Find your favorite spot to shred the gnar pow this winter
written by Kevin Max
When it comes to skiing in the Pacific Northwest, we are pleasantly spoiled with options. Many of us are here to be in the mountains year-round, whether it be mountain biking or alpine skiing. When snow tops the Cascades, Blue Mountains and the Kootenay Rockies, skis of all widths come out of storage wax and their owners go into planning mode. Do we ski the same place we have forever because it’s familiar? Or do we break out and find a new place that has a cool ski culture and try something new? Here, we’ve brought together some of our favorites based on the alpine and nordic ski culture behind these winter destinations.
Because the nordic ski trails at Mt. Bachelor sit at about 6,000 feet elevation in the Cascades, this resort has one of the longest seasons. The U.S. Ski Team comes to Bachelor nearly every spring to train in T-shirts, in sunshine and atop what’s left of the typical base of 150 inches. There are 56 kilometers of trails and most of it is trackset beginning in November. The Nordic Lodge is a log cabin with a small kitchen. From that kitchen come the best burritos with brown rice, chicken and jalapeños. See everyone you want at the confluence of the lower trails near Emil’s Clearing or ski into solitude on many loops.
Trails: 56k of groomed trails
Elevation: 6,000 feet
Anthony Lakes Resort
In Eastern Oregon and the aptly named town North Powder, Anthony Lakes Resort is a low-key, small outpost with old-school lifts, great cat skiing and a classic bar called the Starbottle Saloon. Local music and craft beer make this scene special. With the highest base elevation in Oregon at 7,100 feet, Anthony Lakes never really struggles for snow as ski areas with lower bases do.
Base Elevation: 7,100 feet
Vertical Feet: 900
Average Snowfall: 300 inches
Winthrop is truly an international-grade gem when it comes to nordic skiing. The Methow Valley in Washington’s North Cascades has reliable snow and, in this case, 200 kilometers of well-groomed nordic trails. It’s the beauty of the mountains, the immensity of the trail network and the ingenuity of the community that make this experience like none other. Bonus: Dogs are allowed on select trails.
Trails: 200k groomed trails
Elevation: 1,500-2,300 feet
True, you’re on the majestic Mount Rainier. True, you’re at Crystal Mountain, Washington’s largest ski resort, with great on- and off-piste skiing. It’s the classic Bavarian design of Snorting Elk Cellar, however, that gives Crystal its great vibe. The interior rooms separated by plaster archways, wood paneling and wood chandeliers are warmed by a wood-burning fireplace. Outside, Bavarian fairy tale murals top the windows and wooden cellar door. This apres-ski setting makes for great memories.
Base Elevation: 3,912 feet
Vertical Feet: 3,100
Lifts: 9, plus a gondola
Average Snowfall: 350 inches
Galena Lodge, Sun Valley
Here you are in Ketchum, Idaho, and home of the legendary Sun Valley ski resort. But head 23 miles up I-75 into Sawtooth National Forest, where Galena Lodge sits at the nexus of a vast network of nordic ski trails. You can choose to stay up high on the 50 kilometers of trails around Galena Lodge and end the day with a glass of wine by the fireplace, or ski a hearty 30 kilometers down the gently rolling Harriman Trail toward town and more watering holes.
Trails: 50k trails + 30k Harriman trails
Elevation: 7,290 feet
Schweitzer Mountain Resort
It’s a little-known fact that Schweitzer Mountain is Idaho’s largest ski area. In the northern Idaho Selkirk Mountains, Schweitzer is tucked away, and a massive revelation upon arriving. The skiing is world-class, especially if you dig telemarking. The village has all it needs and nothing more. This year, Schweitzer will get two new lifts, seven new runs and, soon, a new thirty-unit boutique hotel.
Base Elevation: 3,960 feet
Vertical Feet: 2,400
Lifts: 9, plus a T-bar
Average Snowfall: 300 inches
SilverStar Mountain Resort / Sovereign Lake Nordic Centre
SilverStar makes our list for many reasons, but let’s focus on the village and the nordic skiing for a moment. The nordic network encompasses 55 kilometers of trails at SilverStar and 50 kilometers of connected trails at Sovereign Lake Nordic Centre. Stay on the resort trails for hale climbs and thrilling descents, or head farther out to Sovereign Lake to challenge your endurance on nicely groomed trails. All trails should end at the European Bugaboos Bakery for coffee and pastries or the handful of restaurants in the small ski village, which includes chalets, hotels, five eateries and one small grocery.
Trails: 105k combined nordic trails
Elevation: 5,280 feet
Fernie Alpine Resort
Located in the Lizard Range of the Canadian Rockies, Fernie is renowned for its huge annual snowfall that averages almost 30 feet. Of course, you’ll only need the top 3 or 4 feet of wispy powder to make it the best ski experience ever. Finish with fire and ice. At Cirque restaurant and bar, warm up with flaming cocktails and spectacular mountain views. Then slip on a parka and walk straight into the Stoli Ice Bar, built from blocks of ice. Fernie’s remoteness in southeastern British Columbia is another reason to love it.
Base Elevation: 3,450 feet
Vertical Feet: 3,550
Average Snowfall: 360 inches