White Pass Ski Area is a Northwest gem with outstanding terrain for all abilities, majestic views and, especially, a sense of community among those who love our Pacific Northwest Wonderland. White Pass is, historically, also all about family and this weekend is a family celebration!
The 35th Annual White Pass Winter Carnival is this weekend, March 2 and 3. One of the most popular, family-friendly Pacific Northwest events, the Winter Carnival features a medieval snow castle complete with Knights in shining armor, tubing at the snow castle (tubes provided or bring your own), kids’ obstacle course races, carnival games, face painting, snow sculptures, a torchlight parade, fireworks on Saturday, live music and, of course, adventures on the hill. Base area events are free and open to the public.
Aside from the family-friendly Winter Carnival, White Pass Ski Area is rich in family history from its inception to today.
It may not be the largest ski area in Washington, nor is it owned by a conglomerate (thankfully). It was founded more than 65 years ago by a small group of ski enthusiasts wanting to enjoy skiing close to the city of Yakima. In 1951, Highway 12 (White Pass) was built as a year-round highway through the mountains.
When the local residents saw the snow-covered slopes they formed the Yakima Valley Ski Club in 1952. With permission from the U.S. Forest Service, they cleared more than 600 acres to create a ski area at the top of the pass. They built a ski lodge and a rope tow and officially opened in January, 1953, with club members offering youth skiing lessons to encourage families to participate. In 1956 the first chairlift to Pigtail Peak was installed. White Pass Ski area expanded in 1984 by 767 acres to Paradise Basin in the Goat Rocks Wilderness Area. Multiple attempts to stop the ski area expansion were filed over the years until, in 2010, the expanded area opened with a new High Camp Lodge, two quads, and exceptional views of Mt Rainier.
The first ski area manager, David (Spike) Mahre brought his family to live on the mountain in 1966. His wife Mary Ellen and their eight children, Kathee, Dave, Chris, Jackie, Phil, Steve, Paul, Roberta and, eventually, their ninth, Ruth, contributed to the welcoming family atmosphere. Eventually, Phil and Steve grew up to become world-class ski racers, both with Olympic medals. Phil Mahre’s 27 World Cup race wins place him behind only Lindsey Vonn, Mikaela Shiffrin, and Bode Miller. Andy Mahre, son of Steve, continues the legacy as a pro skier, athlete and photographer in dirt, water and snow.
From those first beginnings to now, White Pass Ski Area maintains the small town, family feel. There are 45 ski runs, from advanced and expert to beginner, youth ski lessons, snowboarding lessons, a sledding and tubing hill, the White Pass Nordic Center, which offers cross country skiing, fat bicycles and snowshoeing – and of course the 35th Annual White Pass Winter Carnival.
Skiers from the Yakima Valley, western Washington and the Portland area connect there, and love the laid back, less-crowded, more intimate ski area – and the powder.
Summit Elevation: 6,500′
Base Elevation: 4,500′
Total Runs: 45
– 20% Advanced & Expert
– 50% Intermediate Runs
– 30% Beginner Runs
Skiing Area: 1,402 acres
Cross Country Trails 11.2 miles
Annual snowfall: 350″
Annual Visitors Max 170,000 annually
Weekend Visitors Max 4,000
Lodging White Pass Village Inn