Ski-Loop Vacations

Photo © Mark Shannon

By Allen Cox

Can’t get enough of the slopes in winter? Solve that problem by traveling to multiple ski and board destinations on one vacation-length trip. Northwest mountains offer the full spectrum of conditions, from the fine powder of the Rockies to the fluffier conditions of coastal slopes. And villages and nearby towns sport everything you need from beds to après-ski festivities. Each of these groupings of Northwest ski loops consist of two to three destinations within drivable distance of one another. Travel is always a scenic journey from one to the next, and you’ll discover a diversity of snow play for every member of your posse.

B.C. Loop

The three resorts on this loop are on B.C.’s famous Powder Highway in the Kootenay Rockies. For an exhilarating start, begin at the expansive Red Mountain Resort, just across the Washington-B.C. border near the alpine town of Rossland. Red Mountain’s seven lifts and 110 marked trails cater primarily to intermediate-to-expert skiers and boarders. The resort has continually expanded, offering more terrain than ever in its 2014-15 season. Bed down at any of a number of lodging choices (try the one- to four-bedroom units at Slalom Creek, the newest Red Mountain property). Rossland hosts two notable festivals in fall and winter: Rossland Mountain Film Festival, November 21 to 23, 2014; Rossland Winter Festival, January 29 to February 1, 2015.

Next, continue the journey farther into B.C. to Whitewater Ski Resort, famous for its light, dry powder. The town of Nelson serves as the resort’s village; in Nelson you’ll find all the amenities you need for lodging and down time off the mountain; Best Western Plus Baker Street Inn (bwbakerstreetinn.com) and the historic Hume Hotel (humehotel.com) are excellent choices right in town. Mark your calendar: the Whitewater Winter Carnival takes place January 17 to 18, 2015.

For the loop’s final destination, drive north to the legendary Revelstoke Mountain Resort. This ski resort offers access to lift, backcountry, heli and cat skiing directly from its village base. This is a village ski resort in its truest sense: isolated from any cities, yet equipped with amenities even the most imaginative guest might dream up. A good choice for lodging is the luxurious Sutton Place Hotel.

Each destination in this loop offers solid instruction for beginners, including kids. More advanced skiers and boarders can sharpen their skills as well.

If you’re flying, Spokane, Washington, is the best jumping-off point for the B.C loop. From Spokane, the round-trip loop is approximately 650 road miles. For information about planning this loop, visit redresort.com, tourismrossland.com, skiwhitewater.com, discovernelson.com, revelstokemountainresort.com, tourismkelowna.com, hellobc.com.

Idaho Loop

Lookout Pass, near Wallace, gets light, dry powder earlier and more often than any region in the state. If that’s not reason enough to make it part of your Idaho loop, then visit for the history; it’s the second oldest ski lodge in the Northwest, founded in 1936 when the Idaho Ski Club built a rope tow powered by an abandoned car engine. A highway maintenance shed on Lookout Pass became the warming hut. The rest is history. This is a place to bring the family—kids ages 6-17 can receive free lessons at the famous Lookout Pass Free Ski School. Bed down in the nearby town of Wallace at the Wallace Inn (thewallaceinn.com).

When you’re ready for action at Silver Mountain, you’ll take a scenic 3-mile gondola ride from the base village up to the slopes. This resort offers 73 runs for alpine skiing and snowboarding on two mountains. And, if you are into Nordic skiing or snowshoeing, the 10-foot wide paved Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes passes right by Gondola Village. Roomy accommodations are geared for the whole family at Morning Star Lodge.

When you arrive at the village at Schweitzer Mountain Resort, you’ll know you’re in one of the best winter resorts in the Northwest. And when you ride the lift, you’ll see that you’re in one of the largest lift-serviced terrains in North America, with 2,900 acres. There’s terrain for every level of ability and skill at Schweitzer. If it’s vacation value you’re looking for, check out the Schweitzer Difference Vacation Packages, which include free buffet breakfasts and two complementary adult ski/snowboard clinics. Stay on the mountain at Selkirk Lodge or White Pine Lodge.

You can easily begin the Idaho loop at any one of the destinations. From Spokane, Washington, the round-trip loop is approximately 300 road miles. For information about planning this loop, visit skiidahoo.us, skilookout.com, wallaceidahochamber.com, silvermt.com, silvervalleychamber.com, schweitzer.com, visitsandpoint.com, visitidaho.org.

