The Ski Mountain
The volcanic peaks of Mount Baker and Shuksan tower above Mt. Baker Ski Area’s 5,000-feet summit. Located in the North Cascades, Mount Baker is a bit further from the populated areas of the state, roughly 2.5 hours from Seattle, but sits just an hour east of Bellingham. Baker’s location renders it a local’s mountain or rather, a local’s paradise. The ski area gets an average of 682 inches of snow annually, one of the highest totals in the country, and holds the world record for snowfall of 1,140 inches of snow in one season. The mountain’s expert-only glades, chutes and bowls tend to scare off beginners but intermediate riders will find ample terrain that won’t send them into panic mode.
The Mountain Experience
Mt. Baker is really all about the snow. The mountain gets nearly 200 inches more per year than other leading resorts thanks to the way incoming storms rebound off Mount Baker, the volcanic peak 8-miles to the East that shares the ski area’s name. It’s also typically one of the first resorts to open in the U.S because if its copious snow. The ski area doesn’t have a huge vertical drop so it’s not known for long thigh-burning runs, but it is known for short steeps, chutes, and tree skiing. Those who ski Mt. Baker are there to ride, get facefulls of powder, and share the stoke with other mountain-goers.
Mt. Baker Ski Terrain
• Beginner: There’s a saying you might hear from Baker regulars: “If you learn to ski at Baker, you can ski anywhere.” Baker is not the most beginner-friendly resort in the country. Accessing beginner terrain can be a bit tricky and easy runs are few and far between. However, Chair 2 and Chair 7 both offer great cruising terrain for beginners. There’s also a rope tow that’s free of charge to help introduce those just starting out.
Current Snow Conditions
• Intermediate: Chair 8 serves nearly all of Mt. Baker’s intermediate terrain (24 percent of the mountain’s skiable acreage). From the top of Chair 8 ride Oh-Zone down into Daytona, a groomed cruiser and also the longest run on the mountain. In clear weather, the run provides striking views of Mount Shuksan.
• Advanced: Expert terrain abounds at Mt. Baker, with multiple areas of the mountain labeled as extreme zones on the trail map. Local knowledge and expert ability are required to ski and ride in these areas. A great expert run is Gabi’s, a double-black diamond under Chair 5 with plenty of variety. There are wide open bowls at the top before narrowing into a steeper pitch prone to moguls. Mt. Baker is famous for its backcountry access and abundant out-of-bounds terrain. Only seasoned experts and experienced backcountry users with all the requisite backcountry gear should leave the resorts boundaries.
Around the Mountain
• Terrain Park: There’s a halfpipe off Chair 5, but parks aren’t a focus at Baker. With the amount of the snow, Mt. Baker terrain parks are tough to maintain. Local skiers and riders will tell you that the mountain is the terrain park.
There are two different base areas at Baker: White Salmon and Heather Meadows. The latter, a beginner’s area, is only open on weekends and holidays. Parking is easy as long as it’s not Thanksgiving or the Legendary Banked Slalom, a major snowboarding contest held in mid-February. Variable weather means layers are always a good idea, but not for keeping warm in lift lines – you’ll be hard pressed to find one. As some of the world’s best come to ski Baker’s powder, think twice about following tracks while exploring areas you’re not familiar with.
The Tap Room, a local haunt at Heather Meadows Lodge, is a good place for a beer and views of Mount Shuksan. More options for grub can be found 17 miles down the road in town of Glacier. Check out Milano’s for Italian and Chair 9 for a relaxed place to grab a burger.
Nearest Ski Town
Glacier, WA. A town with a small grocery store, ski shops and diners leading to an incredibly scenic and photogenic 20-mile drive to the Mt. Baker Ski Area.
There’s no overnight lodging at Mt. Baker. However, there are plenty of cabin and condo rentals available in Glacier area and along Highway 542. There’s also a few rooms available for rent at Chair 9. Use the “Explore Mt. Baker’s Best Ski Lodging Deals” box above and right to find your best Lodging choices.SKI TERRAINSNOW CONDITIONSTERRAIN PARK
Skiing with Kids
The ‘Best for Beginners’ package gets newbies a beginner lift ticket, all-day rental, and a 1.5 hour lesson. Instructor to student ratio maxes out at 6 to 1 so beginners can expect plenty of attention. Also, rentals at Baker are quick and easy. Renters won’t be waiting in epic lines and will likely only spend a little over 10 minutes gearing up.
Lift Tickets and Season Pass Cost
Baker usually boasts the cheapest lift tickets among the major ski areas in the state. You can expect to save about $5 on a ticket mid-week.
By Anna Callaghan