Written by Teresa Ristow
There are more than forty ski areas spread over the Pacific Northwest states of Oregon, Washington and Idaho. When Mother Nature delivers, each fills up with plentiful snow and winter enthusiasts flock from near and far to get out on the slopes. Whether you’re planning a serious ski trip with all the amenities or a family getaway, the Pacific Northwest has something to offer snow lovers of all kinds. We dropped in on some of the region’s go-to destinations to help you plan your next ski vacation.
Located ninety minutes east of Portland, Mount Hood is an 11,245-foot volcano boasting multiple ski areas. Timberline offers the most vertical feet of skiing in the United States (4,540 feet) with the resort’s highest point at the top of the Palmer Express lift (8,450 feet). The resort also has one of the longest seasons in North America, operating from mid-November through the end of May. The nearby Mt. Hood Meadows is the go-to place for most locals and Portlanders and offers the most skiable terrain on Hood, with 2,150 acres. Across Highway 26 is Ski Bowl. Once two resorts, Ski Bowl merged into a single sprawling ski area visible from the highway. As the country’s largest night skiing destination, you can’t miss Ski Bowl after dark when it is lit from top to bottom.
There are plenty of lodging options around Government Camp, an alpine village on the southern flank of Mount Hood. First and foremost is Timberline Lodge, a national historic landmark constructed in 1937 as part of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps public works initiative. This historic Depression-era lodge served as a stand-in for the Overlook Hotel in Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation of the Stephen King novel The Shining. Closer to town is the Huckleberry Inn, a cozy sixteen-room hotel that also offers dorm-style accommodations for groups. Don’t miss the inn’s famous huckleberry shakes, served at the onsite restaurant and steakhouse.
Prepare for a true Rocky Mountain ski resort experience with a visit to Sun Valley, Idaho. Sun Valley’s Bald Mountain boasts twelve lifts servicing more than one hundred runs across 2,380 acres of skiable terrain. Expect a steady pitch from the 9,150-foot peak to the 5,750-foot base area. The adjacent and smaller Dollar Mountain ski area caters to two niches—beginners looking for the Snowsports School and park-rats looking for laps at “Park Central,” with seventy-six rails and a twenty-two-foot superpipe.
Both Bald Mountain and Dollar Mountain are easily accessed from the Sun Valley Village base area, which is serviced by free buses that take visitors through the resort area and into the adjacent city of Ketchum, Idaho for access to lodging, restaurants and nightlife. The resort offers historic lodges, cottages, full-service condos and private townhomes for rent. In Ketchum, find more rental options and a handful of hotels.
Two hours southeast of Seattle sits Washington’s largest ski area, with more than eighty named runs spread across 2,600 acres, serviced by eleven lifts. The resort averages 486 inches of annual snowfall, and skiers and riders enjoy breathtaking, snowy views of Mount Rainier while riding some of the best terrain Washington has to offer. Aiming for a low-speed adventure instead? The mountain offers six designated snowshoe trails, with rentals available.
Slopeside lodging is available within a short walk of the Mt. Rainer Gondola and Crystal Mountain Base area at The Alpine Inn, The Village Inn and the Quicksilver Lodge. Enjoy après ski at the nearby Snorting Elk Cellar and Deli, a charming Austrian-inspired ski bar with a menu full of refreshing beers and hot toddies.
Mt. Bachelor is the largest ski resort in Oregon and is rivaled in the Pacific Northwest only by Whistler-Blackcomb resort in terms of total skiable acres and overall experience. The resort is the brainchild of former 10th Mountain Division soldier, Bill Healy, a World War II veteran who brought his love of skiing home after the war and settled in Central Oregon. Healy helped to transform the former Bachelor Butte into a destination mountain resort for the entire West Coast.
Today, the mountain boasts eleven chairs, most of which are high-speed quad chairs that whisk skiers from the base to mid-mountain. On a clear day, head to the 9,100-foot summit where skiers and boarders take in 360-degree views that include dozens of Cascade peaks and a patchwork of frozen lakes and reservoirs that dot the high country. Expert skiers can hike to the top of the summit glacier and drop into the “cirque,” a large, often powder-filled bowl formation on the northern flank of the mountain.
Like many other Northwest resorts, Mt. Bachelor operates on a lease with the U.S. Forest Service that limits development around the ski area to reduce environmental impacts. As a result, there are no overnight accommodations. However, the close proximity to Bend means that a cozy room, hot food and nightlife are just minutes away. There are dozens of hotels in the area as well as overnight rentals and resorts. For the best chance at first chair, look to Tetherow or Seventh Mountain Resort. Both are located on the Cascade Lakes Highway just outside of Bend on the road to Bachelor and offer onsite dining, drinks and other amenities. In the case of Seventh Mountain, that also means a heated outdoor pool and oversized communal hot tub.