“My wife and I are retiring and moving here this year,” the skier from the Seattle area said as we rode the chairlift at Mission Ridge. “We love it here.”
I could see the attraction of this gem on the eastern slope of the Cascade Mountains. Mission has bargain pricing, and beautiful, uncrowded terrain far from the busy ski areas nearer to Seattle.
During my visit, a major blizzard dumped all day, turning the open slopes of Mission into a playground of powder. With a sparse midweek crowd, I skied untracked lines all day in what felt like my own, private ski area.
Snow, terrain and more
- Location: Mission is located just 12 miles from Wenatchee, Wash., an agricultural hub on the Columbia River known as the apple capital of Washington state. The bustling town also has a growing number of wineries to attract visitors, along with ample dining and lodging options. It takes about three hours to drive to Mission from Seattle.
- Snowfall: This is the “dry” side of the Cascades, so less snow falls here than on the western slopes of the mountains. It also means more sunny skies. Ample snowmaking keeps the mountain slopes covered during early season and lean snow years.
- Terrain: About 2,000 acres of rolling terrain drops off the top of the ridge, with a great deal more of easily accessed side country. About 30 percent of the terrain is rated advanced; 70 percent is beginner and intermediate. Gladed tree skiing and bowls are situated off a high ridge with dramatic cliffs, giving the area an appealing, open feeling.
- Vertical: 2,250 feet from base (4,570) to ridge-top (6,820).
- Lifts: Four chairlifts serve the basin; one is a high-speed quad taking skiers from mid-mountain to the top of Mission Ridge.
- Views: 14,410-foot Mount Rainier and the Cascade Range are visible from the top. The ski area faces the Columbia Plateau to the east.
- History and legend: In 1944, a B-24 Liberator heavy bomber crashed on the ridge during a training flight. A piece of the wing is on display at Bomber Bowl, one of the signature runs at Mission Ridge. Legend has it that if you touch the wing, you’ll bring fresh powder to the ski area; consequently, riders stop by often to work the mountain mojo.
Lot to lift access
- Mission has two main parking lots. Drivers may drop-off passengers and gear near the lodge and ticket kiosk. On weekends during the height of the season, the lots can fill up early.
- An inexpensive bus service operates from Wenatchee. A regional airport serves the town, as does Amtrak.
- Accommodations are plentiful in Wenatchee. A little farther away (about a one-hour drive) is the tourist hub of Leavenworth, Wash., with many more hotels and restaurants.
- The vibe: Small-town friendly. Locals will talk with pride about their ski area, but you’re also likely to run into refugees from Seattle who come here to escape the west-side crowds.
- Dining: The Hampton Lodge at the base of the mountain offers a cafeteria and restaurant/pub. On the mountain is Midway Lodge, a cozy dining and drinking hut.
- Adult tickets are $55; seniors 70 and older pay just $15. Season passes for 70+ seniors are just $125.
- Lots of uncrowded, gladed skiing in an area that averages more than 300 sunny days a year. Touch the bomber wing for luck (and you might bring a new storm).
- Parking is limited on weekends in high season; midweek is empty.