Spot Check 15.6 Mt. Baker

The Mt. Baker story has taken on mythical proportions in the world of snowboarding. A thousand times over we’ve seen photos and heard tales of sublime powder turns up on Hemispheres (Baker’s out-of-bounds hiking terrain), and the resort’s supremely challenging terrain has nurtured many great riders along the path to professional glory, including the likes of Craig Kelly and Mike Ranquet. Home to the legendary Banked Slalom, the mountain is also a volcano, wilderness area, and community (Mt. Baker Snowboard Shop represent!). It lies at the end of Washington State Highway 542, just 56 miles east of Bellingham and three hours north of Seattle. Native Americans in the region named Mt. Baker “White Steep Mountain.” And indeed it is, registering more annual snowfall than any other ski area in North America-more than 600 inches on average. In the ski-area parking lot you’ll find a breathtaking view of the Shuksan Glacier-guaranteed to be the most stunning blob of rock, snow, and ice you’ve ever laid eyes on. At an elevation of nearly 11,000 feet, Mt. Baker looms over the landscape like the throne of a god. It’s the second most-active volcano in the Cascade Mountain range after Mt. St. Helens, having belched steam, flows of hot rock, and gas as recently as 1975. On clear days one can see steam still rising from the Sherman Crater. Understand that in every way this is not a mountain to be trifled with, daunting in its sheer size, beauty, and overall vibe. Chairs Four and Five will get you within reach of the Hemispheres backcountry gate. Inbounds and just underneath these chairs you’ll find endless routes through demanding expert terrain, as well as cliffs that’ll kill if one’s not careful. Chair Six services the equally fierce and renowned Canyon run, a natural halfpipe in its own right, and a complex maze of ever-changing hits and banked walls. Chair Eight is about as mellow as Baker gets-a series of wide-open groomers leading toward a long cat-track lined on one side with high-banked walls. At the bottom of this run is the small but ample snowboard park and the elegant White Salmon Day Lodge. Mt. Baker is a mountain resort that represents all that’s good and right about snowboarding-unfathomably deep powder; good friends; lovely scenery; steep, wide-open runs; and massive booters. This is the sort of place one comes to once and then builds a cabin and never leaves. And this has happened. Repeatedly.

Average Annual Snowfall: 647 inches
Summit Elevation: 5,000 feet
Vertical Drop: 1,500 feet
Number Of Lifts: 8
Shreddable Acres: 1,000
Pipes: Two
Parks: Two
Lights: Nope
Nearby Skateparks: Bellingham Public Skatepark

“The terrain and the way the mountain is laid out makes Mt. Baker so amazing. It’s a special place because the people who ride and work there love to snowboard-you see the same people out no matter what the weather conditions are like.”-Dave Lee