Wintertime in Washington draws many outdoors for snowy fun, but cold-weather recreational activities like skiing, snowshoeing and even hiking can be intimidating if you aren’t properly geared up — or if you’re not accustomed to navigating the wilds of the Evergreen State buried deep in snow.
To try a new winter sport with a pro, Seattle-area outfitters and backcountry guides aplenty offer winter adventures and training courses. The Mountaineers, for one, offer guided, beginner-friendly snowshoeing and cross-country ski excursions in the Cascades throughout the winter, with a full calendar at mountaineers.org. That’s a great place to start. (Space is limited.)
Craving even more adventure? From snowshoeing under the moonlight to a multiday crevasse rescue course and backcountry excursions, there are fun ways to get outside across a range of skill levels and price points.
Here are six guided adventures that highlight Washington’s mesmerizing winter backyard, with activities from REI, Mountain Madness and other outdoors companies in the late winter and early spring.
Moonlight snowshoeing with REI
Location: Snoqualmie Pass
Experience level: Beginner
Dates: Multiple dates in February and March
Equipment: Snowshoes, trekking poles, headlamp, flashlight included
Enjoy the serenity of a snow-covered mountain by the soft glow of moonlight on this REI-guided adventure. This snowshoe experience is perfect for first-timers and apprehensive snow trekkers who are looking for a few tips and a bit of guidance to lead them through the snow trenches with a bonus of beautiful scenery. All equipment is included, so you can test the waters of winter sports without making a big investment. Just show up dressed for snow at Gold Creek Sno-Park off Interstate 90 at Snoqualmie Pass. Your guide will get you geared up and lead you on snowy trails beneath the still night sky. (You can also rent snowshoes from Seattle-area outfitters and go snowshoeing at beginner-friendly Washington Sno-Parks like Gold Creek on your own; the barrier to entry is very low and a pair of rentals from REI costs $20 for four hours.)
Tronsen Meadow snowshoeing with REI
Location: Blewett Pass
Experience Level: Beginner
Dates: Feb. 19, Feb. 26
Equipment: Snowshoes, trekking poles, first-aid kit, transport from REI store to trailhead included.
Want to trade moonlight for meadows? Trek into the heart of the Cascades backcountry on this guided snowshoe experience. No prior training or equipment is necessary, keeping it accessible for anyone keen to experience a bit of winter magic in the North Cascades. Meet at the REI store and head to Tronsen Meadow at Blewett Pass with your expert guides as a group. Spend the day snowshoeing through evergreen forests blanketed with snow and across open meadows with unhindered views of the surrounding peaks. Sounds dreamy, right?
Crevasse rescue courses with Kaf Adventures
Cost: $190 for beginner course; $550 for two-day course
Location: Snoqualmie Pass
Experience level: Beginner-Advanced
Dates: Multiple weekends in March and April
Equipment: Passes and permits, ropes, anchors and other group climbing equipment included. Participants must bring personal climbing gear, including helmet, mountaineering boots and harness.
Are you a mountaineer keen to up your skills and learn how to execute a rescue in the unpredictable backcountry? Kaf Adventures runs a single-day, beginner-friendly rescue course during the winter as well as a two-day course that will help deepen your knowledge of mountaineering and teach you the skills to make a rescue. Starting with an online course and culminating in a two-day group training in Snoqualmie Pass led by expert trainers, participants learn and practice rescue skills. By the end of these courses, you’ll know how to avoid hazardous terrain; use technical skills like navigation, ascending techniques, snow camping and glacier rigging; and walk away prepared to aid in multiple backcountry rescue scenarios.
Alpine Lakes High Camp skiing with Mountain Madness
Cost: Varies, from $250/person/day (depends on group size)
Location: Alpine Lakes High Camp, near Stevens Pass
Experience Level: Beginner-Advanced
Dates: Customizable, varies based on trip length and availability
Equipment: All personal and ski gear required, with a comprehensive list at the link above.
From day trips to multiday excursions, cozy up in cabins at Alpine Lakes High Camp — about 15 miles from Stevens Pass — after days filled with backcountry ski adventures. This activity is completely customizable and works for solo trips and small-group adventures. Beginners can work with a guide to learn foundational skills of alpine touring and backcountry rescues in wide-open terrain, while advanced backcountry skiers can tackle more challenging avalanche terrain. You can even get transported to the cabins in a snowcat. At the end of an exhilarating day in backcountry, unwind in the sauna or in front of the fire with a glass of wine.
Intro to backcountry ski touring with Northwest Alpine Guides
Location: Mount Baker
Experience Level: Intermediate-Advanced
Dates: Three-day course available April 7-9, 14-16, 21-23 and beyond
Equipment: No gear is provided; a comprehensive list of gear, including ski boots, layers of clothing and backpack, can be found at the link above. Rentals are available.
Have you dreamed of swooping down a mountain free of crowds? The backcountry is the secret to this dream. Getting there requires safety training and respect for Mother Nature’s might. Join Northwest Alpine Guides for a three-day backcountry ski touring adventure that will introduce you to the thrills and skills of backcountry skiing with knowledgeable guides. You’ll learn how to tackle the slopes of Mount Baker along Schreibers Meadow Trail, far from sight of any ski area. Staying true to an authentic backcountry experience, you’ll camp in mountain tents near the base of the Easton Glacier and be required to carry your overnight equipment. An adventure made for the physically able and the adventurous at heart, your efforts will be rewarded with views of Mount Rainier, the Twin Sisters Range and the North Cascades.
Ski mountaineering course with Mountain Madness
Location: North Cascades
Experience level: Advanced
Dates: Multiple; next three-day course April 21-23
Equipment: See the link above for a list of required gear, from ski equipment to snow clothes, sleeping and climbing gear. Equipment can be rented from Mountain Madness.
Have you ever even considered skiing glaciated mountains? It requires specific skills and training, but you have to start somewhere! This three-day course will teach you the fundamentals of snow, ice and glacier climbing to set you on the path to becoming a self-reliant ski mountaineer capable of ascending and descending mountain ranges. Under expert guidance, tackle new skills like rope management, snow climbing, ice axing, navigation and glacier travel. You’ll do this while skiing with a day and overnight pack. Look forward to a weekend of hard work with the abundant North Cascades as your classroom, where active glaciers, volcanic peaks and stunning views surround you.