Some ski resorts just feel like home. For the SkiZer, Schweitzer Mountain is one of those places.
Back in another lifetime, SkiZer put in hundreds of days on the slopes of this North Idaho resort. Even after moving away, SkiZer still pined for Schweitzer’s big drops, wide-open bowls and empty slopes.
So it felt very familiar when the SkiZer pulled into the parking lot of Schweitzer. Did it match all the expectations? Yes, and more.
Which got SkiZer thinking: Is Schweitzer the best resort in the Pacific Northwest?
Maybe. If you call the Pacific Northwest Idaho, Washington and Oregon, Schweitzer is certainly in the top two.
The biggest, Oregon’s Mount Bachelor, doesn’t have nearly as good terrain as Schweitzer. Washington’s Crystal Mountain, does have better terrain, but can’t match Schweitzer’s amenities. And in snow quality, Schweitzer beats them both.
SkiZer loves Crystal Mountain on a powder day. But the crowds can be a buzz-kill, and Schweitzer’s remains pretty quiet most of the year.
All good reasons to vote for Schweitzer as the best in the Northwest.
That was the case recently when SkiZer climbed the old ski area we used to call Hyak. It’s now part of the Summit at Snoqualmie complex about an hour’s drive from Seattle on I-90, known today as Summit East. Often during weekdays, it remains closed, so it’s a perfect quick fix for a workout climb.
The skiing was just OK. But the trudge up the hill sparked some memories from SkiZer’s childhood when he spent many a night doing some cheap skiing on the same slopes.
Back in SkiZer’s long-ago childhood, Hyak had some bargain prices. Seattle’s old Ernst Hardware stores had Hyak coupons for $1.50, and if you could find a semi-responsible cousin to drive you, it was an amazingly fun night.
There were some memorable times. During one stormy night, lightning hit the chairlift. Nobody seemed too worried — the chairlift kept spinning and the seventh-grade SkiZer happily rode up into the tempest along with everyone else. It was a powder night, afterall.
Here’s to appreciating the old days at ski areas like Hyak, when skiing was for the masses — not just the rich.
Crater Lake is one of those places that makes your jaw drop at any time of year. But visiting in winter makes it even more special to the SkiZer.
The hordes of camera-totin’ tourists are long gone, and in their place, a gorgeous coat of snow makes this spectacular place even more beautiful. Heavy snow closes the Rim Road and it becomes a trail for Nordic skiers and snowshoers.
In other words this wild place just gets wilder, and you know how much SkiZer likes it when that happens.
SkiZer spent the day skiing eight miles along the Rim Road, taking in the ever-present views of the lake. It was warm — temps were in the upper 40s — and the skiing was fantastic.
When you follow the trail of explorers, you might as well follow the best.
SkiZer recently got the chance to hit the road from Clarkston to Cape Disappointment, hot on the trail of Lewis and Clark and their Corps of Discovery.
Well, not exactly hot on their trail. The explorers, you’ll remember, traveled across Washington state in 1805 at the behest of President Thomas Jefferson, who wanted them to find some kind of cross-continent waterway. After leaving Missouri in May of 1804, the Corps spent 18 months traveling more than 4,000 miles over unknown mountain ranges and running rapids on unknown rivers.
When they hit Washington state, they were in a hurry to get to the coast. Winter was about to close in and they hoped to reach the mouth of the Columbia before they were trapped in snow and ice.
The only problem was negotiating the rapids on the Snake and Columbia rivers. Their journal accounts are filled with harrowing adventures on the difficult waterways.
Today, their route remains fascinating and wild in many places. SkiZer camped and made like a Corps of Discovery member in their wake.
To follow their route offers a great opportunity to try to imagine what they saw with fresh eyes.
SkiZer usually makes it up to Mount Rainier several times a year.
Not this year. No hikes at Sunrise, one of the SkiZer’s favorite places on Earth. Not Mowich either, which is now closed after tons of snow fell last weekend. The SkiZer gazed longingly at the big mountain, wondering if he’d miss out completely.
Then, after some lovely fall weather returned to Puget Sound, SkiZer decided to go for it.
The road to White River Campground remains open, but will close any day now. SkiZer gunned the engine out of Seattle and two hours later hit the trail for one last quick romp to Glacier Basin.
The hike is a straightforward 6.2 miles roundtrip into a beautiful alpine basin. With temps warming up into the 50s and lots of sun, it was a fantastic day — one last chance to see Mount Rainier’s dramatic northeast side before the roads close for good.
SkiZer hit the beach in October and found some nice surprises.
It was perfect timing to visit the Long Beach Peninsula in Southwest Washington. The hiking and cycling proved to be excellent and the early October weather was warm and friendly.
Now, for the surprises.
Camping — yes, you can camp year-round at Cape Disappointment State Park — is fantastic. Within the park, you’ll find miles of hiking trails, several gorgeous beaches and two scenic lighthouses.
The SkiZer explored the North Jetty in the park, which juts out into the Pacific at the mouth of the Columbia River. The jetty is used by fishermen — this time of year, they were going for crab — but it’s also a great place to see wildlife. As the SkiZer stood there thinking deep thoughts and gazing at the water, a humpback whale surfaced nearby.
The scenic Discovery Trail is surely one of the best recreation paths in the state. It winds from the cape into the dunes of the Long Beach Peninsula and offers some fantastic riding for cyclists.
At the tip of the peninsula, Leadbetter Point State Park was another surprise: The mile-long hike thinned crowds and offered views from a remote and wild beach.
Early October and the weather was fine. The SkiZer said to himself, “Why not squeeze in one more backpacking trip?”
Great decision. Six hours later, the SkiZer hit the Ozette Triangle trail to the Washington Coast. The 9-mile loop is popular in summer, but in fall, it’s empty. The wilderness coast once again becomes truly wild.
Streams start flowing again. The rainforest comes back to life after the dry days of summer. Seals outnumber hikers by at least 20 to one.
It was an incredible trip. SkiZer even squeezed in a day hike north to the Ozette River, where things feel even more remote. Not a soul was to be seen on a stunning beach that felt warm and friendly in 65-degree sun.