Hometown Mountain Shoutout: Alpental, WA – The Steepest and Deepest!

Shaw Clifton |
Snow-filled valley with a couple of friends at the top of a drop, Alpental, summit at Snoqualmie, Washington
Alpental Valley in Snoqualmie Pass: Shaw Clifton

If you talk to a skier or snowboarder from the Pacific Northwest, you’ll most likely hear about Alpental at The Summit at Snoqualmie. With over 2200 vertical feet of skiable terrain and an average of 430 inches of snow per year, it mostly lives up to the hype. Only a 50-minute drive from Seattle, Alpental is the local mountain that draws freeriders from around the world. Proximity to city and sea inevitably means traffic and melting temps but Alpental has an intimacy that shines when the good snow is falling.

While the storms are coming through the “goods” are definitely good, Alpental is closed on Mondays so locals are accustomed to “Powder Tuesdays” when the snow will stack up 18+ inches. Traffic from the city means that your first queue of the day will be on I-90. Powder Tuesdays turn the regular 50-minute drive into a two hour slog, filling the parking lots by first tracks. If you get out the door late you might be left to dig out a parking spot from an icy mound of plowed snow. Quick snow clearing and you’ll be in line for the opening of Chair 2. The 45-minute wait allows for chatting up the locals like Mike who has skied Alpental for who knows how long and sports his signature American flag bandana.

Two people digging snow out of a mound next to a parked car, Alpental, summit at Snoqualmie, Washington
Parking Lot Excavation: Nico Minguez

Once you make it to the top of Chair 2 after the 45-minute wait for the lift, you ski down Upper International, the steepest and only trail to access some of the best terrain in the Northwest. The gates at Alpental open up to the back bowls, a playground abounding with cliffs, natural halfpipes, couloirs, tight glades, pillow lines, and any other feature you can imagine. The vast area is large enough to ski freshies all day and more. At the bottom of the bowls, you’ll be gasping for air, marveling at the snow-caked trees that just spit you out. By noon, Upper International turns into icy moguls and you’ll have only completed two laps, those being the best of the season, you’ll continue to lap the gates until close.

Every day can’t be bluebird and knee-deep at Alpental, more often than not, the sky will be overcast and it hasn’t snowed for a week. The rain has fallen and the slopes freeze just in time for night skiing. The snowboarder you ride with (me) quits after two laps while you endure five more. The mountain rewards your efforts with bruising of shins and backsides but you go and rest with an après-ski tailgate, and gaze at the magnificent mountainscape and starlit sky. Alpental creates one of the most unique ski experiences in the Pacific Northwest with the tight community of locals and extensive side country, it truly is a gem.

People examining a drop in the Nash Gate sidecountry, Alpental, summit at Snoqualmie, Washington
A Nash Gate Gem: Shaw Clifton
Alpental, WA, map.

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