February 1, 2016
During winter in Seattle, outdoor enthusiasts say if it’s raining in the city it must be snowing in the mountains. Seattle‘s summertime brilliance is well known across the globe, but the dark months also glisten down ski runs, along national park trails and inside an assortment of unique aprs ski playgrounds. Take a look at this list of can’t-miss winter day trips from Seattle.
Washington’s largest ski resort, Crystal Mountain also provides the most fun for the non-skier. True to its name, the Mt. Rainier Gondola conveys you to the best vista of the 14,409′ peak this side of a 757’s window. The Summit House, located 6,872 feet in the air, serves an impressive menu that includes perennial warm-ups Winter Ciopinno and Bison & Elk Chili. Down below, the Snorting Elk Cellar wins accolades as the best aprs ski saloon in North America. No need to hustle off the hill after drinks, Crystal Mountain Hotels offers plenty of accommodation options and a hot breakfast the following morning.
Forget your snow commute worries, Evergreen Escapes offers small group day tours on Tuesdays and weekends directly from Seattle. Naturalist led snowshoe excursions travel to Mt. Rainier and Olympic National Parks to explore old growth forests, trek past frozen waterfalls and seek out winter wildlife. No need to pack a thing because lunch, transport and even local wines are included. Customizable multiday tours can also be arranged. Tours return to Seattle’s new and fabulous Evergreen Adventure Hub & Winery to share images and memories over Elsom Cellar’s aprs vintages.
Most native Seattleites possess a childhood story from “The Summit,” whether they met their first boyfriend or girlfriend on the Friday ski bus, spent a favourite birthday party sledding by torchlight or learned to camp in the snow with an outdoor club. Located about an hour from the city, thousands learn to alpine ski here every season, but it’s the tubing hill and cross-country trails that make this Puget Sound’s snow play epicentre. Though Central Summit is considered a “beginner’s hill,” hundreds of hardcores work Alpental’s challenging terrain into their weekly winter schedules, if only for a few laps before hitting the office.
Mount Rainier‘s wildflower-strewn valleys draw millions of visitors each summer, but only the fortunate few drive through the Nisqually Entrance toward Paradise each winter. Located just over a mile above sea level, the Jackson Visitor Center provides a perfect launch point for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing or just a game of glacier spotting. Rangers lead guided snowshoe walks on weekends, and you can also rent skis and snowshoes, enjoy a meal, or spend the night inside the historical National Park Inn.
Mt. Baker Ski Area, Mission Ridge Ski & Board Resort and Stevens Pass Ski Resort each offer the visiting skier or snowboarder a great alpine escape within two and a half hours of downtown. Mellow Mt. Baker receives the most annual snow in the Pacific Northwest and, in 1998-99 received 1,140-inches (29 meters), the most recorded snowfall on earth in history. Mission Ridge looks out over the arid Wenatchee Valley, producing dry powder more typical of Utah than Washington State. Stevens Pass offers varied terrain, excellent backside trails and impressive off-piste options.
Header image: Eastern Washington’s arid environment produces the driest snow in the state at Mission Ridge © Shane Wilder
Travelling to Seattle? Book a flight with Virgin Atlantic and Delta to discover these adrenaline-packed pursuits.
What do you do in winter in Seattle? Have you tried any of these adventurous outdoors activities? Let us know in the comments section below.
Written by Crai Bower