cascades, Mission Ridge gets more sun than most, but its elevation and location makes for drier snow than in most to the Northwest. Backcountry skiing and riding reigns off the backside, but the royal pow' lines plunge off Windy Ridge -- skier's right off Liberator chair -- and the Bomber Chutes across the way.