Oregon Loop

Begin the Oregon loop at Mt. Hood, the nearest destination in the loop to Portland, where you have your choice of three separate ski areas: Timberline Lodge, Mt. Hood Skibowl or Mt. Hood Meadows. Of the three, in terms of terrain, Timberline Lodge’s runs are the most friendly to those at beginning or intermediate level. And the resort holds the distinction as the only one in North America open for skiing year round. Timberline Lodge is a National Historic Landmark; it and its slopes are part of Oregon history.
Mt. Bachelor is a favorite Northwest mountain for its clear, crisp days, 3,700 acres of terrain accessible by lift and its 88 runs. For those who don’t want ski season to end, Mt. Bachelor’s season usually lasts well into May. A number of programs offer beginning lessons for kids and adults. And kids 12 and younger ski free (conditions are specified on the website). At Mt. Bachelor you can even customize your own ski package, giving you more control over your ski vacation. If you’re staying in Bend and want to leave the car in town, take the Mt. Bachelor Shuttle for a day on the slopes. Stay at Seventh Mountain Resort (seventhmountain.com) or the new Tetherow Lodges (tetherow.com/stay).

Hoodoo, located near the town of Sisters and just west of Santiam Pass, offers 32 runs catering to all skill levels and a day lodge providing a welcome respite between runs. You won’t find big resort amenities at Hoodoo, but you will find slopes that keep fans returning. Whether its your first time on skis or you’re an expert wanting to refine your skills, Hoodoo offers the right lessons and trails for you. While skiing Hoodoo, stay at Black Butte Ranch (blackbutteranch.com), only 13 miles to the east.
This route is a loop with a spur, a total of 395 miles. If you begin in Portland and drive east to Mt. Hood, you will arrive at Timberline Lodge first, then drive south to Mt. Bachelor, and last to Hoodoo before heading west to I-5 and back to Portland. For planning, visit skioregon.org, timberlinelodge.com, mthoodterritory.com, mtbachelor.com, skihoodoo.com, visitcentraloregon.com, traveloregon.com.

Washington Loop

The scenic Bavarian-style village of Leavenworth is an ideal base for both ski areas in this loop; it’s located roughly halfway between the two. You can take your pick of which to ski first, depending on the experience you want to have. The town is full of great lodging; try Enzian Inn (enzianinn.com), Icicle Village (iciclevillage.com) or Bavarian Lodge (bavarianlodge.com).

Stevens Pass straddles the crest of the Cascade Mountains and caters to intermediate to advanced skiers and boarders. However, some trails, and a ski school, are beginner-friendly. With one of the highest average snowfalls in North America, you’ll generally find a deep snowpack with temperatures often influenced by colder, drier systems east of the Cascades. At this ski area relatively close to the greater Seattle area, night skiing is one of the most popular draws, and a weekday visit will give you more space and smaller crowds.

On the eastern edge of the Cascades, the vistas from Mission Ridge to the east and the Cascades in all other directions are reason alone to go. When you add the fact that this ski area has a broad range of terrain with 36 trails on 2,000 acres of dry snow, you’ll be doubly glad you came. If you’re in the area during a Wenatchee Wild hockey game, head down the mountain to Wenatchee for some après ski time in the stands.

To enjoy this scenic Washington loop, drive 300 miles from Seattle across Stevens Pass and back the same route. For more information, visit skiwashington.com, stevenspass.com, missionridge.com, leavenworth.org, wenatcheewild.com.

Cross-Border Loop

Whitefish Mountain Resort, located only 8 miles from the town of Whitefish, Montana, has completed extensive renovations at its base lodge and added new runs and expanded terrain, and a new lift will be completed in the 2014-15 season. With 3,000 acres of terrain and 102 marked trails, Whitefish Mountain Resort has something for everyone at every skill level. Book any one of the mountain’s properties through the resort’s reservation website.

Just across the border, in B.C.’s Kootenay Rockies, Fernie Alpine Resort sits above the historic mining town of Fernie, once dubbed the “coolest town in North America” by Rolling Stone Magazine. The town is the site of a lively après ski scene—of course, after you’ve checked out the resort’s 2,500 skiable acres and 142 runs. The resort offers lessons, and the website features an informative first-timer’s guide. An excellent choice for lodging is the Best Western Plus Fernie Mountain Lodge (bestwesternfernie.com).
To vacation on the cross-border loop, fly to Kalispell, Montana, and drive the 243-mile round-trip route to take in both resorts. To plan, visit skiidaho.us, skiwhitefish.com, explorewhitefish.com, visitmt.com, skifernie.com, tourismfernie.com, hellobc.com.