Summit at Snoqualmie Alpental
Reviewed by Mark Lesh
Dec 04, 2008
There’s no park scene at Crystal, so go for the backcountry access, limitless terrain, and the views of Mount Ranier, which most of the time you’ll have all to yourself.
78 miles northeast of Seattle and sloppy transforms into steep, deep, and dry at Stevens Pass
Mt. Baker holds the record for the most snowfall in a single season in the United States, a whopping 1,140 inches.
Pull into the Alpental lot on an average year and you won’t see a thing but hemlocks looming overhead and the eaves of a few chalets over the towering snow banks that line the roads. Two modest lifts access the bulk of the steep terrain that gets 400 inches of sticky maritime snow annually. Back in 1967, famed Rainier mountain guide Lou Whittaker told the ski area’s founders that it was too steep to ski. Alpental has a local feel and terrain that can scare the pants off of anyone. Thanks to an extensive backcountry, it skis far bigger that it really is.
Quick Tip: Alpental, one of four base areas that make up the Summit at Snoqualmie, is traditionally closed on Mondays. Go on a Tuesday to maximize your odds of getting fresh tracks and minimize the potential for crowds coming up from Seattle.
Backcountry Access: Access the Great Scott Traverse from the highest of two backcountry gates skier’s left of International. The terrain is committing—very real avalanche and cliff hazards exist. You have to register with ski patrol and going with someone who’s been there before is a good idea. Check avy conditions at nwac.us.
8:00 A.M.: Start your day off with a cup of Seattle-grade crack and a huge breakfast burrito with homemade salsa for $4 from Red Mountain Coffee off of State Road 906 at I-90, exit 53.
9:00 A.M.: Warm up on Debbie’s Gold, a cruiser below the Armstrong Express. If you’re feeling like something more challenging, go skier’s right of Ingrid’s Inspiration for often overlooked trees.
10 A.M.: Do not follow the masses directly to the line at the Edelweiss chair. Spin a couple of quick laps on the Armstrong Express. Hit Meister or Eisfallen below the Cascade Traverse and then head up to the Edelweiss chair.
11 A.M.: Head looker’s right off the top of the Edelweiss chair to Upper International. Pick your way through the peppery entrance and cut right to Adrenalin if International is bumped out. Catch the traverse and go far skier’s right to open it up on Lower International.
Noon: Refuel at Tiroler Stube in the Alpental Lodge. Skip the line and grab a slice of handmade pizza or a cup of Ivar’s clam chowder.
2 P.M.: There is no terrain park at Alpental. Go over to Central (one of three other base areas that make up the Summit at Snoqualmie) on the other side of I-90 for a proper park and pipe scene. One lift ticket is good for all four areas.
3 P.M.: To find some lingering fresh, poke around in the trees of Breakover, skier’s left of the Edelweiss chair, or head into Alpental’s extensive backcountry.
4 P.M.: Swing into the Backcountry Bar in the Denny Mountain Lodge and swill some of the Northwest’s best microbrews like Manny’s Pale Ale and Snoqualmie IPA.
7 P.M: Drive 20 minutes west to the North Bend Bar and Grill for local pub fare ranging from steak to hearty salads. Try the Mount Si Burger with cheddar, bacon, and sautéed onions for $11.
10 P.M.: There isn’t any nightlife at Alpental, so if you really want to get your late-night swerve on get a designated driver and head to Seattle, one hour to the west.
Overnight: Lodging options at the mountain are limited, but the Summit Lodge at Snoqualmie Pass has decent rooms, an outdoor pool, and allows pets. [from $125; snoqualmiesummitlodge.com]
Elevation: 5,420 feet Vertical Drop: 2,280 feet Snowfall: 400 inches Acres: 302 Info: summitatsnoqualmie.com