To the north, off of scenic US Highway 2 en route to the Bavarian-themed town of Leavenworth, is Stevens Pass (*off US 2, Skyhomish; stevenspass.com), a popular day trip destination—or should we say night trip, as it keeps slopes open for evening runs. This low-key resort gets its share of traffic, so plan to arrive early to secure a parking spot. After a day of carving turns, Bull’s Tooth Pub and Eatery has fireside seating for families and a lounge for the 21-plus set. Those looking for free hills where they can wield their own sleds and tubes will be happy to find the new Snow Play Area at the Nordic Center six miles east of the pass—also a great point of departure for snowshoe and cross-country jaunts (trail fees required; purchase passes on-site, with equipment rentals also available).
For those seeking a more immersive ski-cation, Crystal Mountain Resort (*33914 Crystal Mountain Blvd, Enumclaw; crystalmountainresort.com) won’t disappoint. Washington’s largest ski resort, located just outside Mount Rainier National Park, offers 57 runs, lessons, and snowshoe tours. Ride the gondola for a breathtaking view of the mountains, and grab lunch or dinner at the Summit House Restaurant, Washington’s highest-elevation restaurant at nearly 7,000 feet. Spend the night at one of the resort’s hotels or chalets, like the romantic Alta Crystal (68317 SR 410 East, Greenwater; altacrystalresort.com), where you can warm up in the year-round heated pool.
Several Sno-Parks along Interstate 90, like Hyak (exit 54, snowrec.org), are popular for sledding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling (note: Sno-Park parking permits required; pick one up at REI in Seattle before hitting the road, or at one of several merchants in North Bend as you head into the mountains). Summit at Snoqualmie (1001 WA-906, Snoqualmie Pass, summitatsnoqualmie.com), just 90 minutes east of Seattle, draws novice (mostly at the central resort) to expert (at outposts like Alpental) skiers to its buzzing scene. The Summit isn’t just for downhill thrill-seekers, though: the snow tube park is popular with families, and miles of Nordic trails invite those who prefer to take in winter at a slower pace. Lodges here offer classic warm-up options like hot chocolate alongside hot udon noodle soups and curry bowls (at the new Silver Fir Café) and regional après-ski pints at watering holes like Alpental’s Backcountry Bar and Dru Bru, a taproom and operating brewery located just off the slopes at the central resort.
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