Spot Check: Alpental, The Alps Of Washington State

Jutting 5,530 feet from sea level, Denny Mountain, the home of Alpental resorts, has a jagged appearance and a reputation for steep terrain. This tiny operation has only four lifts (one counter-pole double chair, Edelweiss, reaches the top station) but endless opportunities, if you know where to look.

During a week-long trip to Washington State, I spent a day exploring Alpental. Yes it was a powder day, and I wish I could have stayed longer. It was surprising to see how many riders were at the mountain on a Wednesday morning. If you want to get the goods you’d better get up there early.

Standing in the massive line for Edelweiss, waiting to head to the top of the mountain, I noticed how many of the riders in line knew each other. There’s a tight community of snowboarders who consider Alpental their home mountain. And its location, just 40 minutes outside of downtown Seattle, makes it even more attractive to the hooky-playing sort. In the lift line someone shouted, “Why aren’t you people at work?” Little did they know I was working.

For the die-hard snow-junkies who can’t get away for the day, there’s night boarding every day except Sundays.

The in-bounds terrain appears small when you scan the resort map, but when you add the backcountry access, the terrain doubles in size. Though much of the backcountry area was closed due to risky avalanche conditions when I was there, I was still awestruck by the in bounds steeps. There’s no easy way down off Edelweiss, only single and double black diamond runs. Not for the weak.

If you ever lose your way at Alpental, just head skier’s right. Every run eventually leads to Armstrong’s Express high-speed quad at the base area.

Of course the locals would love to keep Alpental low key, so I won’t give away too many secrets. But if you’re in the area and looking to hit some steeps, give.