This Sunday my friend Alena and I went skiing/snowboarding to Mount Baker in Washington state, in USA.
It is a great alternative to Whistler, especially if you are not a fan of big crowds and overpriced lift tickets. Usual day at Whistler will come up to an average of $150 if you have your own gear (vs. ~$85 including gas for Baker). Do not get me wrong, I love Whistler, it is an excellent place to get away if you have money, but there is something about Mt. Baker that Whistler does not have.
It takes about 2 hours to get to Baker under normal weather conditions – about 1.5 hours on the highway, and about 30 minutes on the mountain serpentine. It is fairly easy to cross the border; when you have all the necessary documentation it only takes 2 minutes, and you don’t even have to leave the car. If it is your first time, you will need to get a small paper stapled into your passport, which you will have to get when you cross at the customs office ($6.00 USD, it is valid for 6 months).
On the way we have stopped for a breakfast at a local cafe with very friendly owner (giant breakfast with tea; I had eggs benny, and Alena ordered eggs with hash-brown and English muffin): the total damage was $25 including the tips. 15 minutes and 4 cups of tea later we were back on the road. It was raining, which turned into snow further up on the mountain, so it slowed us down but just a bit. As we got at the top, the visibility was somewhat limited, and the parking lot was fairly full. We bought lift tickets and off we went.
There are 8 chair lifts and 2 T-tows. Trails range from beginner-level to double black diamonds. Overall, most of them are for medium-advanced riders. The lifts are a little old but dependable, only thing is that they do not have any bars. Lots and lots of snow, which is very different from the Cypress and Grouse. The lifts are open 9-3.30, and regular lift tickets are $54 incl. tax. The people at Baker are very relaxed and friendly. There is a sense of community, and there is absolutely no commercialism or negativity. I felt like I was at home from the very first moment.
We had a short half-hour snack break mid-day. They have a full kitchen in both lodges. We had chili (which was served in the regular or bread bowl), and with the drink it came to only $9.15.
We left at 3.45, and went back to Canada through the Sumas border crossing. There was a small line at the border, and after 10 minutes we were getting our passports checked. Turns out, I have left my work permit at home (oops!), and only had my Canadian visa, which I have just received. I was asked to go to the customs office, where I was briefly questioned and seated. After a 5 minute check they deemed I was admissible into Canada, and reminded not to forget my work permit again.
Trip budget: $88.15 + $6 for the customs fee.
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http://www.mtbaker.us – Mount Baker website