Seattle's Child

Your guide to a kid-friendly city

ski areas: chair lift passing snow-covered fir trees at Stevens Pass

Great day at Stevens Pass, with gray skies and heavy snow. iStock photo

Bring on the snow! Best ski areas you can drive to from Seattle

COVID-19 means resorts have limited capacity, so plan ahead.

Updated for 2020-21.

When we get to the dreariest part of winter, when it’s gloomiest and coldest, a certain subset of Seattle people perks up. They are skiers and snowboarders, and they know that the chilly rain falling on us down here likely means snow up high, which means it’ll soon be time to suit up and go play in our beautiful mountains. Here is a roundup of some of the ski areas where Seattle families frolic through their winter weekends. (For you cross-country skiers, here are 8 places for you to go. Here are places to take the kids sledding or tubing.)

All driving times are estimates based on leaving Seattle at 8 a.m. on a Saturday. Lift tickets prices vary based on the day, and when they were purchased. Advance online tickets tend to be cheaper than those bought closer to the day. For many areas weekends and school breaks are more expensive. Weekdays when school is in session are cheaper.

Because of the pandemic, ski areas have had to change their procedures. Many places will require reservations in advance. They allow fewer people on the mountain (another reason to secure tickets early), and there’s limited access to lodges, and transactions are cashless. Get used to using your car for meeting, eating, and resting.

The Summit at Snoqualmie (opening Saturday, Dec. 4)

Driving time from Seattle: 1 hour

The closest ski resort to Seattle is an amalgamation of four distinct areas, each with its own challenges. Most of the beginner areas are at Summit Central.

Size: 1,994 skiable acres, 25 lifts, 2,280 vertical feet

Also offers: Nordic skiing.

Rentals available: Skis, snowboards, performance skis, Nordic skis, snowshoes.

Stevens Pass (opening Saturday, Dec. 4)

Stevens Pass’s base is higher up than the Summit at Snoqualmie’s, so it tends to be colder, which in this area, usually means better conditions.

Driving time from Seattle: 2 hours

Size: 1125 skiable acres, 10 lifts, 1800 vertical feet

Also offers: Nordic skiing, free snow-play area

Rentals available: Skis, snowboards, Nordic skis, snowshoes

Crystal Mountain (open; reservations required)

The highest and biggest lift-served ski area in Washington, Crystal Mountain is usually first to open and last to close. If you plan to go, you need to hit the website in time to snag advance tickets.

Driving time from Seattle: 2 hours

Size: 2,600 skiable acres, 10 lifts, 3,100 vertical feet

Also offers: Snowshoe tours.

Rentals available: Skis, snowboards, snowshoes, some clothing.

Mission Ridge

Mission Ridge’s location on the east slope of the Cascades means that it can offer two things that are rare on west-slope mountains. One is dry powder snow, of a sort that many skiers covet. The other is sunshine. (As of Dec. 4, Mission Ridge is open Friday through Sunday only, and advance purchase of tickets is required.)

Driving time from Seattle: 3 hours

Size: 2,000 skiable acres, 4 lifts, 2,250 vertical feet.

Rentals available: skis, snowboards, snowshoes.

Mount Baker

This area, east of Bellingham, happens to be positioned in one of the world’s snowiest places. Its average yearly snowfall is 682 inches, which is 50 percent higher than the average at the Summit at Snoqualmie. Mount Baker Ski Area is a family-run business, a rarity in the corporate-dominated ski industry, and the local ownership shows in its down-to-earth, quirky culture. Open as of early December; check current conditions here.

Driving time from Seattle: 3 hours

Size: 1,000 skiable acres, 8 lifts, 1,500 vertical feet.

Rentals available: Basic and premium skis and snowboards.

White Pass

More accessible from Tacoma than from Seattle, this resort on a breathtakingly lovely road offers many options for those who wish to play. Open daily; night skiing on Saturdays.

Driving time from Seattle: 3 hours

Size: 1,500 skiable acres, 8 lifts, 2,000 vertical feet.

Also offers: Nordic skiing, snowshoe tour, tubing hill.

Rentals available: Skis, snowboards, Nordic skis, snowshoes.