The VanMag Guide to Mount Baker
Only 140 kilometres from Vancouver, this remote Washington outpost receives the most snowfall in North America while shunning the mega-resort vibes of its nearest rival.
February 23, 2017
We love the local mountains, but let’s face it—the North Shore and Whistler get pretty crowded on powder weekends. Skip the queues and discover a decidedly more down-to-earth alternative at Mount Baker, Washington, a two-hour drive southeast from Vancouver that boasts the most snowfall in North America.
Get an early start to beat the weekend border traffic. Cross at Sumas-Abbotsford (Huntingdon)—this is one of the quietest crossings near Vancouver, and the most direct route to Mt Baker.
Turn left at the sign for Route 547 to Mount Baker. This winding country road snakes past picturesque farms and tiny churches before connecting to Highway 542, a scenic byway that terminates at the resort, making it difficult to get lost despite the mountain’s relatively remote location.
A coffee and baked treat from Wake’n’Bakery in Glacier, the tiny service town 27 kilometres from the Mount Baker ski area, is absolutely necessary before starting your day. Pack an orange and cardamom cookie or a spicy chai snickerdoodle for a much-needed sugar boost on the hill.
After a winding 30 minute drive, you’ll arrive at the base of the ski area. Congratulations—you’re now free to explore the terrain that makes Mount Baker so legendary! Cell service is notoriously patchy, so make a plan and stick to it if travelling with a group.
Snowboarders in particular have an affinity for Mount Baker, since it was one of the first resorts to accept the sport in the early days. It’s a mecca for powderhounds, averaging one of the highest snowfalls in the world and boasting the record for the most snowfall ever in one season (a whopping 29 metres). As a result, groomed runs can seem few and far between on pow days and you can expect occasional (or frequent) whiteouts.
Intermediate and advanced riders are particularly well-catered for with eight quad lifts, imaginatively named Chair 1 to 8. None have safety bars, so keep an eye on kids if skiing with little ones.
Lunchtime! Powder skiing works up an appetite, and thankfully, the on-mountain White Salmon and Raven lodges offer surprisingly affordable comfort food. Fill up with the steaming house-made chili or salmon chowder, served in an enormous sourdough bread bowl, or snack on decadent chili cheese fries.
On a sunny day, there’s no better spot to rest your weary legs than kicking back in the makeshift beer garden outside White Salmon Lodge. Otherwise, head down the mountain to the best après spot in town: Glacier’s Chair 9 pub, where you can join locals for gourmet wood-fired pizzas and a laidback round of shuffleboard or foosball in the upstairs games room.
It’s worth detouring a few minutes down Mount Baker Highway (542) to North Fork Brewery to fill a growler with craft beer before heading home or to your accommodation. This family-friendly spot plays double duty as a rustic wedding chapel, so hey, if you’re really falling in love with the area it could be the perfect spot to seal the deal. Alas, Washington laws require a marriage license to be procured three days prior to any nuptials, so those seeking a drive-through wedding will be disappointed unless prepared ahead of time.
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