Marvin Walder/The Broadside
Skiing and snowboarding are some of the favorite wintertime sports of Central Oregon, especially due to the access to numerous mountains like Hoodoo and Mt. Bachelor. Sometimes, it’s nice to try something new, and there’s another interesting mountain worth visiting a few hours north.
Founded in 1937, Steven’s Pass is a ski resort that’s located east of Seattle in the Skykomish Valley in Washington. The ski resort is spread out over 1125 acres, encompassing both the front and the backside of the mountain with 10 chair lifts. There is also a lodge and a few other buildings that offer basic amenities, classes and gear. Steven’s Pass has a few shortcomings but also has a few strengths that make it worth a stop.
Compared to Mt. Bachelor, the chair lifts on Steven’s Pass are definitely older and sometimes less comfortable, but they get the job done. At Bachelor, you have to really race to beat the chairlift. On Steven’s Pass, due to the lift speed and shorter runs, you spend about as much time downhill as you do on the chairlift. This could be a plus or minus depending on your skill level.
Steven’s Pass also falls behind in terms of run length and variety when compared to Mt. Bachelor, which has a much wider selection of runs and has a lot more intermediate difficulty runs. The ski runs on Steven’s Pass can be described as “short but sweet”, with sections of steep downhill followed by flatter sections that connect runs back to the lift. Arguably Steven’s Pass biggest shortcoming is the jump in run difficulty. Runs are either very flat and slow towards the bottom, or very steep towards the upper sides of the ridge. For those riders that are looking for something in-between, there is not too much to choose from.
One other oddity at Steven’s Pass is the power lines running through the backside valley. You ski right under them at one point, which is both exhilarating and a little bit terrifying.
Steven’s Pass however redeems itself in two key aspects, those are the surrounding scenery and the very well designed lift/run layout.
The geography in the Northern Cascades is much different from here in Central Oregon. While we have singular larger and smoother mountains such as Bachelor, the area surrounding Steven’s Pass is much more mountainous and steep. This gives way to some incredible scenery that makes you really feel like you’re somewhere like the Alps. Additionally, the shape of the ridge that Steven’s Pass is on creates opportunities for many unique lines and runs that aren’t possible on a typical mountain.
As for the ski runs, they might have a difficulty gap between the easier runs and the runs towards the ridgelines, but they have an incredible layout. On Mt. Bachelor, it’s possible to end up between lifts, and some effort is required to go between the different parts of the mountain. On Steven’s Pass, you always seem to end back up at a lift, and traversing from one side of the ridge to the other is very easy. There’s plenty of connecting runs and there are spots where you can get great views of other lifts and runs, making you aware of new lines you can ski.
All in all, Steven’s Pass is a fun ski trip destination that could be worth a visit. There are a few shortcomings, but it also has some unique features like the scenery and mountain layout that set it apart from things skiers and snowboarders in Central Oregon might be used to. For those interested in learning more, visit the Steven’s Pass website. Also, after a long day at the mountain, the 59’er Diner is just down the road for a great burger and shake.