One thing you won’t find much of in Washington is ski towns right at the base of the slopes. Most of the time, you’ll need to drive a short distance from town to get to the hill, but don’t let that stop you from experiencing what “The Evergreen State” has to offer.
The northwest corner of the country offers no shortage of beautiful scenery and outdoor adventure. While Washington might not be famous for skiing, there are several ski resorts in the state worth checking out during the winter months. Let’s take a look at the best mountain communities in Washington to uncover some hidden gems you may want to explore.
Here are the top ski towns in Washington to live and visit, in no particular order:
The town of Wenatchee is only about a two-hour drive east of Seattle, but it feels like it’s a world away. Gone are the evergreen trees synonymous with Washington, as you’ll find this is more of a desert landscape. This city is a hub of activity for this part of eastern Washington, so plenty of restaurants and hotels are available, and there is a population of around 35,000 people in 2020.
For skiing and boarding, you’ll want to point your GPS toward Mission Ridge Ski & Board Resort. This is a hill known for the quality of its snow. Since it’s on the east side of the Cascade Range, you’ll typically find drier snow here than what you’ll get at the ski areas on the western slopes.
Mission Ridge is just 12 miles from Wenatchee, so it’s only a short drive before you can hit the lifts and start your day. This resort offers 2,250 feet of vertical drop, a nice mix of trail difficulty levels, and a total of 2,000 acres to explore.
It’s only a short drive from Wenatchee to get to Leavenworth – about half an hour – but you’ll wind up in a completely different place. In Leavenworth, you’re back in the trees, and you’re in a small town with a Bavarian theme, which makes it a tourist destination for people from throughout the northwest.
While popular throughout the year, Leavenworth really comes to life in the fall and winter – the annual Oktoberfest is a huge hit, and the town goes all-out for the Christmas season each December. Although the population is a bit under 2,500 (as of 2020), there are typically many more people than that in the area when events are taking place.
There are a couple of skiing options when starting from Leavenworth. To stay close to town, you can visit the Leavenworth Ski Hill. This is a very modest ski area, with just rope tows and a carpet to move skiers in the uphill direction. However, it’s only a five-minute drive from the heart of town, so if you crave some fresh air and a few easy runs, this is the place to scratch that itch.
If you’re up for a longer drive, Stevens Pass is one of the most popular ski areas in Washington. You’ll be able to do much more “serious” skiing here, as there are 1,800 vertical feet available, and the skiable area is spread out over more than 1,100 acres.
Thanks to a favorable location in the Cascades, well over 400’’ of snow falls here during an average winter. In addition to the thrill of the actual skiing, this is a resort that really shows off the stunning beauty of the Pacific Northwest.
We are admittedly stretching the definition of the word “town” with this next entry in our list. Spokane is a city of 228,989 people at the time of the 2020 census, and there are more than a half-million people living in the greater Spokane area. So, you won’t exactly be getting those small-town vibes here, but you’ll have access to plenty of dining, shopping, and entertainment.
As far as skiing goes, you’re going to have a couple of relatively nearby slopes available. Those two are as follows —
Mt. Spokane Ski & Snowboard Park — For being located close to a city the size of Spokane – it’s less than an hour away – you’ll be impressed by what this ski area provides. Some of the key stats include 2,000 vertical feet, more than 1,700 skiable acres, and six lifts serving a total of 52 runs.
49° North Mountain Resort — A slightly longer drive from town, this resort takes you out into the rural forest for a peaceful and stunning skiing experience. It has a skiing area of over 2,300 acres, a vertical drop in excess of 1,800 feet, seven lifts, and more than 300’’ per year of snowfall on average. This is a terrific place for advanced skiers to visit, with diamond and double diamond runs available throughout the property.
North Bend, WA
The closest skiing to the Seattle metro area is the Summit at Snoqualmie. It’s a quick drive out from the city on I-90 East to get to Snoqualmie Pass, where you’ll find these ski areas scattered across the hills on the south side of the freeway. If you’re driving from Seattle to Snoqualmie Pass (where the ski areas are located), you will go right through the town of North Bend, which is home to around 7,500 people in 2020.
While it’s still around a half-hour drive from North Bend up to the top of the pass, this comfortable town is your best bet for a place to stay – or even call home. All of the amenities you could need are found here, including restaurants, shopping, and even a nearby casino, and the town is surrounded by stunning beauty.
In the summer, locals love hiking up Mount Si, which looms large over the town and offers incredible views from the top. When you drive up to spend a day on the hill, here is some of what you can expect to find –
- Between the four areas that make up this ski facility, you’ll have almost 2,000 acres and access to 25 lifts
- Night skiing is a particularly popular activity here, so be sure to give it a try after dark
- The selection of runs is quite diverse at Snoqualmie, meaning this is a great place to keep everyone in your group happy and entertained
- Two terrain parks and a snow tubing facility are also available here
Earlier, we talked about stretching the definition of a town by including Spokane, a metro area with more than a half million people. In the case of Greenwater, we’re stretching that definition again – in the other direction. This is one of those “if you blink you’ll miss it” kind of places, but for some people, that’s a dream come true.
The official population of Greenwater is under 100, but you’ll often find more people than that living in the area – especially during the winter months. There are many cabins and vacation rentals around the town, as it is a popular access point to Crystal Mountain.
This may be the best all-around skiing spot in the state of Washington, and on a nice weekend, it has the crowds to support that claim. If you’re looking for a bigger town to call home, head to Enumclaw, less than thirty minutes east of Greenwater (in the opposite direction of Crystal Mountain). It’s the closest city and was home to 12,543 people in 2020.
At Crystal Mountain Resort, you will have around 2,600 acres to enjoy, with 85 different named runs to explore throughout your visit. While it does get quite busy, the property is served by 11 lifts to help keep up with demand – those lifts can move almost 20,000 people in an hour. More than 2,400 vertical feet separate the base of this ski area from the top of the gondola.
To wrap up things, we have a laidback college town that is positioned close to the Canadian border and just a short drive from Mt. Baker Ski Area. With a population of just under 100,000, this is a pretty good-sized town, but it maintains more of a rural feel than you might expect of a city with so many residents. It’s one of the top coastal cities in Washington too.
The area is popular not only for skiers, but also for those who take part in any kind of outdoor adventures – many lakes, hiking trails, beaches, and more are found throughout the Bellingham region. Also, if you would like to pay a visit to Whistler in British Columbia for a memorable skiing or boarding experience, you are less than three hours away when based in Bellingham.
If you stay in the U.S. and visit the Mount Baker Ski Area, here’s what is available –
- Roughly 1,000 skiable acres
- Incredible annual snowfall totals – averaging over 50 feet per year
- A collection of seriously challenging double black diamond runs to test your skills
Skiing in Washington might not live up to what you’ll find somewhere like Colorado or Utah, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a winter full of fun in a beautiful setting. Take a closer look at some of the towns we’ve highlighted on this list to see if one or more sounds like a destination that you would enjoy. Thanks for reading and enjoy these Pacific Northwest slopes!