Alpental Proves Steep, Challenging

Alpental Selfie sign
The SkiZer’s return to Alpental.

Day 9: Jan. 7, 2016

  • Alpental
  •  Vertical for the day: 25,000
  • Year total: 145,000

It’s amazing what you don’t remember about a mountain that kicks your ass.

A concussion will do that.

I last skied at Alpental in 2008. I had a season pass that year, and during one epic snowstorm, I took a fall off a headwall and ended up in the patrol shack, trying to remember what happened. The concussion kept me off the slopes for several weeks.

I eventually recovered, but I soured a little on Alpental. It was too small and too rough, I thought at the time.

Returning yesterday, I found a lot to love about this place.

It’s close to Seattle for one thing. You can get to the mountain in less than an hour if traffic cooperates.

It’s also very friendly, with congenial lifties and guest services workers.

But most of all, it’s the wild terrain that makes the place special. The Edelweiss Chair on top of the mountain takes skiers into a jaw-dropping, cliff-strewn environment that you just don’t see at most ski areas.

As I loaded onto my first chairlift, I couldn’t believe how quiet it was. “Looks like you’ve got the place to yourself,” a lift operator said. “Have fun!”

Alpental Edelweiss bowl

During the next hour, I saw only five other skiers on the Edelweiss Chair as I skied steep lines and searched for broken powder. The last storm had hit a few days prior, but plenty of pockets were still out there, and cold temperatures had preserved the snow.

Then I took my first run down International, the Alpental’s signature 2,200 vertical foot top-to-bottom drop.

Alpental sign

International

I couldn’t believe how steep and challenging it was. Wrapping around a massive cliff band, International (nicknamed “Nash”)  is flat out one of the best runs you’ll ever ski. Just make sure to bring your game.

International is the entry path to Alpental’s ample side country. A gate off skier’s left leads adventurers into the Back Bowls, where even wilder drops await. Don’t even think about attempting the Back Bowls without a partner.

On this day, I was content to rediscover the runs on Edelweiss and ski International for several laps. By the end of the day, Alpental’s rough steeps had pushed me into being a better skier — and left me with some very sore quads.

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