There’s no way around it: this year’s ski season got off to a slow and late start.
Popular areas that usually fire up their lifts at Thanksgiving had to hold off until after New Year’s. One resort, Oregon’s Mount Ashland ski area, still didn’t have enough snow to open by late February.
But skiers and boarders in the Northwest can take heart. Elevation and late winter snows often set the stage for epic spring seasons, some of which can linger long enough to actually become summer seasons.
Here are a few of the region’s ski areas that are known for their late-season glory.
Long after most other ski areas in the country have thawed out and closed up for the year, Timberline’s still going strong. Thanks to its home halfway up Mount Hood, the ski area is usually open every month of the year. The winter season often lasts through Memorial Day, and the summer season, high up on the mountain’s Palmer snowfield, usually runs from June through Labor Day.
Mt. Bachelor Ski Resort
Already blessed with sunnier skies than other areas of the Northwest, Mount Bachelor also gets drier snow than Mount Hood, so the powder here is for real. What’s more, Mt. Bachelor Ski Resort — the largest in the state — also boasts the highest skiable terrain in Oregon or Washington; you can ski right off the 9,065-foot summit. That alone helps give Bachelor one of the longest ski seasons in the region. It usually starts around Thanksgiving and doesn’t stop until May.
Ski seasons change annually, but Washington state’s largest ski area does its best to stay open as long as it can every year. In 2013, Crystal Mountain was open on weekends through June 16, and in 2011 it stayed open until July 16. The resort gets a boost from some high elevation, with many of its peaks rising between 6,700 feet and just over 7,000 feet. Located about two hours from Seattle, Crystal Mountain also offers up incredible views of Mount Rainier all year long.
Mt. Baker Ski Area
The snow really piles up at this ski area northeast of Seattle. Not only is it home to the world record snowfall for a single season — 1,140 inches during the 1998-99 season — but its annual average of nearly 650 inches ranks it among the snowiest ski resorts in the country. The season here usually runs well into April, and the terrain varies from a handful of beginner runs to advanced backcountry areas accessible from — though not patrolled or controlled by — the resort.
Header photo courtesy of Timberline Lodge.