Here’s where to camp lift-side at some of the best ski resorts in the Pacific NorthwestWake up next to the slopes on this winter road trip through Washington and Oregon, plotted by pro skier and adventurer Kalen Thorien
By Kalen Thorien
If you’re a die-hard skier looking for deep snow, fun terrain, and lift-side camping, this Pacific Northwest road trip is for you. If you can, I highly recommend spending multiple days at each resort, and maybe even add a detour to the coast to really cap off an epic adventure.
This route will take you to deep snow, stunning views, great terrain, and a cold beer at the end of the day. Every stop brings you to a different resort that has its own charm—but most importantly, each one allows overnight camping in designated lots for a small cost.
Photo: Shane Treat
Stop 1: Mt. Baker Ski Area, Washington
This gem is no secret among avid skiers, but it’s definitely hidden deep in the Northern Cascades. The remote location makes the crowd-to-epic skiing ratio very tolerable. Expert skiers will have a blast on Mt. Baker’s technical, steep terrain—but the area also sports plenty of blues and greens for beginners.
Once you’ve skied out all the snow in bounds, grab your skins and access the backcountry. When conditions are safe, you can continue the powder feast in the endless trees and big bowls surrounding the resort. As an added bonus, you can ski right to your camper at the end of the day and enjoy the parking lots festivities. Or head into the small town of Glacier for a delicious meal at Chair 9, a local grub spot where you can swap stories with locals and rest your tired legs.
Stop 2: Stevens Pass, Washington
Our next stop takes you to a Washington classic—Stevens Pass. The drive alone is stunning and you’ll be frothing at the mouth when you see the jagged peaks of the Cascades dot the skyline. Like Baker, Stevens has a variety of terrain for all skill levels, and they even offer night skiing for those not ready to call it a day when happy hour hits. Stevens also allows overnight camping, which can be reserved through their online registration system.
Whether it’s to spend the night or to grab a cup of coffee in the morning, make sure you hit the Bavarian-inspired town of Leavenworth. Breweries and bratwursts are aplenty and it’s a great spot to kick back and pretend you’re deep in the heart of the Alps.
Photo: Mark Erickson
Stop 3: Alpental, Washington
Alpental is my favorite stop on this trip. This challenging, no-frills resort will test even the best skiers with its technical terrain, big cliffs, and die-hard locals who have no problem snaking your turns if you’re moving too slow. The reward is some of the best skiing in Washington with an old-school feel. At the end of the day, head back to your camper at the famous Lot 4, where locals and fellow vagabonds will be crowded around small fires, swapping stories. You can even catch a run or two during night skiing. Most likely you’ll find yourself at the local watering hole, the Backcountry Bar, where you’ll probably be the only tourist and can dry out your powder-soaked outerwear.
If expert terrain isn’t savvy with everyone, head across I-90 to Summit at Snoqualmie, where beginner and intermediate terrain is endless.
Photo: Kalen Thorien
Stop 4: Crystal Mountain, Washington
Crystal Mountain is probably the fanciest resort on this list. It breaks up the monotony of tight trees and pillow skiing with its wide open faces and powder-filled bowls. The views of Rainier are the best in the country, so kick back with a yummy lunch at the summit and catch a glimpse of Washington’s highest peak. Ski your shaky legs back to the base where your warm camper awaits, thanks to the plug-ins provided by the resort.
Grab some dinner at the funky Snorting Elk Cellar Bar where the historic, ski-inspired decor will have your eyes dancing along the walls—while locals talk you into doing a round on their famous shot-ski.
Photo: Will Rochford
Stop 5: Mt. Hood Meadows, Oregon
Time to hit the road and head into Oregon. Stop at pFriem Family Brewery in Hood River for lunch and enjoy a healthy, hearty menu. Then weave your way into Mt. Hood, where this stunning volcano dominates the skyline.
Timberline and Mt. Hood Meadows both offer a variety of terrain and caters especially well to beginner and intermediate skiers. Experts might be a bit bored so if you need a challenge, head across the highway to Skibowl to get your black diamond fill. Thanks to Mt. Hood Meadows’ generous night skiing hours, you can get your fix even after the sun goes down.
Stop 6: Mt. Bachelor, Oregon
Last but not least, it’s time to cap off this road trip with Mt. Bachelor. Just outside the cute town of Bend, Oregon, Bachelor sports a healthy mix of intermediate terrain, great views, and—of course—a parking lot ready for you to camp in. Head up to the summit to see if you can spot views of the various volcanoes dotting the horizon. Ski down to the West Village Lodge for a drink on their sun filled deck or head into Bend for a night on the town.
Meet the Author
At 18, Kalen Thorien moved to Alta, Utah to pursue skiing. With only two years under her belt, the idea of becoming professional never crossed her mind. But passion drives ability and within a few seasons Kalen broke in to the ski industry and became a sponsored athlete. She didn’t stop there. Her love for the outdoors evolved her into an explorer, pursuing adventure in all forms from backpacking to canyoneering, packrafting, and more. She signed with Salomon in 2015 as a four-season athlete and since then has shaped her life one journey after the other.
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