It’s easy to isolate yourself during a good Northwest winter. Whether you’re put off by Alpental lift lines or trying to find parking at Crystal Mountain, crowds can be discouraging. But sometimes it’s worth emerging from your Douglas fir-guarded powder line to spend a day celebrating the act of snow sliding alongside the rest of your Gore-Tex-clad clan.
From rail jams to retro races, here are 20 events at ski and snowboarding areas around the Northwest that might give you good reason to lift up your goggles and say hello to humanity this winter.
Events for the young (and young at heart)
1. Burton Riglet Park Event, Dec. 7, Stevens Pass
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Although this event seems like a clever farm program for the Stevens Pass ski school, it’s a great opportunity for youngsters who want to try snowboarding in a low-pressure, fun environment. However, for kids as young as 3, making snowballs ranks just as high as making turns — most likely higher. See stevenspass.com.
2. Jim Jack’s Cowboy Up, Jan. 31-Feb. 2, Stevens Pass
Skiers and snowboarders, ages 12-18, compete in this freeriding contest in the steeps and trees of Cowboy Ridge at Stevens Pass. Best part? Having Cowboy Ridge all to yourself for a run. stevenspass.com
3. Capita’s Minor Threat, April 5, Stevens Pass
For snowboarders 14 and younger, this high-energy, low-pressure event is a chance for young riders to compete on the rails, boxes and jumps of the Stevens Pass Top Phlight terrain park. stevenspass.com
4. Best Grom, April 5, Crystal Mountain
Don’t know what a grom is? It’s a partly affectionate, partly mocking term for young surfers or snowboarders — the kind of thing your older brother might call you. In this tuned-down version of an IFSA big mountain freeride comp at Crystal Mountain, skiers and snowboarders ages 7 to 11 will be judged on line choice, control, fluidity, technique and style as they take their big mountain run. Hot chocolate will most likely be involved. See crystalmountainresort.com.
5. Egg Hunt, April 19, Mount Baker
This one’s for kids and all those young at heart — or who just want a free season’s pass to Mount Baker. Each year, the mountain is covered with hidden eggs containing all kinds of ski-related goodies. However, the golden egg with the season’s pass is most coveted in this annual event. See mtbaker.us.
Rail and park events
6. Open Season Rail Jam, Dec. 14, Stevens Pass
It’s only been seven months — you still remember how to snowboard, right? Open to everyone, this rail jam at the Stevens Pass base area is the perfect chance to try all the tricks you forgot over the summer. stevenspass.com
7. Ice Fest Rail Jam, Jan. 19, Leavenworth
Held in downtown Leavenworth, this Bavarian-influenced rail jam takes place during the annual “Ice Fest.” Ice sculptures, snowboarders sliding rails, fireworks and schnitzel — what’s not to love? See leavenworth.org/event/2443
8. NW Flannel Cup, March 29, Stevens Pass
Flannel isn’t mandatory — airtime is — at the premier Northwest slopestyle event at Stevens Pass. Featuring a large jump and other obstacles, skiers and snowboarders compete in a variety of categories for cash and glory. stevenspass.com
9. Strapless Weekend, March 29-30, Hurricane Ridge
Go minimalist and lose your bindings at this celebration of all things snowskating. Powder downhill, park jam and banked slalom all go down at this unique event in the Olympic Mountains. Email Frank@nxnwsurf.com for registration details.
10. Rhythm N Bruise, April 26-27, White Pass
Channel your inner BMX champion on this leg-melting snowboard course filled with berms, gaps and jumps. Extra points for style. See rhythm-n-bruise.com.
Classic mountain events
11. Legendary Banked Slalom, Feb. 7-9, Mount Baker
One of the longest-running snowboard contests in the world, the Mount Baker Banked Slalom brings out everyone from big-name professionals to local kids, racing for the famed duct-tape trophy. With a salmon barbecue and live music throughout the weekend, it’s a chance to ride Mount Baker with everyone — almost literally, everyone. See mtbaker.us.
12. Hope on the Slopes, March 1-2, Stevens Pass
Benefiting the American Cancer Society, skiers and snowboarders attempt to ride for 24 hours straight in this gruelingly fun fundraiser. stevenspass.com
13. Retro Fools Day, mid-April date to be announced, Stevens Pass
Blow the dust off that flashy retro gear, because it’s time to get radical at Stevens Pass. With a slalom race and old-school half pipe they call the “stunt ditch,” this event gives extra points and time deductions based on the retro-ness of your gear. stevenspass.com
14. Bikini and Boardshorts Downhill, April 20, Crystal Mountain
Don’t do anything rash — like fall — at this spring celebration where bikinis and boardshorts are mandatory for race contestants. First to cross the finish line gets a season pass — and gets to put their clothes back on before everyone else. crystalmountainresort.com
15. Spring Fest, April 20, Stevens Pass
With a pond skim, dummy downhill and live music, this laid-back Stevens Pass event benefits Outdoors for All. If you’ve never tried to skim a pond, just point it, lean back and have someone waiting with a towel. stevenspass.com
16. Sven & Glenn Telemark Races, date to be announced, Stevens Pass
This event celebrates the memory of two Stevens Pass locals who inspired and developed telemark racing in the Northwest. The Sven Classic Race consists of all the elements of nordic skiing, while the Glenn is a giant slalom typically held the following day. stevenspass.com
17. NWAC Avalanche Awareness Class, Dec. 3, Evo Seattle
Northwest Avalanche Center hosts a winter-long series of free avalanche-education classes at Evo in Fremont starting in December. This community resource is a great introduction to avalanche safety and backcountry travel. See culture.evo.com or www.nwac.us for more information.
18. Beacon Rally, Dec. 15, Mount Baker
Along with a shovel, probe and knowledge of the current snowpack, an avalanche beacon is a crucial piece of backcountry safety equipment for skiers, snowboarders and snowshoers. This event is the perfect time to hone your beacon skills early in the season. mtbaker.us
19. Vertfest, Feb 15-16, Alpental
This grueling race includes skinning up to the top of Alpental, then skiing or snowboarding back down. The weekend also includes backcountry clinics, demos and live music. See nwac.us.
20. Women of Winter Backcountry Day, March date to be announced, Crystal Mountain
This women-only backcountry touring and avalanche education day is designed to educate and empower female skiers and snowboarders to be safe and knowledgeable in the backcountry. See culture.evo.com.
John Kinmonth is a Northwest-based freelance snowboarder, writer and editor.