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Learning to Carve in the Pacific Northwest

Snowboarding schools and destinations
By Nancy Prichard - January 10th, 2006

The volcanic domes of the Pacific Northwest seem designed with snowboarding in mind, especially when you consider the potential of powder to rival anything Utah or the Rocky Mountains has to offer. In addition to great snow, you can expect magnificent scenery, varied terrain parks to tempt beginners through experts, and a friendly atmosphere. There are literally dozens of places to snowboard in Oregon, Washington and southern British Columbia. Not to mention the infinite number of great backcountry runs, with snow that is generally more stable than the notorious slopes of Utah and Colorado. Local hotspots like Mount Ashland and Anthony Lakes, Oregon, and White Pass, Washington, make up for somewhat inconvenient locations with diverse terrain, dependable snow, and an intimate atmosphere. But don't ignore the areas like Crystal Mountain, Whistler/Blackcomb, Mount Hood and Mount Bachelor for a resort experience, western style. Lift lines in the Pacific Northwest are the exception, rather than the rule, especially if you board mid-week.

For under $50 a day, you can generally get a lesson, board and boot rental and lift pass. For beginners, smaller areas are a great choice, with less competition for slope space and gentler terrain. Check the schedule for bargains on lesson packages, accommodations, kids programs and women's courses taught by female instructors. For both on- and off-season lessons, especially for kids, check out High Cascade Snowboard Camp at the end of this list.

Willamette Pass

Just 69 miles southeast of Eugene, pine-laden Willamette Pass rivals any site for beauty and awe-inspiring terrain. The area was one of the first in the country to welcome snowboarders. With 1,563 feet of vertical relief, the 6,683-foot-high pass sports five chair lifts and some of the steepest terrain in the state. The Terrain Park is made for snowboarders with a lot of tabletops and scoops. Cory Erickson, director of the Willamette Pass Rental Shop, says that the variety of terrain makes up for the size of the area. Tickets are $21 for kids, $31 for adults. You can board and ski from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily; a real treat is the night boarding skiing on Friday and Saturday. If you are not already a snowboarder, your best bet is the first-timers' package. Lesson, lift ticket and equipment rental is a bargain at $45. If you are a seasoned rider, check out some of the state-of-the art demo equipment at the rental shop. Best lodging choices are Shelter Cove Resort, Willamette Pass Inn, Cresent Lake Resort, and Odell Lake Resort.

Snowboard lessons: 800.766.0449
Chateau Whistler, 888.284.9999

Tucked into the heart of British Columbia is one of the premier snowsport destinations in the country. The snowboarding Terrain Park is 42 acres, including three halfpipes, banks, rollers, spines, tabletops and hips. Whistler's park is designed for riders of all abilities, while the terrain at Blackcomb is better suited for advanced and professional riders. Suzanne Hickey, marketing director for the mountain, says that the resort has made a real effort to welcome snowboarders, and that the improved terrain should be a big attraction for the 2000/2001 season.

With a combined staff of nearly 1200 employees, the Whistler/Blackcomb Ski & Snowboard School is not only the largest in Canada but also one of the largest operations of its kind in the world. You can get lessons in French, Chinese, Portuguese, Japanese, Italian, Yugoslavian, Spanish and, of course English, as well as many other languages. Not to be missed bargains are the Learn to Ride classes and Daily Ride Clinics. The Women's All-Star Snowboard Course is one of the top programs of its kind in North America, providing the opportunity to learn from top female pros and members of the Canadian National Snowboard Team. The two-day program covers all types of riding (freestyle, freeriding, and carving) for all ability levels. Lift ticket and lesson prices have yet to be determined for the season.

Mount Bachelor Resort
Mount Bachelor travel, 800 987.9968.

Mount Bachelor is just 22 miles west of Bend and arguably one of the most attractive ski destinations in the country. Don't expect Vail or Aspen, since Bachelor is still truly a child of the Pacific Northwest with a friendly, local atmosphere. There are 10 lifts, one of which reaches the summit at 9,065 feet. The snow is all natural at Bachelor, which often results in a skiing and boarding through the 4th of July. The snowfall is about 300 inches annually, and often is a light, dry high-desert powder that is a rarity in the warm, wet Pacific Northwest. Mount Bachelor has long welcomed snowboarders, who head to the northwest flank of the mountain to ride deep powder chutes that cut through the forest. The slalom, giant slalom, half-pipe and free ride terrain make Bachelor a favorite haunt of locals, visitors, and pros alike.

A daily lift ticket is $43, but your best bet is to look for good deals on multi-day passes. With the mountain's flexible point card, you can use up part of a ticket on one day, then finish it at a later date, up to three seasons later. The system is ideal if you are boarding with kids, prefer to ski at a leisure pace, or decide not to brave bad weather. Boarding novitiates should take advantage of the Guarantee Package; $49 for a board, boots, and instruction for as long as it takes for you to ride the beginner lift.

