State Gets Bragging Rights

November 2007 Feature Viewed 1133 time(s)

Washington state gets the bragging rights to some of-in not the-best snow conditions for snowmobiling in the West last season.

Alaskans might dispute that but those in the lower 48 know Washington was the big winner down here.

That means the Evergreen State is on a bit of a roll. The winter of 2004-05 wasn't anything to write home about. Then 2005-06 came along and the snows returned with a vengeance. While last season might not have come with a vengeance, it was better than most places in the West.

You might call Washington "old reliable," because, more often than not, there is plenty of snow to be found to ride your snowmobile. And there's a variety of places across the state to do so.

When Washington is hitting its stride snow-wise, seven of the top 14 spots in the United States with more than 400 inches of snow a year can be found within the borders of the Evergreen State. Now, that's some bragging rights.

Rainier Paradise Ranger Station leads the way with 674.2 inches of snow each year, followed by Stevens Pass (493.2 inches), Santiam Pass (453.3), Snoqualmie Pass (439.9) and Stampede Pass (438.7). Do the math and that's between 36 and 56 feet of snow.

If those numbers aren't impressive enough, how about this. Mount Baker, which sits about 20 or so miles south of the Washington/Canadian border, set a record in 1989-99 for the most snow in one winter with 1,140 inches. Good grief, that's nearly 95 feet of snow. That's why it's not unusual to see snow capped peaks in Washington year-round.

Much like Oregon and California, the snow is wet and heavy as it enters the state from the West, drying out a bit as it crosses over the Cascade Range on its march toward Idaho. The Cascade Range is also the most heavily snowmobiled as it's closest to the state's largest population base and the riding spots are fairly accessible. Even then, we've found great places to ride without the crowds less than 100 miles from Seattle.

When you're in western part of the state, it's pretty tough not to see Washington's famous mountain peaks. From just one vantage point during one our rides (near Yakima)  in Washington, we were able to see Mt. Rainier (14,411), Mt. Adams (12,276), Mt. St. Helens (8,366) and Old Snowy Mtn. (7,930 feet). We could also see Mt. Hood (11,239) in Oregon. Those peaks are like exclamation points to the great riding in Washington state.

You don't even have to admire those peaks from a distance. Generally speaking, you can snowmobile to within just a few miles of most of the state's tallest mountains.

For instance, you can get very close to Mt. Rainier with a ride in Mount Rainier National Park. About 20 miles of unplowed roads are open to snowmobiles (www.nps.gov/mora) which will let you get up close and personal with Mt. Rainier. Take plenty of film or make sure the digital has an empty card in it because you'll want to capture that moment. You can also ride in the shadows of Mt. Baker (10,775), still one of America's active volcanoes (you can see the steam venting from the mountain). It's almost a little eerie riding while a volcano is venting. Here's a bonus memorable ride. Ride right next to Mt. St. Helens, where limited riding is available in the national volcanic monument. Contact the Gifford Pinchot National Forest (360-891-5000) for more information.

A pretty good source of information for riding in Washington state is on the state's parks website www.parks.wa.gov/winter and then navigate to the sno parks section where you'll find trail maps.

Lop off most everything between the ocean and Interstate 5 and you can snowmobile in each of Washington's four corners. There's Mt. Baker in the northwest and the Blue Mountains in the southeast, the Selkirk Mountains in the northeast and the Cascades in the southwest. Washington has four major mountain ranges-the Cascade, Selkirk, Blue and Olympic-and that means snowmobilers are never very far from sledding in Washington.

And there's usually plenty of snow to go along with it.



Washington State Tourism http://experiencewashington.com

Road Conditions 800-695-ROAD

Washington State Snowmobile Association www.wssaonline.com

Groomed Trails 3,000

Number of Registered Snowmobiles 31,532

Highest Point Mount Rainier (14,411 ft)

Greatest Average Annual Snowfall Rainier Paradise Ranger Station 674.2 in.

Record Winter Snowfall Mt. Baker 1,140 in.

Coldest Recorded Temperature Mazama and Winthrop minus-48 degrees F


Lake Chelan

Elevation 4,000-6,000

Snowfall 75-150 inches

Groomed Trails 200 miles

Full-Service Town Chelan

Nearest Airport Wenatchee (43 miles)

Information Lake Chelan Chamber of Commerce 800-4-CHELAN


Cle Elum/Ellensburg

Elevation 2,500-7,000

Snowfall 150 inches

Groomed Trails 229 miles

Full-Service Town Cle Elum, Ellensburgh

Nearest Airport Yakima (60 miles)

Information Cle Elum Chamber of Commerce 509-674-5958, Ellensburg Chamber of Commerce 888-925-2204


Okanogan County

Elevation 3,000-7,000

Snowfall 100-125 inches

Groomed Trails 421 miles

Full-Service Town Winthrop, Omak, Twisp

Nearest Airport Wenatchee (100 miles)

Information Winthrop Chamber of Commerce 888-463-8469, Omak Chamber of Commerce 509-826-1880



Elevation 2,500-7,000

Snowfall 150 inches

Groomed Trails 185 miles

Full-Service Town Wenatchee, Leavenworth

Nearest Airport Wenatchee

Information Wenatchee Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau 800-572-7753, Leavenworth Chamber of Commerce 509-548-5807


Blue Mountains

Elevation 2,000-6,000

Snowfall 200 inches

Groomed Trails 94.5 miles

Full-Service Town Dayton

Nearest Airport Walla Walla (28 miles)

Information Dayton Chamber of Commerce 800-882-6299



Elevation 1,700-5,851

Snowfall 100-125 inches

Groomed Trails 57 miles

Full-Service Town Spokane

Nearest Airport Spokane

Information Spokane Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau 888-SPOKANE


Chewelah Mtn.

Elevation 2,000-5,500

Snowfall 100-120 inches

Groomed Trails 159 miles

Full-Service Town Chewelah, Newport

Nearest Airport Spokane (48 miles)

Information Newport/Oldtown Chamber of Commerce 877-818-1008, Chewelah

Chamber of Commerce 509-935-8595



Elevation 2,000-6,000

Snowfall 100-120 inches

Groomed Trails 191.5 miles

Full-Service Town Colville, Ione

Nearest Airport Spokane (72 miles)

Information Colville Chamber of Commerce 509-684-5973



Elevation 2,000-6,000

Snowfall 100-120 inches

Groomed Trails 85.5 miles

Full-Service Town Republic

Nearest Airport Spokane (124 miles)

Information Republic Regional Visitors and Convention Bureau 509-775-3387



Elevation 2,000-6,000

Snowfall 200-300 inches

Groomed Trails 320 miles

Full-Service Town Naches/Yakima

Nearest Airport Yakima (25 miles)

Information Naches Valley Chamber of Commerce 509-653-2165, Yakima Valley Visitors and Convention Bureau 800-221-0751


Mt. Adams/Mt. St. Helens

Elevation 2,000-6,000

Snowfall 300 inches

Groomed Trails 184 miles

Full-Service Town Randle, Packwood, White Salmon, Trout Lake

Nearest Airport Portland (63 miles)

Information Mt. Adams Chamber of Commerce 509-493-3630, Tourism Lewis

County 800-525-3323


Mt. Baker

Elevation 6,000-10,000

Snowfall Up to 750 inches

Groomed Trails 127 miles

Full-Service Town Concrete

Nearest Airport Bellingham (53 miles)

Information Skagit County Tourism 877-875-2448, Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest 425-775-9702

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