Winter — the single word evokes a spectrum of reactions among us all.
For the naysayers, there’s the dread of darkness at 8 a. m., dangerous, icy roads and a stressed budget forced to include inordinately expensive holiday gifts.
For the fans, it means snow, weekend trips and gliding down a mountainside at breakneck speeds.
Yet, even for those who shy away from typical wintry sports, the coming months in Washington’s mountains can still yield an enchanting and memorable getaway.
Many resorts now offer alternatives to skiing and snowboarding to serve a wider clientele during the ski season. From snowshoeing to sightseeing, mountain visitors have an array of ways to spend their time while their friends enjoy the slopes.
“People go sledding or tubing,” said Dominic Kim, the operation manager at the Summit Inn in Snoqualmie.
He also mentioned snowshoeing and hiking as other options, if guests would still like an outdoor experience. But at Snoqualmie, anyone can enjoy a simple leisure trip.
“There’s still a good amount of people, around 30 percent, that just come to relax and check out the snow,” Kim said.
An even greater percentage of non-skier or snowboarder types frequent the Salish Lodge and Spa, roughly 30 miles from Snoqualmie Summit.
“In addition to the mountain, we have hikes and horseback riding,” said Alyssa Yokers, who works in guest services at the Salish. And, she added, for the daredevils on vacation, travelers can test their nerves at the DirtFish Rally School.
Located just minutes from the resort, the school provides 315 acres of every type of terrain, specifically reserved for driving supped-up cars at their fastest possible speed. DirtFish offers lessons ranging from two-hour crash courses to three-day technique sessions, a hair-raising alternative to the usual winter activities.
To unwind from rally driving, the Spa at Salish pampers mountain enthusiasts and city slickers alike, supplying everything from therapeutic facials to a Northwest coffee exfoliation.
Or for the socially inclined, the Salish is also near both North Bend and Snoqualmie. Yokers pointed out that although both are small towns, “they have great shops and fun restaurants.”
Another popular getaway, Northern Washington’s Mount Baker, also caters to patrons who don’t ski or snowboard.
Ed Matthews, an REI sales specialist, can list several ways people can still spend time outside without entering the Mount Baker Ski Area.
“There are a lot of people who go ice climbing,” he said, an activity that involves scaling waterfalls that have frozen for the winter. “Others go cross-country skiing or back-country skiing,” which differs from traditional skiing, thanks to the variations in ski blade.
If visitors are particularly brave and properly equipped, “some go snow camping, where they’ll pack down the snow and make a path for their tent,” he said.
Or, he said, a select few go as far as building an igloo.
For those less nature-inclined, travel an hour and half outside Seattle to find comfort at Crystal Mountain, located on the northeast corner of Mount Rainier National Park. The resort at Crystal Mountain offers shopping, dining and a gondola ride to the summit, to boot.
The restaurant and lounge on top of Crystal, known as the Summit House, offers a haven from the cold for both mountaineers and foot passengers, who pay a $20 round-trip ticket instead of a purchasing a regular pass.
Crystal Mountain has the additional benefit of convenient lodging. The area includes three places to stay, all located at the base of the mountain. For example, visit the Alta Crystal Resort near the base of Mount Rainier for a winter experience full of movie nights in the lodge and nights in the field with a bonfire, s’mores and hot cocoa. Or stay at any of the smaller inns run by Crystal Mountain Hotels, including the Alpine Inn, a Bavarian style hotel complete with two restaurants, a deli and slope-side rooms.
Regardless of the location, everyone can enjoy a peaceful mountain getaway without having to face the bunny slopes. Whether partaking in hotel events, taking a casual hike through the hills or sitting fireside with a warm drink, there’s always something for everyone.