Over the Mountains to Sunny Skiing in Mission Ridge
Forget the passes and head for Eastern Washington for snowy weekend fun
If you're thinking of taking the kids skiing this winter, bypass the passes for a snowy rendezvous in Eastern Washington. At Mission Ridge, just outside of Wenatchee, you'll find sunnier weather, fluffier snow (true story – due to the cold, crisp weather in the valley) and a great family-friendly getaway.
My family paid a visit to the ski resort and my kids, ages 6 and 8, had their very first ski lesson. Even though it was one of the busiest weekends of the year at Mission – President's Day weekend – it still felt more relaxed and accessible than the busy times at Seattle-area ski resorts. With two newbies to skiing, this was a big plus for my family.
Mission Ridge runs two sets of kids' lessons a day, at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. The instructors divide the kids into groups based on their abilities, which I appreciated because my 8-year-old was concerned that he was going to be the oldest beginner in class. He was thrilled to see other kids his age and older. The instructors were attentive and good with beginners, and the bunny hill was a suitable place for the kids to get used to their skis. Once lessons were over and we had eaten lunch in the toasty lodge, both of my kids were ecstatic to show us what they had learned.
After my husband and I had checked the kids into their lessons, we had two kid-free hours to hang out and ski. Never underestimate the power of sun, exercise and time alone with your significant other. This trip was a lot about the kids, but was admittedly a great mental boost for us, given Seattle's dreary February weather.
If your kids aren't yet ready to don skis and conquer the mountain, Mission is one of the only Washington ski resorts that offers childcare. It's very popular with visitors, and is an excellent opportunity for parents with little ones (3 months to 6 years) to embrace their active, pre-kid selves. One of the childcare packages allows children to take lessons for part of the day and then be inside for the rest, so parents can enjoy the slopes longer.
Although Mission Ridge is small in terms of area ski resorts, the mountain seemed expansive to us. Up at the top, skiers and boarders are blessed with an exceptional view of the valley and surrounding mountains. Older kids (and brazen adults), with at least an intermediate level of skill, will enjoy the new Terrain Parks—jump parks devoted to freestyle with boxes and rails.
It's more of a commitment for families to come over to Eastern Washington, which likely means getting a hotel room and spending the weekend rather than just waking up early and hitting Stevens or Snoqualmie for the day. Recently, Mission Ridge launched a weekend shuttle service that makes stops at popular Wenatchee hotels, which eliminates the driving factor for visiting families. Not only that, but an overnight in Wenatchee is a whole lot less expensive than staying at a ski resort.
Mission Ridge is a mere 12 miles from downtown Wenatchee, which means a hot meal and beverage is always ready for hungry little skiers. For local fare, I recommend the rich, scrumptious Italian food at Garlini's Napoletana, the great pub food and friendly atmosphere at McGlinn's Public House, or the fresh, authentic Mexican food at La Fuente. The tasty espresso and breakfasts at Caffè Mela are also a great way to start the day. Learn more about lodging and dining options at the Wenatchee Valley Visitors Bureau website.
In addition to skiing, families can enjoy ice skating at the Town Toyota Center in Wenatchee. On your way out of town, hit the Aplets & Cotlets candy kitchen in Cashmere for a tour, or walk around the Bavarian village of Leavenworth.
The morning after our ski lessons, my son woke up and begged to go again, which is the ultimate kid compliment. We will certainly be back for more sun and snow.