The snow at the ski resorts may be long gone, and all the skis packed away by the time summer hits, but there is still plenty of fun to be had at some of Western Washington’s ski areas. With a variety of ways to experience the mountains in the summer — from outdoor concerts featuring local talent to gondola rides and guided adventures — local ski resorts are proving that winter isn’t the only time you can hit the slopes.
Since climate change, in the form of June’s record heat wave, has significantly affected snow levels across the Pacific Northwest, extending offerings of seasonal activities is a way for ski resorts to bring in more business during the offseason, and some have capitalized on the opportunity.
Based on feedback received through social media requests, Crystal Mountain has put a lot of work into developing some innovative summer activities, and out of all Western Washington’s ski resorts, you’ll find the widest variety of summertime fun there.
“We take it directly from our guests and what they’re asking for,” said Vivika Stamolis, Crystal Mountain’s communications and social media manager. “We get more questions about where the best hiking trails are, so we responded to these questions and ideas with guided adventure activities.”
The Summit at Snoqualmie also has a few family-friendly activities going on during the summer. Visitors can enjoy a ride up the Pacific Crest Chair for expansive views of Snoqualmie Pass. To return, you can ride the chair or hike down the trail to the lodge. Children ages 5 and under ride free, seniors and youth ages 6-12 pay $12 per ticket, and teen and adult tickets cost $18. Tickets can be used for unlimited round-trip rides on the selected date. Season passholders are eligible for discounted chairlift rides at $10.
Every Saturday from 4-6 p.m. through Sept. 3, the Summit is also hosting free live music shows on the plaza in front of Stan’s/Timberwolf. The shows feature local artists with plenty of outdoor seating, lawn games, barbecue sandwiches and ice cream. Ethan Tucker plays Aug. 7, with Everson Pines Aug. 14 and The Amber Lanterns on Aug. 28.
The other three regional ski resorts — Stevens Pass, Mount Baker and White Pass — have limited or no activities available this summer.
Usually open for hiking and mountain biking during the summer months, Stevens Pass decided to remain closed this summer to focus on preparation for the upcoming ski season, according to Jennifer Smith, communications and resort marketing senior manager.
Smith said Pacific Crest Trail thru-hikers are still welcome to transit through Stevens Pass and pick up packages.
Adventure seekers heading toward Mount Baker this summer can stop into the Heather Meadows Cafe for lunch to refuel after an outing on one of the many spectacular hiking trails in the region. The cafe is open Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Call the Glacier Ranger Station to check road conditions before heading out. The road to Artist Point is currently closed due to hillside erosion, but is still accessible by foot or bike.
White Pass does not have any summer activities at this time.
But if you want to spend a full summer day exploring a place you’d usually see only in the winter, Crystal Mountain is your best bet.
Known for being able to offer those who don’t want to — or can’t — do any strenuous hiking the closest view they can get of Mount Rainier, Crystal Mountain’s summertime visitors can ride the state’s only gondola 2,400 vertical feet and step out to square off face to face with Mount Rainier. Once you’ve snapped a sufficient ’Gram-worthy selfie, enjoy lunch on the patio of the Summit House and keep gawking at the view.
For the best prices, purchase tickets in advance online. Adult tickets are $39, tickets for seniors and children ages 5-12 are $27, and tickets for young adults ages 13-22 are $34. Dogs are welcome on the gondola during the summer.
In general, the summer activities at Crystal present a rare opportunity for dog owners whose pups don’t typically get the chance to enjoy Mount Rainier because dogs aren’t allowed at national parks. Crystal Mountain is proudly dog-friendly. Dogs are welcome on most of the guided adventures, the Summit House patio, on leash on all of the trails, and as mentioned, on the gondola.
“We want to keep people excited about Crystal Mountain and know that it’s not just a winter destination, it’s year-round,” Stamolis said.
Also new to Crystal Mountain this year are guided adventures, an “adventure challenge” and a summer concert series.
Through Sept. 12, adventure seekers can book guided trips with local experts to learn new outdoors skills and knowledge. Activities include paddleboarding and fly-fishing in alpine lakes, sunset yoga, foraging for edible and medicinal plants, and guided treks that begin with a ride up the gondola and progress to a hike along the Crystal Mountain Trail while a guide shares interesting facts about the region.
“We’ve had these guided adventure activities for booking for less than a month and we’ve already had some really amazing experiences with guests, and have heard about the impact that it has on their life,” said Stamolis.
The adventure challenge is a virtual scavenger hunt on the mountain that is open to all ages and all skill levels. Simply download the GooseChase app to your phone and snap photos and videos as the app guides you through the scavenger hunt. The activity includes challenges that test your outdoors skills, encourage you to express your silly side or lead you to find hidden treasures. Examples include taking a photo of something purple or identifying erosion on a hillside.
Participants who earn more than 10,000 points stand to win prizes from brands such as Dakine and Smith Optics. The adventure challenge began on July 23 and runs through Sept. 19, so there is still plenty of time to accumulate points.
Crystal Mountain also launched the Mountain Music Series this summer. Every Sunday in August, guests can gather on the meadow lawn to enjoy free performances by local musicians. Country music artist Aaron Crawford plays Aug. 8, with performances by Spirit Award (Aug. 15), Smokey Brights (Aug. 22) and Chris King and the Gutterballs (Aug. 29) filling out the rest of the slate. There are plenty of food and drink options available for purchase.