Winter at Mount Baker
Located 52 miles east of Bellingham, the Mount Baker Ski Area is a dream destination for snow lovers. A far cry from flashy northwest resort towns like Whistler Blackcomb, this rustic and undeveloped ski area is all about the powder. Case in point: Mount Baker set the world snowfall record during the 1998-1999 season when 1,140 inches of snow blanketed its terrain. With an average annual snowfall of over 660 inches, Mount Baker often claims the title of “deepest snow base in North America”.
With all that snow, there are many ways to enjoy the mountain. Take a road trip along Mount Baker Highway this winter to explore everything the season has in store — from skiing and snowboarding to snowshoeing and laid-back après-ski.
Downhill Skiing and Snowboarding
For downhill snow adventures, you’ll want to head straight to the Mount Baker Ski Area. Generally in operation between November and mid-April (depending on snow conditions), the ski area features two lodges from which you can base yourself. White Salmon (the lower lodge) is located at mile marker 52 on the Mount Baker Highway, while Heather Meadows (the upper lodge) is at mile 55. Heather Meadows Base Area is only open weekends and holidays. Check the snow report for current conditions and to see which lodge is open on your day of travel.
Mount Baker Ski Area offers eight chairlifts, with runs ranging from green (easiest) to double black diamond (experts only). On clear days, you can see majestic Mount Baker and striking Mount Shuksan from the ski area. Lessons and equipment rentals are available for downhill skiers and snowboarders. Mount Baker is also home to the Legendary Banked Slalom, an annual snowboarding race that was first held in 1985.
Cross-country Skiing and Snowshoeing
If downhill slopes aren’t your cup of tea, a leisurely cross-country (XC) ski or snowshoe trip may be more your speed. Fortunately, Mount Baker Highway is home to miles of groomed trails. Check out the Nooksack Nordic Ski Club for all the info you need, including recent trip reports.
Salmon Ridge SnoPark
Salmon Ridge is a great option if you don’t want to drive all the way to the Mount Baker Ski Area to play in the snow. Located at mile 46 of the Mount Baker Highway, Salmon Ridge SnoPark is a groomed XC ski area maintained by Washington State Parks. You’ll need a valid SnoPark permit to park here. This area features 15 miles of groomed XC trails near the North Fork Nooksack River for skiers, along with separate snowshoe trails. Remember, no dogs or snowshoes are allowed on groomed tracks!
White Salmon Road
Another XC skiing and snowshoeing destination nearby is White Salmon Road. Located at a hairpin turn in the Mount Baker Highway (mile 51), this popular snow trail is less likely to be groomed and offers limited free parking. Ski or snowshoe up the easygoing forest road for views of snowy Mount Shuksan.
Artist Point Snowshoe
You can also snowshoe from the Heather Meadows base area to Artist Point. A large parking lot and hiking area during summer, Artist Point is completely covered in snow during the winter with unparalleled views of the surrounding mountains. Be cautious in this area, however, as the route crosses through avalanche terrain. Always check the Northwest Avalanche Center forecast before setting out.
Eat and Drink
After your snow adventures, it’s time to warm up with a hot meal along Mount Baker Highway. You can get lunch and a beer at the lodge cafeterias. On the drive home, consider stopping for dinner at a local eatery.
Off-mountain, the first place to grab a meal is Chair 9 Pizza & Bar in the town of Glacier. You can’t miss their “First Cocktail” sign. Also in Glacier is Graham’s, a longtime local favorite offering hearty meals and a weekday happy hour. Finally, if your appetite can wait a little longer, The North Fork Brewery might be the most popular restaurant on Mount Baker Highway. There’s often a line out the door on weekends — a sure sign that their pizza and beer are worth the wait.
Where to Stay
You won’t find any fancy hotels or full-service resorts along Mount Baker Highway. Instead, embrace the rustic feel of a cozy cabin or condo. Check vacation rental sites like Airbnb and VRBO, or see Mount Baker Ski Area’s featured listings. The town of Glacier (mile 33) offers the nearest lodging available.
If you prefer a hotel, consider staying in downtown Bellingham or historic Fairhaven. These urban areas are about 1.5 hours’ drive from the ski area but provide more access to restaurants, shops and services.