If skiing or snowboarding just isn’t your thing, but you still want to get out and play in the snow, there are still plenty of ways to enjoy winter at or near Western Washington’s ski resorts. 

With Nordic ski centers, snowshoeing trails, guided snowshoe tours coupled with sunset and fine dining, non-skiers don’t just have to sit and hang out in the lodge while their family or friends spend the day on the slopes.

It sure does feel like winter is finally here in the Pacific Northwest! Whether you’re staying cozy inside or heading for the great outdoors, here’s our guide to winter sports, salves and more this season.

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Snowshoe and Nordic ski rentals are available at most of the resorts. Alternatively, outdoor stores like REI rent any necessary equipment.

Be sure to check avalanche conditions before you head out and call the nearest ranger station, chamber of commerce, or visitor center the evening prior or morning before you leave to inquire about conditions.

Sno-Parks require a Washington State Sno-Park Pass, which can be purchased online or from participating retailers for day use ($25) or for the season ($50). The season runs from Nov. 1 to April 30. Some Sno-Parks require a special groomed trail permit, including Hyak, mentioned below. Before heading out, it’s always a good idea to research what permits you might need depending on where you’re going

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Crystal Mountain

Crystal Mountain has worked hard to establish their snowshoe trails and create events for non-skiers. 

“We know people are seeking the outdoors more than ever now, and we want to provide that space to connect with mountains beyond skiing and riding,” said Vivika Stamolis, communications and social media manager for Crystal Mountain.

Crystal features six self-guided trails that navigate through Bullion Basin and vary in difficulty, from easy flat terrain to steeper climbs. If you don’t have a pair of your own snowshoes, you can rent them directly at the resort. Dogs are also welcome.

After working up an appetite, hitch a ride on the scenic gondola and grab takeout lunch from Summit House while enjoying the view of Mount Rainier from the ridgeline lounge chairs. Weekday rides are recommended to avoid long wait lines.

Alternatively, check out the Silver Creek Patio where you can try Fireside Cantina, a Yucatán-inspired taco truck featuring a full bar and beer on tap. If the spice from the salsa doesn’t raise the heat, then one of the fire pits will surely keep you warm.

Crystal Mountain will also be hosting some fun snowshoe events this winter. The Alpenglow Snowshoe Series is an afternoon guided snowshoe tour that starts at the Crystal Mountain base area and winds its way up through the forest along the Silver Creek Trail. After the hike, guests will return to the base for a delicious meal with drinks and music. Tours will run in February and March 2022.

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In March, Crystal Mountain will host the Full Moon Summit Fest which is the resort’s biggest event of the year. The event consists of a scenic ridgeline tour with food tastings as the sun sets and moon rises over Mount Rainier.

“This event was created with non-skiers and first-timers in mind because it is a low barrier to entry,” said Stamolis. “Watching the sunset fade into the moonrise at Mount Rainier, are iconic scenes of the Pacific Northwest that you’ll never forget.” 

Those interested can sign up at Eventbrite. The best way to stay up to date on events at Crystal year round is through the events page.

Stevens Pass

Snowshoers looking for trails near Stevens Pass have several options to pick from. Both Skyline Lake and Grace Lakes are accessible directly from the parking lot. 

“Skyline Lake Trail is a popular day adventure for snowshoe and backcountry skiing enthusiasts,” said Tom Dukeson, communications manager for Vail Resorts, which owns and operates Stevens Pass. 

The Skyline Lake Trail is intermediate level and starts opposite the summit lodges, across the pedestrian overpass at Stevens Pass. It’s a steep one-mile climb to the frozen lake at the top of Skyline Ridge. Along the route, you’ll want to stop and take in the stunning views of the valley and Stevens Pass.

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Grace Lakes is more beginner-level. It departs from Lot 4, near the Mountaineers Lodge and follows a gradual uphill climb along a Sno-Cat track toward the pair of lakes. The first quarter mile or so sees a number of skiers cutting off toward the parking lot, so be aware of people zooming toward you.

If you want to venture a little farther away from the ski area, Dukeson suggests the Smithbrook Trailhead, Lanham Lake Trail and the Merritt Lake Trail, all located off Highway 2 going toward Leavenworth. Snowshoes and Nordic skis can be rented from the Nordic Center. 

All of the snowshoe hikes mentioned are dog-friendly, just be sure to keep an eye out for skiers. 

“The Nordic Center is also perfect for families,” said Dukeson. “You can bring your own sled and take advantage of the free sledding hill and snow play area.”

When you’re done playing in the snow or need a refuel break, head inside The Cascade Depot for hot cocoa and a snack. 

The Nordic Center is located five miles east of Stevens Pass and is open Thursday through Sunday and offers classic and skate lessons as well as snowshoe and Nordic ski rentals. Shuttles are available from the ski area during operating hours.

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Summit at Snoqualmie 

The Summit at Snoqualmie offers a variety of alternative activities to skiing. The Summit Tubing Park features over 20 tubing lanes during peak season and a covered lift that takes you back to the top.

Children of all ages are welcome to participate. Tubing is open Fridays through Sundays. Ticket sales are dependent on snow and range in price from $12 (children 0-6) to $35 (7+).

The Summit East Nordic Center offers over 40 miles of groomed trails for Nordic skiing and snowshoeing, including lessons and rentals. Tickets start at $22 for youth and seniors (7-12, 62+) and $25 for adults.

Other snowshoeing options nearby include Hyak Sno-Park and Gold Creek Sno-Park. Hyak Snow Park features a marked snowshoe route, groomed Nordic ski trails that connect to Crystal Springs Sno-Park via the Palouse to Cascades Trail. Dogs are not allowed at Hyak.

Gold Creek is an ungroomed Sno-Park which means it is open to snowshoeing, Nordic skiing and snowmobiles. 

For a really special snowshoe hike, park at Denny Creek Sno-Park, at the bottom of National Forest Development Road 58 just west of the Summit at Snoqualmie, and hike along the road to Franklin Falls. The road is closed during the winter, and is the winter route to Franklin Falls. The falls freeze over during the winter creating a picturesque winter scene. If there is not enough snow to warrant snowshoes, be sure to bring microspikes, as the hill down to the falls can be extremely icy.

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(You will need a $50 Sno-Park permit to park here. There are no groomed trails and it is a nonmotorized Sno-Park.)

Mount Baker

One of the most popular snowshoe excursions at Mount Baker starts at the upper ski lot and goes up to Artist Point, where you will be rewarded with views of both Mount Baker and Mount Shuksan from the viewpoint. 

However, this one is for advanced snowshoers only: “We warn folks that it’s not a beginner route,” said Rebecca Boonstra, executive director for the Mt. Baker Chamber of Commerce. “It travels through avalanche territory, so it’s important to know what you’re getting into.”

Other less-advanced snowshoeing options include Bagley Lakes and White Salmon Road (National Forest Development Road 3075). White Salmon Road is a 4-mile round trip adventure that starts just below White Salmon Day Lodge. On this beginner trail, you’ll see views of Mount Shuksan and the Nooksack River.

Salmon Ridge Sno-Park also features snowshoeing and Nordic skiing. The elevation is much lower than the base at Mount Baker ski area, so the Sno-Park may not open until January or February, depending on snow conditions. Check before you go. The Sno-Park features 15 miles of trails for snowshoers and Nordic skiers. Due to its lower level and gentle terrain, it’s a great option for beginners. 

Dogs are discouraged at Salmon Ridge, so if you’re bringing your pup, check out Silver Fir Campground, located across from the Sno-Park. The road is not groomed, so go prepared for backcountry conditions and the right equipment.