Mt Baker Overview
Mount Baker is a large volcano close to the Canadian border in Washington State, USA, which is legendary among powder hounds for the enormous amounts of snow it receives. This is one of those places that has an almost mythical status among snowboarders, and while living in Vancouver it was top of my wish list along with Whistler. So at the end of my first season in Vancouver working as a lifty at Cypress Mountain, a bunch of us piled into a couple of cars and made the 2-hour drive (a bit more I think actually, with the border formalities taking a while) in search of this legendary powder heaven… only to get rained on and find ourselves riding slushy mush all day. Major sad face. It really was a bad day to visit and the riding sucked, but it was a fun little road trip nonetheless.
Terrain, snow, off-piste, nightlife, access, etc for Mt Baker
Mt Baker itself stands at almost 3,300m which is pretty big, but the ski area only reaches half that altitude and is actually quite small (the ski area isn’t on Baker itself, but on the neighbouring Mt Shuksan – also quite sizeable at almost 2,800m). But the important statistic for Baker isn’t the vertical drop or the number of lifts or bla bla bla, it’s the ridiculous 16m annual snowfall. Sixteen metres! That even dwarfs the famous snowfalls of Hokkaido, where the resorts proudly boast of their ten to twelve metres per year. So forget the resort stats; Baker is basically famous for two things – the huge quantities of snow, and the excellent backcountry terrain on which to ride that snow.
Unfortunately for us, on the day of our visit we had rain, sludge, and terrible visibility; there was no point in going off-piste and we couldn’t even get a distant look at the terrain that was out in the backcountry – in fact, we barely even saw Mt Baker. Although while driving up the Cypress road before work all that season we’d seen many majestic views of the distant Baker on the horizon, silhouetted against the dawn and calling out to us from under the rising sun, we barely caught a glimpse of it when we were right there next to it!
At one point I did actually try to cut through a sweet-looking patch of untouched snow, and quickly squelched to a stop and had to dig myself out. It also didn’t help my day personally that I’d broken a rib the day before slamming off a jump, but hadn’t wanted to miss out on Mt Baker so went along anyway, wincing every time I used my right arm or laughed (digging out of the snow was a mission with one arm)
So, basically, this is a completely useless review of Mt Baker Ski Area! We went on a lousy day, and it sucked. What I can confirm is that they obviously do see a lot of snow there, though the snow quality is perhaps not always quite as impressive as the snow quantity (what with the proximity to the coast – similar thing as at BC resorts like Whistler and the Vancouver local hills). The off-piste terrain at Baker is apparently excellent, and the backcountry the stuff of wet dreams, but I’ll just have to take everyone’s word for that.
Mt Baker Summary
Despite the disappointing riding that day, it was still a fun day out. Driving from Vancouver to Abbotsford through one of Canada’s most densely populated areas, we then crossed the border to a part of America that feels totally different and really quite remote – very few people, a certain quirkiness, and a definite feeling of being out in the boonies. We enjoyed the drive, ate good food, drank a few beers, enjoyed the company, and did a little bit of crappy snowboarding… that’s still a good day in my book! Furthermore, I had the only stress-free entry to the United States that I’ve so far experienced (out of five!), which was nice; the border guards actually smiled, and even managed to say ‘sir’ without making it sound like an insult.
Resources and Useful Links for Riding at Mt Baker
There’s nowhere to stay at Mt Baker itself, but there’s some accommodation available nearby along the Mt Baker Highway in Glacier. The nearest sizeable town is Bellingham (a drive of around 90 minutes), which has a wider range of accommodation options (affiliate links)
World Nomads has winter sports cover. World Nomads travel insurance has been designed by travelers for travelers. If you leave home without travel insurance or your policy runs out, you can buy or extend while on the road.
(This can be an important point, as I once found out the hard way in Bangkok)
Snow Forecast for Mt Baker (snow-forecast.com does exactly what it says on the tin, and is my usual go to for accurate snow forecasts)