What’s new at Mount Baker?

Published on Wed, Jan 13, 2010 by Jack Kintner

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The Mount Baker Ski Area had a tremendous beginning, including the second earliest opening day ever, 200 inches of snow in November and a record day for attendance, November 21, when over 5,000 skiers arrived and the upper parking lots were filled to capacity.

“So far, so good,” said Duncan Howat, ski area manager for the past 42 years. The Yakima native said that in 1984 the area opened earlier but that they’d had only 112 inches of snow by November 30. In that year as well as this, Howat said that skiers need to be extra-cautious when there’s a large early season snowfall as it sets the area up for a primo avalanche season as well.

After last year’s introduction of a brand new quad replacing the venerable old chair one, the oldest lift on the mountain dating back 45 years, a lot of what’s new at the area this year is pretty subtle. “We addressed some grooming issues, but they’re pretty well covered up by now,” Howat said. One nagging sore point for some skiers is gone, the up-hill cat track off chair one when heading west toward Austin Pass. Food service has been slightly modified at the Raven, giving it more room and an updated menu.

Business-wise it’s been an interesting start, Howat said, in that the sale of season passes was slow until the area opened early on a sunny November 12 after a classic mid-season Baker dump, “Then sales really picked up,” Howat said, “and since then have set a record pace. And our film festival in October at the Mount Baker Theater sold out. I guess it’s about more people staying closer to home, enjoying what we have here in Whatcom County.”

Howat said he couldn’t really predict what would happen at Baker because of the Winter Olympics happening in Vancouver. “The Legendary Banked Slalom is a week before the Olympics and we don’t expect much effect one way or the other,” Howat said, “but it’s hard to say. The other area operators I know say the same thing.” The ski area website, www.mtbaker.us, provides up-to-the-minute information.