Mt. Baker Ski Area, More Than Just Skiing

The Pacific Northwest is full of natural beauty and adventurous people who love being outside and enjoying this natural beauty. Being native to the Northwest, it seems like Seattle is the only thing the rest of the county and world think of when they imagine the Northwest. They probably picture the Space Needle with Mt. Rainier standing tall in the background. However there is much, much more to the greatest region in North America than just Seattle. Likewise we have many more mountains than just Rainier and Mount St. Helens. Nearly 100 miles north of Seattle sits the city of Bellingham, where there is no Space Needle or skyscrapers, but there is a big, beautiful mountain.

View of Mt. Baker from Bellingham, Wa.

Skiers may know it for its record-setting snowfall, snowboarders may know as the place that holds the longest running snowboarding event in the world. For many people it is just part of the landscape, but others know it is a much better place to be than it is to look at. The Mt. Baker ski area/ highway is the closest and easiest way to get to the mountains from Bellingham. While most people are there to go skiing/snowboarding, there’s more to do at Mt. Baker other than just skiing and snowboarding. I have been going snowboarding since I was 10 years old, but I also enjoy the mountain just as much when I’m not snowboarding. Anyone who enjoys the outdoors will love Mt. Baker, and it’s a must-go destination for anyone new to the area. However because this is outdoor recreation the weather is going to have a great effect on your experience, and because it’s a mountain the weather can vary drastically. No matter what you plan to do while you are at Mt. Baker, or any alpine area, it is essential to know the weather forecast. While you should know what the weather is supposed to do, you never know for sure what it will actually do, so be prepared for sun, snow, sleet, hail, rain, or wind. As long as wait for the right weather and come prepared, just about anyone will have a good time at Mt. Baker.

Mt. Shuksan on a clear winter day.

Although Mt. Baker can have some extremely brutal weather, Mother Nature does occasionally come through with glorious amounts of snow, blue skies, and this bright yellow thing in the sky. Sometimes you even find yourself trading your winter jacket for a pair of glasses and sunscreen. In the spring it is often warmer in the mountains than on the coast, and all snow reflecting the sunlight will give you tan that makes all your friends jealous. I can’t think of a better way to spend the day than playing in the snow while 70 degrees outside surrounded by seemingly endless mountain peaks. On days like this it really doesn’t matter what you are doing, it is just about impossible not to have a good time. Want to spend some time with the family? Take the kids sledding while you enjoy the sunshine and your favorite book. Want to spend the day with that special someone? Enjoy a short hike and picnic at the top of Artist Point, which also makes for a great place for photography or inspiration for a drawing or painting. If you are a real adventurer Mt. Baker ski area is a great starting place to explore the surrounding mountains or even summitt one of the many peaks such as Mt. Shuksan. Depending on the snow conditions you probably want to bring snowshoes, as trudging through waist deep snow is slow and exhausting. While this is all good fun when the weather is good, bad weather can make all these activities not only miserable but also dangerous. Kids don’t like sledding in the cold and wind, nobody wants to have a picnic in the rain, and photography doesn’t work very well when it’s so foggy you can only see ten feet in front of you.

Mt. Shuksan on a clear summer day.

Once all the snow has melted a whole new landscape is revealed as well as hundreds of miles of trails, and countless lakes refill with snow melt. By the time most of the snow is gone the weather has usually finally gotten nice, making a perfect time to go hiking, swimming, and camping. Most of the trails are very rocky and exposed, making them rather unsafe for small children or pets. There are some moderately easy hikes, but most of them are long and full of steep ascents, so be sure you know what you are getting yourself into. Most of the campsites require you to hike your gear in, but you will be rewarded with a secluded and quiet site.The lakes may be cold but they are crystal clear and extremely refreshing, and everywhere you look is a jaw-dropping view. Marmots, pikas, chipmunks, mountain goats, and numerous birds can be spotted throughout the mountain, and if you’re lucky you might even see a bear or cougar. If you’re unlucky you might get eaten by a bear or cougar. While there is endless fun to had all year round, it is important to note that for every great day on the mountain is paralleled by a dark, gloomy, soggy, miserable day. In short Mt. Baker is a wonderful place for anybody that enjoys the outdoors, but Mother Nature can be a real bitch sometimes and can easily ruin your day, and kill you if you’re not careful.

Moraine pond with Table Mountain in the background.
Table Mountain in the mist.

Mt. Baker is a must-go place for anybody who is new to the area and/or have never been before. If you are just visiting it makes for a great day trip away from the city. It is also a great destination for a weekend get-away.

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