Washington State Resorts Bring Modest Upgrades To New Season

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Late to the party, Pacific storms have finally unleashed their wintertime largess on the Pacific Northwest this season -- and Washington's skiers and riders can't wait.

When they head up to the mountains, they will find couple of new chairlifts, a few more eating spots, streamlined ticketing and a bit more parking.

At Alpental -- the big brother of four-mountain Summit at Snoqualmie complex -- a replacement triple goes in on the beginner hill. It upgrades the Sessel chair, one of the older double chairs (1967) in the state. While it's expected to have minimal effect this season, plans call for a new lift to link the top of Sessel to the upper mountain.

Trying to unclog weekend and holiday lift lines, Alpental also added chairs to the workhorse Armstrong high-speed quad. All are part of a master plan to freshen up an aging lift system. Elsewhere at Snoqualmie, the magic carpet at the base of Summit Central got an upgrade, as did night lighting.

Over at Stevens Pass, another old double is out. The 63-year-old Kehr's chair has been replaced by a new fixed-grip quad to make it easier to connect to the Double Diamond chair and Big Chief Bowl. Also at the Seattle-area favorite are dedicated carpool parking in two lots.

The state's largest hill, Crystal Mountain has put in a mid-mountain yurt at the base of the Rainier Express -- the second on-hill eatery on Crystal's 2,600-acre expanse. RFID ticket access has been expanded on the mountain. And down below, management keeps trying to mitigate crowding with new lot shuttles, more RV overnight slots, and expanded bus service from Enumclaw.

About halfway between Seattle and Spokane sits Mission Ridge, a top-rated learning mountain on the eastern slope of Cascades. This season, Lift 4 got a mechanical upgrades, as did night lighting. These modest improvements are the beginning of what is planned to be a major expansion at Mission Ridge.

In other upgrade news, White Pass now required RFID ticketing for all. And, Mt. Spokane now has a rustic taphouse at the top of the hill.

And good news from the Olympic Peninsula: local hill Hurricane Ridge will reopen this season after a fire destroyed its base lodge two seasons ago. It's basic-basic for visitors to the hill withing the Olympic National Park: Temporary bathrooms and "contact station," use cars for warming and pack food. No potable water, food, or rentals right now.

 

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Washington's Cascades Draw Snow, Crowds But Plenty Others To Try Out

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In the state of Washington, skiing and snowboarding choices divide up neatly east and west, with some of the nation's largest and smallest areas spinning lifts each season.

The Cascade Range hovers over the Tacoma-Seattle-Bellingham corridor, with some of the tallest peaks in the Northwest. They push Pacific storms skyward, whereby dumping lots of the heaviest snow on the slopes, and produce clouds and fog much of the season.

Along its crest, you'll find five of the state's best. As standard-bearers of Northwest resorts, they are also the most popular because they sit within three hours' drive of the greater Seattle-Tacoma metroplex and its four million people.

Northernmost Mt. Baker gets the most snow -- average 600-plus inches a season -- but only 1,000 skiable acres. Crystal Mountain is the biggest at 2,600 acres, and the only one with on-site lodging. New parking lot and local bus service aimed to ease endemic crowding.

Fatboy haven Summit at Snoqualmie (2,000 total acres) is four mountains in one. "Shaggy soul" Stevens Pass (1,125 a.) lays out bowls, chutes and trees, and local-focused White Pass (1,400 a.) gives lower mountain to novices with deep discount tickets. At all, expect weekend crowds, overcast skies, and tons of untracked heavy powder.

Up in Olympic National Park, Hurricane Ridge (220 acres, 800 vertical) is funky-local: Upside-down access, main lift poma snakes up the hill, open Saturdays and Sundays, limit 175 vehicles.

Over on the eastern front of the Cascades -- the Inland Northwest -- snowfall declines because of the "snow shadow" for a cluster of lesser-known mountains, big and small. Mission Ridge -- 2,000 acres, 2,280 vertical drop -- is by far the largest; a new high-speed has spruced up a clunky, limited lift system. Loup Loup Ski Bowl (550 acres), with decent drop at 1,240 feet, opens Wednesdays and weekends. And, Sitzmark Ski Mountain's 80 acres and 650 vertical sits near the Canadian border.

A group of tiny local hills round out the eastern roster: Badger Mountain (50 acres), Echo Valley (20 a.), and Leavenworth Ski Hill (15 a.) --  with a hand-drawn trail map online.

