Sometimes, access is everything. This challenging resort offers an easy way to fill a yearning to turn.
On the day I visited, Alpental provided a great excuse to play hooky. Recent storms had left its empty midweek terrain soft, with powder pockets just waiting to be found.
Snow, terrain and more
- Location: Alpental (the German word for “alpine valley”) is one of four areas at Snoqualmie Pass, all owned by the same company. It is about 50 miles east of Seattle just off Interstate 90, the main east-west route in Washington state.
- Snowfall: More than 400 inches fall annually at Snoqualmie Pass, with considerably more pounding the higher peaks at Alpental.
- Terrain, lifts: Alpental has some of the most challenging terrain in the Pacific Northwest. The lower mountain is primarily intermediate skiing, served by a high-speed quad (Armstrong Express) and two double chairs; the cliff-strewn upper mountain is for advanced skiers only and served by a double chair (Edelweiss). The experts-only back bowls of Alpental are accessed through gates off the Edelweiss chair.
- Vertical: 2,280 feet from base (3,140”) to top of Edelweiss (5,420”).
- Olympics connection: 1984 giant slalom gold medalist Debbie Armstrong grew up skiing at Alpental; the lift Armstrong Express and run Debbie’s Gold are named for her.
Lot to lift access
- Weekends are crowded during high season and are best avoided. Once you park, skiers must take a short walk across a covered wooden bridge to the base of the ski area. Weekdays are much easier; I arrived in early afternoon and parked 30 yards from the bridge.
- Shuttle service: Seattle Ski Shuttle delivers skiers from various locations in the Seattle metro area; a free intermountain shuttle operates between the four ski areas at Snoqualmie Pass.
- Accommodations: Plentiful along I-90; the ski area is just 50 minutes from downtown Seattle.
- The vibe: Alpental has a big-mountain feel on a fairly small footprint. Consequently, it feels like a club for people who love its challenging terrain. Lifties are friendly and helpful.
- Dining: The day lodge at the base area has cafeteria-style food and adult beverages.
- The senior skier will find some great deals here. Regular adult passes (ages 16-61) are $66; seniors aged 62-69 pay $48. If you’re a “super senior” (70 and older) your ticket is only $12.
- The upper-elevation Edelweiss Chairlift takes advanced skiers into dramatic, cliff-strewn terrain; the double-diamond, peak-to-base run International is one of the best drops you’ll ever ski.
- Access is everything: You’re on the slopes an hour after leaving Seattle.