We live in one of the most gorgeous counties in the state. The numerous lakes, the rivers that change with glacial runoff, our mountains – all of the natural beauty gives us not only excellent opportunities for outdoor recreation, but these scenic backdrops make for great family photographs as well. [more…]
“I love this, it’s like walking,” smiled my daughter, Brandy. “And I like being able to stop myself, not counting on boards strapped to my feet to stop me.” In case you can’t tell, she tried skiing last year. And didn’t particularly like it. Same with me. We’ve decided we have some sort of “hereditary” balance-and-control-challenge. So though we all tried skiing, it was not particularly successful. This year we wanted to try cross-country skiing. Everyone says we’ll like it better and can go on flatter terrain where we would be more comfortable. The only problem was there was so little snow this winter that it took forever for the trail to open. We finally decided to try snowshoeing, figuring it was less expensive plus we could check out this cross-country trail that was supposed to be nice and flat.
So on a recent Saturday we met Brandy and her boyfriend, Jason at the motel in Packwood and headed up to White Pass Ski Area – along with hundreds of other people who were there for the annual White Pass Winter Carnival. But it was actually not too bad, we found parking pretty quickly, and headed to the yurt. While skis and equipment are rented in the lodge, snowshoes and cross-country gear are rented out of the yurt across the street and behind the lodging. We just needed to rent snowshoes for Josh, David has an old wooden pair, Brandy borrowed a pair of Yukon Charlie’s from a friend and I borrowed a pair of Redfeathers from a friend. We noticed that the rental shoes appeared to be all Yukon Charlie’s. We paid $15 for Josh’s shoes, and $15 a piece for our trail passes.
Then we headed outside to put on our snowshoes – which is where I ran into my first problem. Even though Brandy quickly and easily got hers on and the back strap fastened, I struggle very much with mine, until I had to have Josh fasten them for me.
Then we all headed off down towards the frozen and snow-covered Leech Lake and the trail that goes around it. The snow was not as expected. It was covered with a light layer of ice and so it was frosty and crunchy when we walked on it. As we started walking down the hill to the lake area, that’s when Brandy decided she liked it. There would be no way either she or I would have been able to comfortably go down that little hill on skis.
Even though there were so many people up there, there were very few people on the trail. We only ran into maybe four or five other small groups around the entire trail. So we had plenty of space to ourselves. The weather was agreeable and the scenery was beautiful and serene. We took two hours to go around the trail because we kept stopping to take pictures. Snow makes landscape look so different. A creek peeking out through the little white hills. Bare trees with snow-caps caught on the top of them. Everything looks clean and smooth.
Yes, after going down the hill to the lake, the first 1/3 or so of the trail was pretty flat. But then it started slowing climbing, and probably what other people would still consider flat, we decided would still have been too much of a hill for us. See, there’s that hereditary inability to appreciate hills, speed, and skiing..
The walk around the lake took the perfect amount of time (there was a restroom available about ½ way around if anyone needs it).
We enjoyed our walk, appreciated the views, felt we got a great workout and worked up a hunger. When finished, we headed back to the yurt to meet Jason for a lunch that we had packed. Time to take off the snowshoes and again I had a problem. I couldn’t get the back strap off and again had to have Josh do it. So bottom line, I would not get the Redfeather snowshoes because I obviously want to be able to put them on and take them off by myself, and Brandy had no problems with her Yukon Charlie’s and neither did Josh.
Since most of the people visiting White Pass Ski area head to the lodge to eat, we were actually able to get a table inside the yurt to enjoy our lunch. While we brought our own food, they do have some snacks and beverages available. It was also quite cozy and warm and the staff was very friendly and helpful with our questions.
We had such a successful experience that there has been a great follow-up. Brandy bought herself some Yukon Charlie’s, in a kit with the poles and a carry bag – and she bought a set for me for an early Mother’s Day present! How fun is that!
This past weekend, March 1 and 2, the White Pass Ski Resort held their 28th annual Winter Carnival and decided to use a Wizard of Oz theme. This resulted in a fun and imaginative display of snow/ice artwork and great costumes.
Dorothy’s house was dropped on the Wicked Witch of the West.
The Snow Castle (representing the Emerald City) incorporated the characters into the set – you can see the Cowardly Lion, Dorothy, the Tin Man, Scarecrow, Toto.
You could watch the sculptor making creations with his chainsaw. A snow sculpture competition began the day, which explained why we saw people walking around with things like a snow owl and a snow dog.
The Snow Castle is also a giant slide – for free! Josh spent about four hours sliding down that thing over and over.
Since some of us older folks aren’t oblivious to the cold like Josh is, we went into the lodge to imbibe in some “anti-freeze”. While there we were entertained by “The Lollipop Guild” singing and dancing. They were quite a hit!
Other outside activities include more carnival games for the kids and vendors were set up to display and demonstrate their new snow-related products. There was a Ski Patrol Poker Run, a ski competition for kids, an obstacle course, and face painting.
Evening events include a fireworks display and parade, which unfortunately we didn’t get to see because we had to leave before they started. But we hear they were wonderful.
The White Pass Winter Carnival is very quaint and unique to see. I expected it to be much larger and completely jam-packed with people but it wasn’t. Since it was my first time going to it I don’t know if it was typical attendance or not. But I didn’t find it more packed than any other days when we’ve been there so I was pleasantly surprised because I was dreading terrible parking conditions and a huge crowd. But it was a lot of fun, not too big, and a hit with the entire family. We’ll definitely go back next year and hopefully take the grandsons!
For more information about White Pass Ski Resort go to http://www.skiwhitepass.com
The snow is falling, the snow is falling! Time to head up to White Pass Ski Resort and hit the slopes. I say that like I know what I’m doing but I’m a newby. This year I will be trying to ski for the first time. Last year we bought our then 13-year-old son, Josh, snowboard lessons. It was a great deal. Three lessons with equipment rental (either snowboard or ski, you get to choose) which can be taken on non-consecutive days. This year the cost is $129.00 for ages 5-12, over age 12 is $139.00.
I have never skied before or even been to a ski resort. I was in for a bit of a shock. First was ALL the people there! I don’t think I’ve seen so many people in one spot expect during Christmas in downtown Seattle! Next was the “lodge.” It’s called the base lodge. Having only seen ski lodges on TV I was picturing a nice quite romantic room with a crackling fire and soft couches. Uh, no, it was more like a junior high cafeteria. The top two floors were jam-packed and noisy. The food is also rather expensive, but you are welcome to bring your own.
The bottom floor holds the store, equipment rental and repair, restrooms and daycare. The store actually has surprisingly affordable items. For instance, jackets were less expensive there than at the Helley Hanson factory outlet store in Centralia.
But – the lodge has great windows looking out onto the slopes. That’s where we waited while Josh had his lessons and after watching people skiing who obviously had various levels of expertise, I decided maybe I could try it so that’s my goal for this winter. Josh finished out his snowboard lessons, slowly increasing his skills. This year he will try skiing as well to compare which will work best for him. I plan on giving a couple of other family members the lessons for Christmas as well (shhh, don’t tell them!)
A new lodge up high on the ridgeline called High Camp Lodge was built when White Pass Ski Resort was able to expand an additional 767 acres last year. I hope to get up there after I learn to ski and see it so I can tell you more about what it has to offer in the way of amenities and views.
There is lodging with kitchens available on the mountain as well as nearby towns but there really aren’t any other dining options on site besides the lodge.
So check it out at skiwhitepass.com for the latest conditions and other options for lessons and we’ll see you on the slopes!
Getting there: From Interstate 5, go east on Hwy 12. From eastern Washington, go west on Hwy. 12.