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Ikon Pass Pairing: Steeps And Deeps Near Seattle

Ikon-Crystal-Powder There's no shortage of freshies in the Cascades above Seattle. (Crystal Mountain Resort/Facebook)

Ikon Pass holders should head to Seattle and cash in two very different ski and snowboard mountains in the Cascades -- each catching tons of snow out of northern Pacific storms.

First stop is Summit at Snoqualmie, less than an hour's drive up I-90 from the city limits. Ikon gets you seven days at this four-in-one resort. Three of the mountains lay out short-ish, easier runs inside a giant curve of the interstate as it approaches 2,726-foot Snoqualmie Pass. The fourth, steep-and-deep Alpental, is a short drive or shuttle away.

Ideal for families and groups of varying levels, novices should start with Summit West -- basically one large open slope -- and gravitate to Central, which has a dozen lifts and all manner of gradations. Summit East is the transition zone, with all levels of difficulty. These three areas link with "crossover" trails. Plenty of terrain parks, and all three have night skiing.

Alpental is where the hotshots ski and ride. The majority of the resort's vertical drop resides in this steep cirque that tops out at 5,400 feet elevation. It's as tough as anywhere, with all-black Edelweiss Bowl, and backcountry gnarl, too. A shuttle runs from lower areas.

Most parking is at Central; carpool lots at Central and West are close in and charge a fee depending upon ridership. Only pass holders can park at Alpental; use the shuttle instead.

A couple of lodges at the mountain, most in Cle Elum to the east and towns of Snoqualmie and North Bend on the west side. Expect weekend crowds and some "Cascade Concrete."

Now we head south to Crystal Mountain, where the Ikon Pass means unlimited days. Be sure to make a parking reservation for weekends and holidays; otherwise, you'll have to take a free 50-minute shuttle from Enumclaw.

Overnighters can bed down in three slopeside inns and a supply of condos just off the base area. The large RV area has hookups. Enumclaw has the nearest selection of accommodations.

With 2,600 acres inbounds and nearly 3,000 vertical drop, Crystal is the biggest resort in the state and can match up with any in the nation -- especially with the view of Mount Ranier. Only about 10% of the hill is rated green, but a host of blues off Ranier Express and terrain parks below will keep intermediates happy.

As for the rest, some of the best hike-to bowl skiing around awaits in Southback, and you won't be disappointed wherever you drop in from the endless five-peak ridge on top. The lift system centers around the summit gondola. Bring the fat-boy skis, as snow conditions vary widely over the mountain. Frequent high winds will shut down the upper mountain.


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