Local’s Guide to Mt Baker

Biggest snowstorms at Ski Resorts Mt Baker Ski Area

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Alright, let’s get past the statistics. Yes, there’s only 31 marked trails. The lift accessed vertical drop is only a 1,000 feet and the inbound skiable acreage is only a 1,000 acres. Does that mean it’s small. Not at all, it skis MUCH bigger than that. For starter, it’s home to some of the toughest terrain inbounds we’ve ever ridden. Secondly, if you enjoy steep, deep, and maybe even cruddy you’ll love this place. All others need not apply.

Things To Watch Out For

Tree Wells

The Cascades are the first mountain range to get smashed with snow. The Sierra Nevada may get on average about the same amount but it comes in HUGE storms. The Cascades on the other hand get continuously pounded with snow. This normal endless barrage of storms very rarely allow the sun to arrive and so massive tree wells begin to form that can be tens of feet deep. Be sure to give those trees space and you’ll be good.

Cliffs

Want to do some off piste skiing? Be careful and scope out your line ahead of time. Although many of the biggest cliffs (50 footers) are marked many of the “smaller” ones aren’t and they can be fatal if you don’t know where you’re going. We can’t iterate this enough DO NOT follow someone else’s line if you haven’t been there before. You could end up at the top of a mandatory 20 footer or worse have to hike back.

Terrain

Beginner

This isn’t the greatest place to learn riding or skiing, but there is some terrain for beginners. Head over to the Heather Meadows and check out Chair 2 or Chair 3 for the best pick of beginner terrain. Chair 3 would be a good place to introduce glade skiing/riding since it isn’t too steep. The trees are spaced enough, so it’s not too intimidating.

Intermediates

Depending on how deep the base, some terrain will be steeper in early season compared to later in the season. For example, the White Salmon trail in the beginning of the season will have nice natural whoopties that would allow someone to float little jumps down the run. Later in the winter these runs flatten out and almost become beginner terrain. Everything off of Chair 8 is super fun for an intermediate. Also, make sure to check out the little trees off of Big Hemi and Daytona. Do your best to let your style flow!

Expert

For being such a small resort this ski area packs a TON of expert terrain in every inch of it’s boundaries and even with some that could be deadly if you are too cocky. For example, under Chair 1 lies the “Chute”. The trail begins unassuming in a huge snowfield that is normally untracked. Turn after turn the run begins to narrow until it funnels into a tiny sliver of snow wedged in between two massive fifty foot cliffs. Shockingly this is considered inbounds! This is just one of many of the legendary extreme routes a person can take inbounds so beware when attempting a run the first time.

Do not miss

Mt Baker Ski Area
The legendary lines of the Mt Baker wilderness as seen from Mt Baker ski area – Photo by: Iwona Kellie

The weather at Mt. Baker can be unpredictable. Every storm that comes near Washington gets funneled right into the ski area. If the weather does clear make sure to head over to Chair 8. Standing at the top of the lift looking left the entire ridgeline, which is outside the ski area boundary is the Mt. Baker Wilderness. Some of the most famous lines from early ski/snowboard videos were filmed there. You might even get lucky enough to see a rider hiking the ridgeline to get to one of these famous runs. Be patient! Watch them drop in and see something of true beauty. Something you would normally have to pop in a ski or snowboard video to see. It’s worth the wait!

Buyer Beware

If we haven’t made it clear, Mt. Baker gets A LOT of snow! Is it as high quality as Utah or Colorado? It depends on how you look at it. If you like to float on it like surfing a wave you’ll love this place. For those looking to find the feathery snow that you can literally cut through and need a snorkel this isn’t the place to visit. With a summit elevation of only 5,000 feet mother nature sometimes doesn’t cooperate and temperatures aren’t cold enough for it to snow. What happens then? As my So-Cal friends from Snow Summit used to tell me, “It’s liquid pow bro!” As in rain. The best thing is to check the point forecast ahead of time. Look for the weather report for Glacier, Washington. For the most optimal snow conditions it normally needs to be a snow level of 2,500 feet or lower. Base of White Salmon is at 3,500 feet.

Bellingham, WA – Apres Activities

Mt Baker has a lot to offer. Awesome terrain, tons of snowboarding history and the epic snow. One thing to remember though is when it doesn’t snow its rains… so be prepared for a day off in Bellingham.
Streetscepe, Bellingham WA's Fairhaven District
– Streetscepe, Bellingham WA’s Fairhaven District by Joe Wolf, on Flickr

Just outside the national forest where Mt. Baker ski area sits, stands a few quaint cabins hidden off the road. The only way to know is a random “cabin for rent” sign, which is barely visible. Depending on what you’re looking for, this is a good option if you want to be in the wilderness away from everything. Local Freshies recommendation is to stay in Bellingham. The town will provide plenty to do after riding or on a rainy day. Here is the Bellingham scoop for some of our favorite places to check out when visiting.

Top Spots to Checkout

For such a small town, Bellingham has a lot to offer. From great records stores, to unique places to eat, and even a few breweries, Bellingham has it all. If you are looking for a unique experience that doesn’t fit the mold of a ski or snowboard trip then Mt Baker and Bellingham are a great combination.