Mt. Baker is a storm factory.
This North Cascades ski area holds the world record for snowfall in a season — an incredible 95 feet dumped here in 1998-99.
I arrived in mid-January to a modest three inches new, but that was on top of a foot that had fallen the previous day. The snow was soft and the scenery was stunning.
Snow, terrain and more
- Location: Baker is 52 miles from Bellingham, Wash., on State Route 542. It is the northernmost ski area in Washington and is closer to the Vancouver, British Columbia, metropolitan area (about a two-hour drive) than it is to Seattle (two and a half hours).
- Snowfall: Pacific storms seem converge on Mt. Baker; it averages 640 inches annually, far more than any ski area in the state.
- Terrain: About 1,000 acres are lift-served with 31 percent rated as advanced and 69 percent rated as beginner and intermediate. The Mt. Baker backcountry is enormous with huge, avalanche-prone big-mountain drops. If you want to tap into this wild world, you’ll need a partner, transceiver, shovel and probe to go out of bounds.
- Vertical: 1,589 feet (the base is 3,500 feet; chairlift access to 5,089 feet).
- Lifts: Eight chairlifts (none are high-speed) operate out of two base areas: White Salmon (open every day) and Heather Meadows (open weekends and holidays only).
- Views: If you’re lucky enough to visit between storms, you’ll have a commanding view of 9,131-foot Mount Shuksan to the north, a stunning, glaciated wall of rock and ice. Mount Baker (the volcano) stands at 10,781 feet to the south and is visible from certain locations of the ski area.
Lot to lift access
- Parking on a weekday at Mt. Baker is a breeze; I arrived 10 minutes before opening and parked in the front row next to the ticket window at White Salmon Lodge. Weekend parking is busier and skiers might find closer lift access at the Heather Meadows base.
- Bus service operates daily out of Bellingham.
- Closest lodging options (motels and condominiums) are in Glacier, Wash., a foothills town about a half-hour from Mt. Baker. Bellingham (population 82,000 and counting) is a lovely port city about 75 minutes away with top-notch dining and accommodation options.
- The Vibe: Old-school friendly. Everywhere I went, I was talked up by locals who were happy to share their knowledge and pride in Mt. Baker.
- Dining: Lodges operate out of the two base areas, but the best option is the cozy Raven Hut, a mid-mountain lodge at the base of Chairs 4, 5 and 6.
- Baker is a true bargain. Weekend and holiday tickets are $58 for adults; seniors 60-69 pay $50, and those 70 and older pay $39. Weekdays are even cheaper: $53 for adults; seniors 60-69 pay $41.
- Big powder dumps are common, and locals are happy to share their advice.
- Snowboarders love Mt. Baker for its rough features and natural half-pipe; out-of-bounds, big-mountain terrain attracts hard-cores.