When autumn’s brilliant leaves have fallen, so begins my favorite time in the Pacific Northwest: winter! My shorts and flip-flops are exchanged for warm boots and down parkas – ready for the world of adventure just outside Seattle’s front door.
The same mountains that quietly call out for summer hikes, beckon with a snow-muffled call in the winter with powdery ski slopes and charming destinations. Just a few hours away are two resorts with a combined 3,825 skiable acres with the motherlode of mountain views and snow-covered firs. Closest to the city, with stunning views to next-door neighbor Mount Rainier, Crystal Mountain sits less than a two-hour drive southeast of Seattle on the western slopes of Washington’s Cascade mountains. Whether you’re a hard-core skier (or boarder), or if you just want to take in the views, there’s something for skiers of every level at Crystal. Want to make an overnight of it? Crystal offers accommodations from quaint hotels to spacious condos.
Local tip: If you’ve set your sites on a meal at the Summit House restaurant, get there early as they’re on a first-come-first-serve basis.
Family fun at Stevens Pass Ski Area Photo by Ann Peavey
Prefer to head east? Less than two hours east of downtown Seattle sits scenic Stevens Pass. Like Crystal Mountain, Stevens boasts fun kids day programs, boozy après-ski choices, and terrain for beginners to thrill-seeking pros. Just 45-minutes further east in the charming Bavarian town of Leavenworth are a trove of accommodation options – all with views that’ll make you think you’re nestled in the shadows of the Alps. This family-friendly hamlet offers cross-country skiing, snow-shoeing, horse-drawn carriage rides and a town brimming with shopping and dining options. Can you say “wienerschnitzel?!”
Local tip: Take a drive up Icicle Road (west of downtown) and enjoy a casual lunch at Sleeping Lady Mountain Resort‘s cafe: O’Grady’s Pantry.
Leavenworth, the Bavarian Village, in all her holiday splendor Photo by Melissa Osborne
Skiing’s not your jam? If you can walk, you can snowshoe! Even beginners can get in on the action through National Park Service ranger-led programs at both Paradise on Mount Rainier and Hurricane Ridge at Olympic National Park. They operate mid-December through March. Cost is just $7/per person, and is offered weekends and holidays at 2:00pm.
Local tip: Stop by Finnriver Farm & Cidery in Chimacum for a post-trek respite.
Waiting for the storm to roll in at Cape Disappointment Lighthouse on the Long Beach Peninsula Photo by Ann Peavey
Looking for something wet and wild instead? Western Washington has many spectacular locations to hunker down with a hot chocolate (or toddy) and watch crashing waves roll in from the wild Pacific. Two favorites within a day’s drive are the Long Beach Peninsula (3+ hours southwest) or historic Whidbey Island (1.5 hours north). Both offer cozy accommodations with breathtaking views for storm watchers young and old. If you’re looking for romance, you’ll find an abundance of local B&B’s and inns to choose from to set the perfect mood.
Ziplining at Canopy Tours Northwest on Camano Island Photo by Ann Peavey
Local tip: If you’re looking for a thrill, hop on a zipline with Canopy Tours Northwest on Camano Island on your way coming or going. You’ll love the views and the c charming 231-acre family farm.
Still looking for adventure? Drop by, or call, our stellar concierge team. They’re ready to help you plan the perfect outdoor journey to sate your thirst for beauty and adventure. 866-732-2695 / [email protected].