Ski Resorts Every Seattleite Should Know

Seattleites have long relied on our nearby snow to make any old winter day an easy ski day, but these resorts are worth the trip for skiers and nonskiers alike

This article appears in print in the January 2020 issue. Click here to subscribe.

Mount Bachelor, Oregon
Situated just minutes from Bend, Oregon, Mount Bachelor is Oregon’s largest ski resort, and “The Mountain,” as locals call it, has plenty to offer regardless of the season. A dozen lifts and 101 runs (with a maximum run length of 4 miles) draw adventurers, and a long season that generally starts in November and ends in May keeps them busy. Bonus for families: Kids 12 and younger ski for free with a prepurchased online ticket. There are lessons aplenty.

If skiing isn’t your thing, fear not: There’s a six-lane tubing park, dogsled rides (reservations required) and free 90-minute snowshoe tours led by a U.S. Forest Service naturalist. Multiple dining/drinking options provide refueling opportunities; don’t forget to try a local beer (or two).

Brundage Mountain, Idaho
If getting your family comfortable on the slopes is your goal this year, spend your winter holiday at Brundage Mountain in Idaho, where beginners of all ages have free access to the conveyor belt and the Easy Street Triple Chairlift, which deliver them to four different runs for first-timers. More experienced skiers may consider bypassing the 46 runs in favor of the powdery backcountry skiing and snowboarding opportunities (obviously, be smart and prepared). For an alternative to the slopes, check out the well-maintained 5-kilometer fat-tire bike loop (rent one on-site), or simply take a ride in the old-fashioned horse-drawn sleigh. 

Base your stay in McCall, Idaho, just 15 minutes away, at the Shore Lodge, a 77-unit resort whose spa has saltwater immersion pools for après-ski soaking. Book a dinner at the on-site restaurant The Narrows Steakhouse and take advantage of the 450-bottle wine list. 

Looking for another mountain escape nearby? Check out quaint Tamarack Resort offering 45 ski runs, charming lodging and a spa. Tamarack is located about an hour’s drive southwest of Brundage. 

Sun Valley, Idaho
The biggest name in Idaho skiing is Sun Valley, a two-mountain mega resort with an entire village (complete with movie theater, bowling alley, outdoor ice rink and more) set up around it. The ski terrain measures over 2,000 acres between Bald and Dollar mountains, including more than 100 runs for every level on Baldy and a full-feature terrain park (hello, 50-foot jumps!) on Dollar that snowboarders particularly love. Nearly 25 miles of groomed trails make this a great spot for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing as well.

The classic Sun Valley Lodge isn’t the only lodging in town, but it is the most iconic; plus, it went through a major renovation a few years ago, adding a full-service spa, which is much needed after a day of outdoor activities (or simply in place of them).

The Shore Lodge's spa immersion pools. Photo by Shore Lodge

Schweitzer Mountain, Idaho
With 2,900 acres divided between 92 trails and open bowl skiing (plus two fancy new chairlifts that opened this winter), Schweitzer Mountain has earned its reputation as a top spot among outdoor sports enthusiasts in the Pacific Northwest. Its position in Idaho’s panhandle means the views—of three states, Canada and nearby Lake Pend Oreille—are killer. Take in those 360-degree views from the summit at Sky House (nonskiers will need a $20 foot-passenger ticket) for dining and drinking.

Keep an eye out for the new 30-unit boutique hotel in Schweitzer’s village currently under construction; an opening date is expected to be sometime in fall 2020.

Sun Peaks Resort, British Columbia
This B.C. behemoth is one of Canada’s largest ski areas, second in size only to Whistler but with a fraction of the Whistler crowds (and only about an hour farther for anyone driving from Seattle). Skiing and snowboarding may be the main draw, thanks to 137 trails and a 10-acre terrain park, but anyone interested in opting out will have plenty to do: bungee trampoline jumping, snowcat groomer rides, dogsled tours, guided ice fishing, ice skating, snowshoeing and more (and that’s not even mentioning summer activities).

Plan your trip to Sun Peaks as part of a longer adventure into B.C.: The Okanagan Valley, about three hours south, offers some truly splendid wine tasting.

Seafood at Shore Lodge satisfies hungry visitors. Photo by Shore Lodge

Whitefish Mountain Resort, Montana
Montana’s biggest ski resort may be Big Sky Resort in the state’s southwest corner, but Whitefish, in the northwest corner, has all the amenities (105 marked runs plus four terrain parks and a skiercross/snowboardercross course spread across 3,000 acres) and is more accessible for Seattleites. Whitefish aims at family-friendly inclusivity, with lessons for first-timers, a day care center for parents to rely on while having kid-free ski time and a nature center at the summit, where kids can learn about local flora and fauna and sign up to be a Junior Snow Ranger.

Make a reservation for a moonlit dine-and-ski adventure, which involves dinner at The Summit House, overlooking Glacier National Park’s snowcapped peaks, and an optional intermediate/advanced run back to the base.

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