|Trail System:||18 km of Groomed Trails|
|Open:||Thu - Sun + Holidays: 8:30am - 4pm|
|Ski for free:||Mon - Wed: No Grooming|
|Location:||White Pass, right behind the Village Inn Condominium|
Tracked and tranquil trails for the whole family
Nestled between the White Pass downhill ski area and the sprawling William O Douglas Wilderness is one of the most delightful, family-friendly cross-country ski areas in the Northwest. Just behind the Village Inn Condominiums situated at a base elevation of 4,500 feet, you'll find the White Pass Nordic Center. Sharing a similar reputation to its downhill counterpart across the highway as a homey and friendly operation, the White Pass Nordic Center is also cherished by many a cross country skier for its impeccably groomed and uncrowded trails. And with its high elevation on the Cascade Crest, copious amounts of snowfall blanket the center each season.
Start your visit at the Nordic Yurt, where friendly staff can provide you with a map and information on the center's trails and rental equipment if you don't have your own. The center also offers lessons (both group and individual) for beginners as well as experienced skiers who want to polish and perfect their technique.
Then kick and glide or skate away on 18 kilometers of wide well-groomed trails. Forming a series of loop of varying degrees of difficulty, each trail is double tracked with a center skating lane. Beginners will like the Deer Creek Loop along the shores of Leech Lake (but referred to at the center as just the "Lake") and through quiet groves of stately old-growth forest.
The Dog Lake Loop offers a little more zip with a few short up and down bouts. Located on a forested ridge above Dog Lake, experienced skiers can veer off the loop if they'd like to get a look at the tranquil lake set beneath Spiral Butte. You won't see ant skiers schlepping rifles along the Biathlon Loop. It's short and sweet easy route through snow-shrouded moss-draped evergreens. The much longer Dark Meadow Loop offers nice gliding and skating through gorgeous ancient forest. It's a favorite of many a White Pass skier including this author.
The Zig Zag Loop will have you turning and twisting on a course indicative of its name. And if you want a thrilling run, take to the trail known as The Hill. This nice downhill run offers some lovely views of Spiral Butte and the lonely surrounding ridges. A couple of well placed picnic tables where you can capture those views as well as rays of sunlight may entice you to take a break from your exhilarating vertical descent or arduous vertical ascent.
The loop that will probably have you returning for another round or two is the Lake Loop. A moderately easy route around "The Lake," this trail not only hugs the shoreline of placid Leech Lake - but also travels across glades of towering evergreens and traverses an open slope high above the lake. The open slope offers breathtaking views of the frozen body of water below, and the hopping with happy snowboarders and downhill skiers at White Pass Ski Area across the pass. You'll also enjoy a nice downhill run back to the Nordic Yurt.
At the yurt you can warm up with a cup of hot cocoa, a hot bowl of chili, or a hearty snack. You can also consider perhaps taking a break from skiing and doing a little snowshoeing by renting a pair (if you don't have your own) from the staff at the center. While ski touring, you may have noticed several snowshoe trails traversing the Nordic Center. There are seven miles of snowshoe only trails radiating across the center.
One of the nicest draws of the White Pass Nordic Center other than its tranquil trails is its close proximity to the Downhill Ski Area. This allows for you if you'd like, to spend part of the day schussing downhill; then part of the day kicking and gliding, all without having to drive to a new location. This arrangement of the two ski areas being so close together also gives families and groups of friends flexibility, allowing their group members to do their own thing; then meet back up at the main lodge for breaks and meals.
The Nordic Center is open Thursday through Sundays and holidays during the ski season from 8:30 am until 4 pm. Children under six and skiers over 73 can ski for free. You are allowed to ski at the center Monday through Wednesday free, but note that there is no grooming or patrols on those days.
And if you like to go cross country skiing with your dog, the White Pass Nordic Center welcomes your furry companion. Dogs are allowed on the trails after 3:30 pm Thursday through Sunday and all day on the trails Monday through Wednesday. They should of course be under voice control and cleaned up after while out on the trails.
If you've never cross-country skied and would like to, consider attending White Pass's annual Ski Jamboree held in late January. The Center offers free cross country ski lessons and reduced rental rates during this event. It's a perfect way too to become acquainted with this healthy sport and a wonderful place to pursue it.
- Craig Romano