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Alpental, WA

Alpental, WA

Travel
By Evelyn Spence
posted: 01/07/2004

Elevation: 5,540 feet

Vertical Drop: 2,280 feet

Snowfall: 444 inches

Acres: 302 (825, including patrolled backcountry)

Getting There: Alpental is an hour from downtown Seattle. Take I-90 east from Seattle and turn left off Exit 52. Info: 425-434-7669, summit-at-snoqualmie.com

The Beta: On paper Alpentals stats are as lopsided as a NuggetsLakers game: five percent beginner, 20 percent intermediate, 75 percent advanced. And thats not including the narrow chutes, pillow drops, and trees of the surrounding central-Cascade backcountry, which offers up twice as much jagged terrain as inbounds. Seattleite day-trippers with brownbag lunches and garbage-bag rain coats (this is the Northwest) skip the ski-school hills across the Interstate and make lap after gravity-fed lap from Chair 1 to creaky Chair 2 to the summit. Stay within the ropes and youll know the sawtoothed layout in a morning; head OB and you can explore rocky couloirs and seriously deep snow for a week. With only two other lifts on the mountain, weekend lines are packed. But during the week, you can skate right on and share one of Alpentals three-feet-in-a-day dumps with Microsoft eggheads playing hooky.

Powder Day

Thanks to its taller summit, Alpental often gets twice as much accumulation as the other nearby ski resorts. Take Chair 2 to Upper International, a sustained 43-degree pitch that wraps around the back side, and then dumps you into mellower Lower International.

3 Days Later

The inbounds terrain is so small that leftover stashes are rare. Try single-lane Shot Six or venture into the backcountry (see below).

Proving Grounds

Marquee route: Upper and Lower Internationals marathon 2,000-foot plummet makes it Alpentalsand Washingtonsmost famous run. Its also the main (and only) major artery in a tight body of steeps.

Off-Broadway:

If youre inbounds, hug the rocks on the right side of International for the 47-degree offshoot Adrenalin. Its as narrow as Limbaughs politics. Or, during a big, big snow year, thread Kevorkians, a backcountry line that skips down a 10-foot-wide cliff band.

Backcountry Access

The Northwests snowpack is usually the most consistent and stable in the lower 48, which makes Alpentals 500 acres of backcountry more popular than anything inbounds. Take notice: Areas like Knoll 4 and Piss Pass are littered with dangerous technical features. Sign a liability waiver with patrol at the Chair 2 shack, and theyll take you on an OB tour, issue you a backcountry card, and set you free to explore.

Locals Take

It takes them a while to get the backcountry open, so I do laps on International until things are clear and then stalk them as they go farther and farther out.Bryce Phillips, professional freeskier and Northwest native.

Weather

When sopping storms roll in from the Pacific, it can rain at the base and snow on the summit. Every few years, weather loops down from the arctic Canadian Interior and drops flakes dry enough for the Rockies. If you want sun, wait till Aprilmidwinter weather has a tendency to settle in for the long haul.

Dont Miss

Try gelnde jumping at the Glen Plake Hotdog Huckfest in March or April.

Apres

Closing hour at the two base-area bars depends only on how many people want just one more MGD. Try the Tyrolerstube for Bavarian lunchroom chic or the Backcountry Bar forlunchroom chic.

Fuel

No seared ahi here: Its pizza, burgers, and fries at the Tyrolerstube or wraps and pasta at the Backcountry Kitchen.

Up All Night

For local rock bands on weekends, head to Summit Wests Timberwolf Pub, open till 12 a.m.

Digs

The only hotel at the Summit is the Best Western Summit Inn ($89$149; bestwestern.com), your basic motor inn. If youre set on character, rental A-frames in the woods are listed on summit-at-snoqualmie.com.

reviews of Alpental, WA
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