Downhill Skiing and Snowboarding
Washington’s best ski and snowboard areas are stretched along the Cascades from Mt. Baker to Mt. Rainier. Snow on the western slopes of the Cascades is usually wet and heavy, but some ski areas on the eastern slopes, such as Mission Ridge, have powdery snow. Visitors centers carry the Washington State Winter Recreation Guide.
Cross-country, or Nordic, skiing is particularly popular on the eastern slopes of the mountains, in part because the snow is more powdery and the weather is usually sunny and clear. Some of the best cross-country skiing is in the Methow Valley, with close to 100 miles of trail marked, the majority of which are groomed. The Methow Valley Sports Trail Association (509/996-3287, www.mvsta.com) provides a hotline for ski-touring information and a brochure showing the major trails.
Other popular cross-country skiing areas include Mount Tahoma Trails (near Mount Rainier National Park), Echo Valley (near Lake Chelan), Hurricane Ridge (Olympic National Park), Leavenworth Winter Sports Club, Stevens Pass Nordic Center, White Pass Nordic Center, and Summit Nordic Center. Most of these areas groom trails for both traditional and skate-skiing.
The state maintains more than 40 Sno-Parks in the Cascades and eastern mountains, with nearby skiing trails (sometimes groomed, sometimes not). The permits required to park at these plowed areas are available from retail outlets throughout the state. The cost is $9 for a one-day pass, or $21 for the entire winter season, with the money helping to pay for plowing, signs, trail grooming, and maintenance. The State Parks and Recreation Commission (360/902-8844, www.parks.wa.gov/winter) sells Sno-Park permits and has maps and brochures of groomed cross-country ski trails and other ski areas.
For the current snow avalanche danger in the backcountry, contact the Forest Service (206/526-6677) or the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center (www.nwac.noaa.gov).
The state maintains over 2,200 miles of groomed snowmobile trails, primarily in the Cascades and northeast corner of the state. For a map showing snowmobile trails and a publication on snowmobile use in the state, contact Washington State Park Recreation Division (360/902-8844, www.parks.wa.gov/winter).
© Ericka Chickowski from Moon Washington, 8th edition