The Rockies poke into Washington's far northeastern border. There you'll find somewhat drier snow and a trio of Spokane-centric mountains. 49 Degrees North looms over all, with an astounding 2,350 skiable acres, 1,851 feet of vertical, a very efficient lift system and family amenities.

An hour from its eponymous city, Mt. Spokane's 1,700 acres crunch up for 1,800 vertical drop. Open Wednesday-Sunday, expect lots of snowboarders. And, in the secluded southeast corner is local-secret Bluewood, with 400 acres underfoot and 1,125 feet of drop to slide down.

 

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SnoCast: Groundhog Is Right...Winter Conditions Remain

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Punxsutawney Phil says six more weeks of winter, and we agree. We're tracking winter weather and highlighting the ski conditions from coast to coast in another SnoCast. This week, we can expect a biting mid-winter burst of Arctic air across the Midwest and Northeast, along with two snow-making systems for the West Coast. Let's dive into the details for the week of February 2–8, 2023.

East

The coldest air of the season yet will settle across the Midwest and Great Lakes Thursday night, and then pour into Eastern Canada and the Northeast U.S. Friday and Saturday. 

Temperatures will plummet ~10-20+ degrees *below* average and gusty northwest winds pick up as a cold front presses east, creating dangerously cold wind chills between -30 to -50 degrees for portions of Upstate New York and New England, with the potential of even colder wind chills of -60 for interior Maine, matching some of the coldest wind chills observed in decades.

Of course, we know this might not stop you, but be smart and safe. It's the kind of cold where the lodge is your friend and good layers are essential to protect your skin from the cold. The graphic below is straight from the U.S. National Weather Service.

 

As the cold rushes in, there will be a burst of snow on the leading edge of the cold front from the U.P and northern Michigan late Thursday, moving toward Pennsylvania, New York, and New England early Friday. Expect anywhere from a dusting to as much 3 inches in spots. Locally heavier snow falls east of the Great Lakes thanks to a bit of lake enhancement.

Sunday, as temperatures rebound, the East remains largely quiet across the East but for a few quick passing snow showers over northern Michigan, the northern Adirondacks and Vermont. A quick clipper charges across Eastern Canada and northern New England with light snow possible again Tuesday (Feb. 7).

West

After a rather chilly week out West, temperatures will moderate this week with near average temperatures for early February. The first of two snow-making systems shifts onto the U.S. West coast Friday. The first, a cold front, will deliver snow from the northern Sierras (north of Tahoe) and Klamath peaks northward to the Cascades. While most see 2-6", there may be spots over 6" in the Washington Cascades, good news for Crystal, Mission Ridge, Stevens Pass and others nearby. Lighter snow is also in the forecast for the interior Northwest through Saturday. 

The next storm for the West digs in Saturday night through Monday with additional light to moderate snow for the Sierras, Cascades, and interior West. This system digs deep, all the way to the Southwest U.S. by early next week, with the chance for heavier snow over the four-corners states by later Tuesday-Wednesday. Keep an eye on that storm for Utah and Colorado, and possibly Arizona and New Mexico, too.

 'Til next week! Happy skiing and riding. - Meteorologist Kerrin Jeromin

 

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Three State Of Washington Mountains That Lure Summer Visitors

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In the state of Washington, a trio of ski and snowboard mountains flip the toggle from winter to summer to entice city dwellers and vacationers to head into the Cascades.

Stevens Pass is a two-hour drive from Seattle, pending summer construction delays. Regular bus service runs during the summer, an inexpensive way to avoid traffic on busy U.S. 2.

Owned by Vail Resorts, a Stevens Pass' summer focuses on the mountain bike park. Winding around and down the lower front portion of the mountain, the downhill trail map features two categories: freeride and technical.

The man-made jumps and ramps and berms in the freeride network take riders down two green runs, one blue and one black diamond. The more difficult natural-terrain technical runs rate one short green, three top-to-bottom blues and one black diamond and one double-black.

All runs can be reached via the Hogback chairlift, which is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursdays to Sundays. Other things to do include scenic chairlift rides, disc golf and guided tours.

A two-hour drive from Seattle, summer at Crystal Mountain takes its cues from its location across from Mt. Ranier -- deep in the Cascade Range. There's hardly a spot on the mountain where the 14,417-foot stratovolcano cannot be seen.

Thus, summer activities at Crystal emphasize getting up and on the mountain. The state's only gondola tops out at 7,000 feet in elevation, where visitor can go on self-guided interpretive walks or spin a Frisbee on the summit disc golf course up there. Other ways to enjoy the scenery and cool mountain air can be had with horseback riding and hiking tours.

