Be ready to enjoy loads and loads of snow in Okanogan Country.
Word has it a La Niña winter is heading our way – and in Okanogan Country, that means gear up for some serious winter fun.
First, be ready for loads and loads of snow. Second, get prepared to be amazed by the utter lack of lines or crowds, especially at the region’s two ski hills.
It is hard to imagine two more eclectic or memorable ski hills than Loup Loup and Sitzmark. Both function as not-for-profit foundations and rely heavily on local volunteers to supplement their paid work force. And both benefit from the drier continental storms that frequently bury them in Rocky Mountain-style champagne powder. But what makes them most unusual is their distinctly local ambience.
Loup Loup, the larger of the two, is located on a north-facing hillside just off U.S. 20 on the pass between Twisp and Omak. With 300 acres of in-bounds terrain and 1240 feet of vertical, its features include a terrain park and 10 cut runs (expert to beginner) as well as two bottom-to-top glades served by a quad chair, Poma Lift and tow rope. Amenities include a rental shop, a bustling base lodge (with both food service and a brown-bag area), a huge stone fireplace and recently renovated bathrooms. Get there early on powder days and bear in mind that Wednesdays are a local favorite… you can’t beat a long, lazy day of sun, snow and new friends.
Sitzmark, located in the northern part of the county just 20 minutes from both Oroville and Tonasket, is a step back in time. On weekends the base lodge and rental shop fill with local families and a vibe that makes you remember the first time you ever went skiing and how darn much fun it was. With 650 feet of vertical and a broad, open, and pleasantly featured main run with something for just about every skill level, the hill’s double chair and tow rope are rarely crowded and lift lines are virtually unheard of.
Along with the growth in popularity of other winter sports, snowshoeing is also enjoying a renaissance. Today’s lighter, more performance-oriented gear makes mastering the basic skills easy and within reach of almost everyone. Maintained trails can be found at Sun Mountain Lodge, Pearrygin Lake State Park, the Sitzmark Ski Hill and Highlands Nordic Sno-park in Havillah. For many, however, the true beauty of snowshoeing is the ease with which they can take you off on your own. Whistler Trailhead three miles south of Oroville is a popular destination for those visiting the northeast portion of the county as are the trails around Blue Lake just south of the tiny town of Loomis. The old Sandy Butte road in Mazama also provides convenient access to the high country. But as with all winter adventures, make sure you tell someone where you are headed before taking off into the unknown.
Drive by almost any pond in winter and you’ll notice that people around here still love to shovel off the ice to skate or play hockey. In 2015, the town of Winthrop installed refrigeration in its stunning new open-air rink and since then the demand for ice time seems to have exploded. At present, the rink offers a full agenda of family, youth and open skating hours as well as designated time for men’s, women’s, youth and open hockey. Lights make nighttime skating a pleasure and a Zamboni keeps the surface smooth. Reserve events such as last year’s UW vs. WSU hockey classic and a number of other tournaments draw visitors from all over the Northwest (where else does a referee stop play so everyone can look up and see Orion floating overhead?). Rental skates are available on site and a warming room and indoor recreation area provide a warm place to get out of the weather.
Fishing, hunting, hiking, biking, horseback riding – we could go on all day. You will find wide-open spaces teeming with wildlife, spectacular scenery and family fun. Let us help you plan your best family vacation ever with our Online Travel Planner.