When the sky turns blue at Stevens Pass, it’s heaven on earth. After all, there’s a reason the summit chairlift is called Seventh Heaven. But even though rainy Seattle is only two hours away, this central Washington ski area, on the crest of the Cascade Mountains, gets more sun than you’d think. When it’s socked in under clouds, you’ll make the trek to Stevens for the steep terrain off the Double Diamond chair, the wide-open backside bowls off the Southern Cross chair, and the 450 inches of snowfall the resort gets on average each year. When you get there, you’ll stumble across the lovely glades on Rock Garden off Cowboy Mountain or the hike-to chutes of Big Chief Bowl behind the patrol shack at the top of Double Diamond. For rolling cruisers, lap Tye Mill chair or Hogsback Express. Off the Brooks chair there’s ample beginner terrain on Daisy and a terrain park so good it’s been featured in ski films.
Photo: Ian Coble
Stevens came under new ownership in 2011, but the day-to-day employees at the mountain are longtime loyalists, and the place has an intimate vibe, where locals meet up at the base lodge’s outdoor fire pit to swap stories and sip espresso. There’s no lodging at the resort, but the ski-in overnight RV parking area morphs into a bustling, barbecuing village on the weekends. All of which is to say, the Northwest culture here is strong. Skiers happily make sloppy turns in the rain, and they rip it up under the lights during Stevens’s popular night skiing. And when it’s not sunny at Stevens Pass? It’s likely dumping snow, which means you’re in paradise either way.
EAT » Sultan Bakery’s egg breakfast sandwiches are large enough for two. For lunch, chow on buffalo sliders or Northwest clam chowder at the Bull’s Tooth Pub and Eatery in the Granite Peaks Lodge.
SLEEP » There’s no lodging at the ski area, so book a room in Leavenworth, the Bavarian-themed town 35 miles down the road. The Icicle Inn offers ski-and-stay packages; a complimentary make-your-own-Belgian-waffle breakfast station seals the deal. icicleinn.com
DRINK » Locals hit up the Tye Creek Lodge’s Foggy Goggle bar, where you can get a pint of Stevens Pass Amber and a locally cured curry bratwurst. Or check out the tasting room at Leavenworth’s new German-inspired but locally sourced Icicle Brewing Company.