If you are looking for deep, reliable backcountry powder only a 1.5-hour’s drive from Seattle, you can’t beat Stevens Pass. The 4,061-foot high pass in the Cascade Mountains is perfectly located to get some serious snow dumps: right where Pacific storms collide with the warmer air coming off the Canadian Rockies, creating the meteorological conditions to produce 450 inches of snow annually. With its fresh fluff on top of big trees and varied terrain, Stevens Pass offers a plethora of high quality backcountry runs.
What Makes It Great
The best spot for beginner backcountry skiers lies within a 45-minute hike from the road to Skyline Ridge. From the top of the ridge, you can carve turns down 800 feet to an old logging road, which will take you all the way back to the parking lot. For those looking for something steeper, continue along Skyline Ridge for another two miles to the summit. Here you can ski down 1000 feet through with lots of beautiful old growth pines for fun obstacles. But don’t limit yourself to just one spot: at Stevens Pass, the possibilities are nearly infinite. Other areas with great skiing include Lichtenberg, Jim Hill, Lantham Lakes, Rock Mountain, Arrowhead. You can also string multiple areas together for the full-day adventure, like the Rock to Howard to Mastiff traverse.
The Stevens Pass Ski Area has a lot of backcountry options, too. Either take the lifts up and venture out of bounds to find your own turns, or start on up on your own power. If you don’t yet have backcountry skills, stay within the resort: they’ve got plenty of beginner and intermediate runs to practice on. Or, if you’d like to explore Steven Pass’s backcountry with a guided group, organizations like North Cascades Mountain Guides offer traditional backcountry tours, or the Stevens Pass Ski Area offers an “Introduction to Backcountry” class. In any case, remember to use caution and check avalanche conditions before setting out. It is entirely possible to safely enjoy Stevens Pass’s backcountry, but keep in mind that the area gained national notoriety after the 2012 Tunnel Creek avalanche, which killed three of four experienced backcountry skiers, including the Stevens Pass Ski Area’s marketing director and professional skier Elyse Saugstad.
Who is Going to Love It
Experienced backcountry skiers who want an ideal blend of accessibility and quality in a beautiful setting -- or beginning backcountry skiers who want a friendly way to hone their skills.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
For Skyline Ridge, park at the lot 78 miles northeast of Seattle on US-2. All other areas are also easily accessible via the highway.