Winter wonderland: Five fun ways you and your family can enjoy winter activities

  • Sun Jan 1st, 2012 2:05pm
  • Sports

By Mina Williams and Katie Murdoch Herald Writers

Winter weather doesn’t mean everyone has to stay home. Nor do you have to reach far into your wallet to experience that winter wonderland.

1. Skiing and snowboarding

Downhill ski areas are an easy drive, so close some families make the outing a half-day adventure.

Keep the cost of lift tickets, running about $60 this season, in check by looking for midweek deals online or choosing a half-day ticket.

Most areas offer equipment rentals and lessons by the session or over consecutive weekends. Choose lessons bundled together with lift tickets for ultimate savings.

Some downhill areas have added amenities this season. Novices can try the new enclosed moving sidewalk, carpeted for safety, at Crystal Mountain. They’ve added some retail shops and more gondola cabins for the cable lift.

Backcountry skiers can visit the ski patrol station at Alpental for lessons on how to safely navigate outside the ski area.

Mount Baker has opened Raven Hut, a new midmountain lodge accessible by ski or snowboard only, with full food service, indoor restrooms and two fireplaces.

Half the fun of a trip to Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park, is getting there. After the ferry ride and the drive through the woods and over the Hood Canal bridge to Port Angeles, visitors can ogle the snowy peaks on the 17-mile drive up to the lodge. A downhill area has two rope tows and a T-bar at the family-friendly little area.

You can also take an easy shuttle from the Port Angeles visitor center. Check weather conditions at www.nps.gov/olym or call the hotline at 360-565-3131 for road conditions and closures of the Heart O’the Hills road to the lodge.

Go to Ski Washington, www.skiwashington.com for a round-up of resorts, options for lessons and assistance in planning your trip.

2. Cross-country skiing

Cross-country skiers can break their own trails on many Western Washington Forest Service roads such as Deer Creek and Big Four along the Mountain Loop Highway. The website, tinyurl.com/7yc9wfs shows many of these trails. Be sure to check with the local ranger station before venturing out.

Some of the closest groomed trails are at the Steven Pass Nordic Center (tinyurl.com/6rmm3tr, 360-677-2239) and the Nordic Center at Snoqualmie Pass (tinyurl.com/d3nb8vf, 425-434-6111).

Lake Wenatchee State Park has groomed cross-country ski trails for varying experience levels and Leavenworth’s Nordic Trail system features winding, rolling trails and something else common to the east side of the mountains: sun.

Find the trail that fits your speed and fancy at www.parks.wa.gov/winter/trails.

3. Tubing, snow play

Tubing and sledding is a great family activity: Not much equipment required and no lessons (except safety). Several tubing areas insist on you using their equipment, while others allow you to use your own. The following areas offer controlled snow play:

•Snoqualmie Pass’ Summit Tubing Center.

Hurricane Ridge sledding, a play area for children under 8.

Echo Valley near Chelan, three rope tows and four lanes for tubing.

Adams Tubing Park at Leavenworth Ski Hill, a rope tow.

Iron Horse, Squilchuck and Lake Wenatchee state parks offer free tubing. No tows. Bring your own equipment.

Before you go, check on parking and equipment requirements.

Some state park areas require Sno-Park passes in addition to state park passes. These passes can be purchased at most gas stations in North Bend.

4. Learn to snowshoe

Snowshoeing is one of the easiest and least-expensive ways for families to enjoy the snow. The flat, paddle-shaped snowshoes easily strap onto boots, and no additional equipment or specific skills are required.

Forest Service guides offer snowshoe hikes at Stevens and Snoqualmie passes. For information and reservations call 360-677-2239 at Stevens Pass, or 425-434-6111 at Snoqualmie Pass.

Both offer snowshoe rental packages and lessons. Guided snowshoe hikes also are offered at Mount Rainier. Sign up at the Jackson Visitor Center.

REI at the Alderwood mall in Lynnwood has snowshoe rentals to avoid pricey start-up costs associated with other winter pursuits. In fact, a free workshop is slated for Wednesday. Register at www.rei.com.

5. Warmer ways to enjoy winter

n Get close to ice without getting cold by attending an Everett Silvertips game. The Tips have upcoming home games against Western Hockey League rivals Seattle (Wednesday), Tri-City (Saturday) and Spokane (Jan. 8). For a complete schedule and ticket information go to www.everettsilvertips.com.

n Watch the snow slip by on the train. Amtrak has daily service to Leavenworth from Everett. Go to www.leavenworth.org for details.