Mount Baker Ski Area
360.734.6771 (resort and lodging information)

Just 56 miles east of Bellingham, and 2.5 hours north/northeast of Seattle, Mount Baker might be one of the most beautiful ski areas in the world. The views of Mount Baker and Mount Shuksan alone are sufficient reason to visit the resort. Not to mention the attractive Cascadian architecture of the day lodge. But the average of 750 inches of snowfall annually and the tremendously varied terrain provide even more reason for a return visit. In the 1999/2000 season, the resort recorded 1140 inches of snowfall, more than anywhere else on earth. Known as the powder capital of Washington, snowboarders travel to Mount Baker from around world. In late January, the resort hosts the 17th annual Banked Slalom legendary banked slamon snowboard event.

Lift tickets midweek run just $23 to $25, with the price jumping to $33 on weekends and holidays. For $43 beginning boarders get a lift pass, gear, and a 1.5-hour lesson. The ski area is remote -- there are no phones and all electricity comes from a generator. The closest lodging is 17 miles away in the town of Glacier.

Crystal Mountain
Crystal Mountain Lodging, 888.668.4368

Located on the eastern slope of Mount Rainier, equidistant between Seattle and Tacoma, Crystal Mountain is an extremely scenic resort that is worth the drive. The atmosphere is down-home and friendly, and the slopes rarely crowded, despite this being the largest ski area in Washington State. Ten lifts and more than 50 trails carve their way through the dense green forest, providing for some of the best powder runs in the country. The snow can be heavy and deep, but on a good day, you won't want to be skiing anywhere else.

In contrast to other resorts with official Terrain Parks for boarders, Crystal is considered more of a free-ride mountain with wonderful natural halfpipes, dips and curves. Some days, boarders outnumber skiers, since the terrain is so friendly to riders. The mountain hosts a number of events throughout the season; check the website ( for several snowboard events in February and March.

Lift tickets cost $40. Night skiing is only $20 for an adult pass. A two-hour group lesson costs just $39, which includes all the necessary gear and a beginner lift pass. A good program for beginners or anyone who wants to brush up on technique is a series of three lessons for $150, which includes lift ticket, instruction and gear, and can be taken anytime throughout the season. The women's clinics are taught by seasoned female riders; check the web site for a schedule of times and prices.

High Cascade Snowboard Camp
P.O. Box 6622, Bend, OR 97708

by Kaj Bune

The slopes of Oregon's Mount Hood offer the best summertime snowboard facilities in the world and outstanding programs to match. Since 1989, High Cascade Snowboard Camp, based in Government Camp, has been making dreams come true for snowboarders of all levels. HCSC is best known for its summer sessions, but recently expanded operations include all-inclusive winter camps at Mt. Hood Meadows as well.

When you sign up for a session with HCSC be ready for total immersion in the sport of snowboarding. Eight day and ten day packages include everything you could ask for in a camp. Pickup at Portland International Airport gets you started and a typical day goes something like this:

7:30-8:30am Breakfast

9-noon Riding with your coach

12-12:30pm Lunch on the hill

12:30-1:30pm Snowboard Clinic

1:30-3:00pm Riding Session

3:30-5:30 pm Afternoon Activities

6-7pm Dinner

7-9pm More Activities

9:45pm Curfew

Afternoon and evening off-snow activities include skateboarding on street course and ramps, mountain biking, BMXing, Ski Bowl Action Park, swimming, dodgeball, basketball, soccer, disco, pinball tournaments, foosball, arts and crafts, Japanese lessons, pool, ping-pong, video games, waterfall and sunset hikes, wakeboarding, whitewater rafting, paintball, movies, bowling, roller skating and inline skating. Trained staff supervises every activity.

A choice of lodge or Chalet style accommodations is available for campers. The camp is co-ed with all accommodations separated by gender and age (as young as 11) and live-in counselors. A full service skate and snowboard retail store is operated nearby with a demo shop for campers to test the newest in gear.

But HCSC is not just for young snowboarders. An extensive adult program is available at Mt. Bachelor in central Oregon during the winter and spring and at Mount Hood in the summer. Three weeklong winter camps and two 8-day summer camps are available to choose from, each including in-depth video analysis, a 5 to 1 camper to coach ratio, tickets, coaching, transportation, meals lodging, and activities. A 'no frills' option is available that includes tickets and coaching only and custom packages can be had if you are looking for something specific.

I know several people who have attended HCSC and the reviews have been outstanding. It is not uncommon for campers to return several times and believe me, keeping up with them after all the coaching and riding becomes much, much more difficult. This seems like the test for any snowboard school and High Cascade Snowboard Camp passes with


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