The Washington Skier's Bucket List
For skiers, Washington state really has it all. From deep backcountry powder, to inbounds steeps, to big ski mountaineering objectives, to huge terrain parks, every aspect of skiing is well represented in the state. So we’ve compiled this bucket list of resorts, peaks and backcountry areas that any Washington skier would be proud to have experienced in a lifetime. If you're not a local in the PNW, flights into Seattle are easy, and Seattle ski culture is strong. Great ski repair shops can get you set up with gear and ready to explore everything Washington has to offer,
and there’s plenty of infrastructure in Washington, so skiers from out of state or out of the country can easily make most of this list happen.
There’s somethingon this list for everyone, but not everyone will have the skills, gear and experience necessary to complete this list. And that’s sort of the magic of skiing in Washington—there’s so much varied terrain and so many big mountains that skiing here is a lifelong learning process. You can develop the skills and fitness to take on bigger goals. So if you're just getting started, use this list as a jumping-off point, as something to aspire to, as you continue to explore everything the state has to offer. We’ll start out with some resort-based highlights, and then break down a few bucket-list worthy touring and mountaineering objectives.
If you collect lift tickets like some folks collect stamps, these are your must-hit destinations in Washington.
Sleep in the Mt. Baker Parking Lot
Mt. Baker is one of those places that has long been shrouded in skiing lore. It gets a ton of snow, its inbounds terrain is incredible, and it’s got one of the most hardcore skiing cultures around. Baker is famous for its big pillow lines and cliffs inbounds, and everyone from beginners to pros will find a run to push themselves on at this hill. So go to Baker for the skiing, but stay for the parking lot culture. One of the most unique parts about skiing in the Pacific Northwest, and especially in Washington, is the tradition of car camping in the lot, and Baker might just have the most famous lot culture of all. Hundreds of ski bums camp out in the Baker lot every year, with a menagerie of rigs and camping setups, from sleeping bags in Subarus to built-out fire trucks. You owe it to yourself to get out there, ski some of the biggest terrain you’ll find, and then share a beer with strangers in the parking lot after.
Ski Crystal Mountain
Crystal Mountain is known for its huge amount of steep, rowdy terrain. It’s one of those places that any skier who thinks they’re hot stuff should go to prove themselves. You’ve got thousands of acres of steep, challenging terrain, with some bootpacks and traverses to get around. Go get lost at Crystal, scare yourself a little, and go home already planning your next trip.
Ride Seventh Heaven at Stevens Pass
Stevens Pass has a bunch of great terrain, but some of its gnarliest runs are accessed off the 7th Heaven chair. Seventh Heaven is a short, steep, classic double chair. The ride up is steep, exposed, and scary in the best way possible. From the top you’re just a short bootpack away from some of the best inbounds terrain in the state. Whether you’re looking for big cliff hucks, pillow lines or steep chutes, there’s something to test your mettle on at the top of Seventh Heaven. And if you’re prepared with backcountry gear, there are some long, deep backcountry laps back down to the highway.
If you’re more into earning your turns, there are plenty of big days in Washington’s mountains to earn your attention. Make sure you’ve always got the appropriate education, gear, weather information and partners before you head into the backcountry.
Ski Mount Rainier
This mountain is iconic for good reason. It looms over Seattle. But most folks just see it from town, or on a beer can. Skiing Rainier is really the best way to experience it. Rainer is the most prominent peak in the continental U.S. and has long been a proving ground for U.S.-based mountaineers. Skiing it requires good route finding, fitness and a strong understanding of glacier travel. There are several different routes up and down Rainier, with most of them featuring around 10,000 feet of elevation gain. Most people take two or three days to ski Rainier, and it’s important to have strong partners for this one. So even if you’re not prepared to ski Rainier right now, it’s a great objective to train for, and keep in the back of your mind as a goal. Or, hire a guide to help you have a succeessful ascent.
Ski Mount Adams
In contrast to Rainier, Mount Adams is slightly more straightforward and less crowded. It’s still a big objective, though, with about 6,500 feet of climbing and skiing. Located near the Oregon border, Adams treats skiers to views of Mount Saint Helens and Mount Hood, and on clear days sharp-eyed skiers can see Rainier from the summit. The skiing on Adams is top-notch, thousands of feet of clean, consistently pitched turns. It’s one of the best top-to-bottom skiing experiences we’ve found, and the standard routes don’t require any glacier travel. Adams is the perfect intro to the Cascade volcanoes.
Ski on the Olympic Peninsula
Bucket lists aren’t supposed to be easy, and most of the skiing on the Olympic Peninsula isn’t. You’re dealing with long, dry approaches through a beautiful temperate rainforest that open to huge glaciers and high, technical peaks. It doesn’t really matter what you ski on the Olympic Peninsula, it’s really more about the whole experience. It sums up the whole Northwest, from the ocean to the peaks.
So wax your skis and put these destinations on your bucket list, and along the way you’ll experience some of the best skiing Washington has to offer.