Catching air at Summit Central.

Image: Colin Wiseman

There’s no escaping one basic fact about the Summit at Snoqualmie, the closest ski hill to Seattle: 3,022 feet. That’s how high Interstate 90 gets above sea level, and what’s good for vehicular travel—less alpine snow, more forest-level rain—wreaks havoc on the ski scene.

Snoqualmie will always contend with lower elevations, but a few other numbers make a play for attention. Like four, the number of base areas included in one season pass (not dozens like the Ikon or Epic, but impressive nonetheless). Or 55, the drive time in minutes from downtown Seattle to the start of a ski run. And last year, 600—the number of inches of snow at the top of Alpental, the resort’s highest peak.

Summit at Snoqualmie isn’t quite independent—owner Boyne Resorts also holds mountains in Maine, Michigan, and Montana—but it has retained its hometown feel; small children take their first turns in various ski schools, and at night skiers bounce between floodlight-lit slopes and beers around the base firepits. Season pass holders get access to discounted snow tubing and preferred parking.

What’s more, the pass has slowly added to its services in recent years, including a small complex that includes Dru Bru brewery, the Commonwealth restaurant, and a ski and snowboard museum. Laconia Market and Cafe, open this year, brings fresh produce to the pass for the first time, plus an Evo store and a coworking space debut. More than ever, the pass feels like a legitimate mountain village.

And Snoqualmie offers one more magic number: 100. It’s the number of days it guarantees it’ll spin lifts in a given season, or season pass holders get a partial credit toward next year’s purchase. In a sport that hinges on unpredictable weather, such an assurance is almost unheard of. It’s almost enough to forget that pesky elevation issue.

Unlimited Road Trip

Big Sky, Montana

Drive Time: 10.5 hours

Big Sky’s classic Lone Peak Tram.

Snoqualmie may be Western Washington’s most modest mountain, but it shares ownership with one of the West’s fanciest destinations. Big Sky, Montana, sits between Bozeman and Yellowstone National Park, an expansive collection of ski acres and luxury neighborhoods. An unlimited Snoqualmie season pass is good for three days at the resort, where chairlifts have padded, heated seats for as many as eight skiers at a time.

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