White Pass has many great qualities: Beautiful scenery, vast terrain, reasonable pricing and ample lodging options nearby.
During my visit, two inches new had fallen on top of meticulously groomed slopes, yielding buttery-smooth turns and fresh tracks all day long.
Snow, terrain and more
- Location: The ski area is on the White Pass Scenic Byway section of U.S. Highway 12, one of the major east-west routes in Washington state. The byway has fantastic views of 14,410-foot Mount Rainier to the north and is a jumping off point to explore the volcanoes Mount St. Helens and Mount Adams to the south. It takes about three hours to drive to White Pass from Seattle.
- Snowfall: More than 350 inches fall annually, and snowmaking keeps the mountain covered when Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate.
- Terrain: White Pass feels like two mountains on its 1,500 acres. The “frontside” has the area’s only steeps and also has a variety of intermediate runs. The “backside,” known as Paradise Basin, offers intermediate skiing on its higher-elevation slopes. About 20 percent is rated advanced; 80 percent is beginner and intermediate.
- Vertical: 2,000 feet from base (4,500 feet) to the top of Paradise Basin (6,500 feet).
- Lifts: Two high-speed quads (Great White Express on the frontside) and (Couloir Express in Paradise Basin) do most of the people-moving at White Pass; the ski area has four additional chairlifts.
- Views: On clear days, Mount Rainier is the big dog on the skyline to the north; the Goat Rocks Wilderness and Mount Adams to the south are also visible.
- Olympics connection: Medal-winners Phil and Steve Mahre grew up skiing at White Pass and still drop in now and again.
Lot to lift access
- Weekends and holidays can be busy, but for the most part, parking is easy. A passenger unloading zone is available next to the day lodge and regular shuttles ferry skiers from distant parking. On weekdays, parking is a breeze; I pulled in 10 minutes before opening and parked right next to the lodge.
- Accommodations: Options are plentiful along U.S. 12, including the on-mountain White Pass Village Inn. The tourist-friendly towns of Packwood and Naches are short drives from the ski area, and Yakima, a center for many of Washington’s wineries, is about an hour’s drive to the east.
- The vibe: Everyone seems to know everyone at White Pass, and visitors are welcomed. I met some friendly retirees who treated me like an old friend as the day progressed.
- Dining: The best option is the cozy High Camp Lodge in Paradise Basin, with a variety of menu options, exceptional craft brews and wine. The day lodge has cafeteria food and the Sitzmark Lounge.
- If you’re 73 and older, it’s $5 for your initial ticket; after that, reloads are free. Adult tickets (ages 16-72) are $63 (reloads are $58).
- Grooming is exceptional on the ski area’s many intermediate runs, and when it’s clear, you’ll have commanding views of Mount Rainier.
- The upper-elevation Paradise Basin offers rolling groomers and gladed off-piste powder.