The gondola runs seven days a week through Labor Day, then Fridays through Sundays until Sept. 25.

The northernmost ski and snowboard mountain in the West, 49 Degrees North is tucked up in the Colville National Forest near both the Idaho and Canadian borders.

This back-country, hardy setting lends itself to summer hiking and no-lift mountain biking. Take one of several service roads up into the three high-mountain basins. Or top out at 5,774-foot-high Chewelah Peak. From there, nearly 2,000 vertical feet await, and it's hiker's and biker's choice as to the ways down. And don't forget to pull over for pick-and-eat huckleberries that grow all over the mountain.

 

 

 

 

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SnoCast: Making the Turn into April

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With the arrival of April comes soft turns, pond skimming, goggle tans, and sometimes some magical April snow. In this week’s SnoCast, we’ll check out conditions across North America so you know where to bring sunscreen, where you’ll still need layers, and where fresh snow is still expected.

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Late Snow, Early Snowmaking Prompt Slew Of Season Extensions

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Used to be that the first week of April was the traditional time to hang up the skis, store away the boots, and dust off the summer recreation equipment. Not so much nowadays.

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SnoCast: Major Storm Hits Southern Rockies, Now Targets the Northeast

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According to Punxsutawney Phil, we have six more weeks winter, and we are LOVING that report. Rodents aside, the weather clearly looks like winter this week with heavy snow from the Rockies to New England. Here’s the scoop in this week’s SnoCast.

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Who’s Winning The Battle Of The Cascade Ski Resorts?

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Three years after being acquired by big ski conglomerates, Stevens Pass and Crystal Mountain faced their biggest test yet: COVID-19.

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SnoCast: Cold, Snow Ahead for the Slopes

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A large pool of bitter cold air seeps into the US from Canada this week, affecting the weather from coast to coast. Here’s what to expect on the slopes.

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All Over The Northwest, The Lights Go On For Night Skiing And Riding

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For Pacific Northwest skiers and riding seeking a different look, feel, and sound -- and fewer crowds -- to their experience, check out night skiing.

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SnoCast: Northwest Favored, with Spurts of Snow in the Southeast

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While the northwest peaks remain most active this week, cold air in the East and two systems bring new snow to the southern Appalachians. Here’s where to find best conditions this week.

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SnoCast: Parade of Storms Will Kick Off 2021

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2021 already looks good with storm after storm lining up in the West, and a turn to a more active pattern for the East. Here’s where to find great ski conditions through the first week of January.

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SnoCast: Active Pattern with Multiple Storms Ahead for the West

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This week, snow activity really begins to pick up. As more and more ski areas open, we'll have multiple storms out West and fast movers in the East to build up the bases.

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Your Guide to Prime Winter Camping in Ski Resort Parking Lots Across the West

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While lurking past closing hours in the mountain resort parking lot has always been the domain of the dirtbag, more ski areas are bringing the practice of overnight stays out of the shadows—and some are downright embracing the car-bound camp movement. This focus on ski resort winter camping, which accommodates visitors of lesser means—as well as nomadic adventurers—is a refreshing step back from the luxury demographic. that the ski industry habitually targets.

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SnoCountry SnoCast: Rockies, Northeast Targeted for New Snow

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February can bring some healthy storms around North America, and this week proves that. The Rocky Mountains and Northeast have storms ahead that will keep you itching to hit the slopes. Here’s where to expect the best conditions.

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Powder Stashes Abound In Northwest, But Heavier Than Most

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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.

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SnoCast - Final Storms of 2019 Deliver Big Snow

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As we approach the final days of 2019, we'll have a pleasant mix of snow days, sunny days, and mild days to take in all that the weather has to offer on our favorite ski trails.

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SnoCountry SnoCast: A Huge Gift Coming For Some

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Naughty or nice? Rather than your deeds, location will determine who will get the finest gift of snowy weather this week!

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SnoCountry SnoCast: Welcome To The 2019-20 Season!

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Another season of SnoCast is back right here on SnoCountry.com. We’re glad to bring you a powder-tastic year of forecasts so you can find the best skiing and riding this 2019-2020 winter season.

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Soakin' In The Mountains: Hot Springs Across The West

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After hiking in the mountains, the chance to soak sore muscles in a warm or hot springs pool beckons us all -- especially as the weather cools.

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