Mt. Baker is a skier’s paradise, but you’ve probably never heard of it as it stays below the radar. Sure, it doesn’t get the immediate name recognition like Veil or Aspen, but the Mt. Baker ski area, located in Whatcom County, Washington, is a real gem in the world of snow sports. However, if you want all the frills of a traditional ski resort, Mt. Baker isn’t for you.
“We’re not a ski resort. We’re a ski area,” iterates co-owner Gwyn Howat. “We don’t sell purses or shoes, and you can’t get a pedicure or manicure here.” Howat and her family have owned the ski area for over 55 years. “The focus of the business and the philosophy of the business has a different mentality than a straight profit-driven, bottom-line orientation.”
Howat’s father claimed the resort in 1968 when it just had two working chairlifts. Now, with his daughter in charge, visitors have over 1,000 acres of terrain accessible with ten chairlifts. In addition, the area gets an average of 663 inches of snow annually— nearly double what most ski resorts in the West see.
Although they’ve added eight more lifts to the area, a lot has stayed the same, which the family wants to maintain. In contrast, while other ski resorts added luxurious amenities, Mt. Baker worked to keep its lifts moving without building any five-star hotels or heated lifts.
Mt. Baker ski area known for its massive amounts of powder, volcanic setting
While that might be a dealbreaker for some, it’s a strategy that’s worked. Their prices are affordable, with lift tickets well under $100, and they also forgo any advertising.
Beyond their old-school approach to skiing and riding, they also have something trendy ski resorts don’t: a volcano on site. The area is nestled less than 60 miles from the ocean between Mount Shuksan, a glaciated massif, and Mount Baker, an active stratovolcano covered by a glacier.
“Part of what makes baker unique is the place — much like the North Shore is for waves, Baker is for snow,” noted Howat, saying that the ski area set the world record for snowfall when over 1,100 inches of snow dumped on the site in just one season.
Ready to start planning your next ski trip? We’ve got the details ready for you. First, a full-day adult lift ticket is $87. However, if you’re a beginner, you can access certain areas for $55, and kids ages six or under ski for free. In addition, they also don’t boast any online ticket sales, so you’ll want to plan to stop at the ticket counter before hitting the slopes.
As for lodging, the closest property to the mountain is Blue T Lodge, a six-room inn with basic rooms and minor amenities. Vacation rentals are available through Luxury Getaways or Mt. Baker Lodging if you need more space.
In addition, as a vanguard for the industry, the ski area lets people camp overnight in the Heather Meadows and White Salmon parking lots with reservations.