Resort Guide 2013-2014: Northwest
Words: Ben Gavelda
What exactly defines the mighty Northwest? Pendletons, verdant forests, strong coffee, union aesthetic, fresh fish, cold coasts, and rainy gray days are a start. What about borders? Oregon and Washington for sure, but where do you draw the line on Idaho, Montana, BC, and AK? For the purpose of this guide, our focus is on the riding areas of Oregon and Washington. Although the territory of the Northwest is large there's only a handful of lift-served places to ride. All benefit from a heavy hammering of snowfall, and similar to BC, the sun is elusive. It's no California.
One of the most powerful traits the Northwest has aside from snowfall is the sense of community. For whatever reasons the tribal pull and camaraderie from one snowboarder to the next is just solid and over the years it's built supportive communities around it. Maybe it's because there is little in the way of faux villages and overnight accommodations, meaning you bond on the hill, or all the drives to and from. Few options for overnight stays means cramming in what ever cabin you may have or dialing in that gypsy whip.
The Northwest is blessed with heavy snowfalls and dramatic mountain-scapes, making it one of the most enticing and cushioned places on the planet for freeriding, but a challenge for park crews to sculpt. There's hairball chutes, ice, girthy trees, scant grooming, rain, snain, snow, foggy vertigo—the terrain and environment here demand a lot from the rider, which is why so many are so strong, powerful, and dedicated. There's a lot of snow, but it takes a lot more muscle to move around in the thick stuff and you've never experienced the loose edge control until you've turned in the dense, variable snowpack. The weather is harsh, but when Mother Nature lifts up her skirt and gives you a little look, that's when the true beauty of the Northwest prevails.
Check out the next page for our top 3 freeriding resorts in the Northwest…
Top 3 Freeriding Resorts in the Northwest
Givin’s “Thank You Too Mt Baker” originally intended as a submission for the Mt Baker Film Festival
Mt. Baker is a holy grail in snowboard lore. It was one of the first places to embrace (rather than outlaw) snowboarding and many prolific characters have hunkered down here for good reason. Storms dump some of the most snow in North America and the undulating terrain has distinct flow that can go from fun to doom real quick.
Standout Terrain: Hemispheres, The Arm, Grandmas
Don’t Miss: Legendary Banked Slalom, misty pros and legends, Milanos, Wake 'n Bakery
Average Snowfall: 727 inches
Crystal is predominantly regarded as a 'skiers mountain', but that doesn't mean snowboarding is outlawed. In fact, the line choice between one plank over two leaves many hits and skinny, billygoat chutes untouched. For those that don't mind meandering, Crystal has an open boundary policy with loads of untapped and expansive terrain.
Standout Terrain: Largest acreage in Washington, Silver Basin, Silver King, Silver Queen, Gun Tower Ridge
Don’t Miss: Early breakfast gondola, skier joeys, Blair Habenicht, The Snorting Elk
Average Snowfall: 486 inches
Sitting deep in the Cascades on the tipping point of west and east lays Stevens Pass. The place is stuffed with wide-open rollers, steep treed terrain, windlips, chutes, cliffs, and a head start into loads of awesome sidecountry. The terrain is broken up by flat sections so hold your speed and bring some clear lenses. They have night riding, too.
Standout Terrain: Big Chief Bowl, Cowboy Mountain, Powerline Booters
Don’t Miss: Night laps, Sultan Bakery, Whistling Post, Sky Deli, Foggy Goggle, Icicle Brewery, South
Average Snowfall: 450 inches
Top 3 Parks in the Northwest
Summit at Snoqualmie
Proximity, it's one of the standout traits that Summit at Snoqualmie has. The West, Central, and East portions that make up the area are only a 45-minute drive from the greater Seattle area. Add in night riding access and the Central Park and Greehorn Mini Park are the places for park riding in Washington State.
Standouts: Night riding, fast laps
Don't Miss: Wildside Wednesdays, Gnu's Tube City, Volcom PB & RJ, Smith Grudge Match
Mt. Bachelor's location bridges high desert and classic wet Northwest forest giving it the best of sun and snow. While it's one lonesome, big-ass volcano with ever-evolving windlips that create fun freestyle terrain, it's the roughly six terrain parks and lengthy operating season that give Bachelor premium park status.
Standout Terrain: Long park runs, mix of natural and crafted terrain
Don't Miss: The Dirksen Derby
Timberline is most well known as the global host of Mt. Hood summer shred camps and the place to be Peter Pan forever. What's often forgot are the jump lines and jib creations that exist throughout winter. While a pipe is lacking, there's talk of one for this season, until then you have to get your u-ditch fix at camp.
Standouts: Big jump line, nearly year round riding
Don't Miss: Hammers and Style, Airblaster Board Games
Sister operation to The Summit at Snoqualmie, Alpental is only a parking lot away and offers some seriously steep and rugged terrain and bountiful back bowls. Alpental also has night riding and when the storms are on there are easily accessible ridgelines to take you into the sidecountry and beyond.
The gloom can make you groggy. Luckily pep comes in the form of a warm brownish liquid called coffee, it's found everywhere up here. These are a few premium substitutes to Starbucks and Folgers sawdust.
Heart Coffee Roasters
Espresso Vivace Roasteria
Fremont Coffee Company
Fremont Coffee Company