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  • Writer's pictureKyle McCrohan

Snoqualmie Uphill Pass 2022-23

TLDR:

  • The Summit at Snoqualmie announced a new uphill travel pass that will cost $49 for non-season pass holders.

  • The Cascade Backcountry Alliance believes this is a fair step by the ski resort given the amenities provided for uphill travel, and is much better than banning uphill travel.

 

The Summit at Snoqualmie announced a $49 uphill travel pass. The pass is required for non-season passholders for the 2022-23 season for skinning inbounds at Summit West, Central, or East. $10 of the pass fee will be donated to NWAC.


Similar to previous years, uphill travel is not permitted at Alpental once the area opens. It appears that an uphill pass is not required for accessing the Alpental Valley.


Their uphill policy page also includes details about the uphill routes and parking. On weekend and peak days, parking for uphillers is limited to Summit West, East, and one of the lower Alpental lots.


Naturally, the introduction of a fee where there was previously none will receive some pushback. It is frustrating to have to pay for something that used to be free. Uphill travel has increased enormously over the last few years, and gone are the days of being unnoticed by ski areas.


Although we acknowledge changes like this can be frustrating, the Cascade Backcountry Alliance overall feels that this is a reasonable step for the Summit at Snoqualmie to take.


Why We Support an Uphill Pass

The Summit at Snoqualmie provides various amenities to improve the uphill experience. As many uphillers come after work, it’s nice to arrive to plowed parking lots, groomed runs, overhead lights, and a warm building to eat a snack in and use the bathroom. It costs the Summit money to provide all of these services, too, not just chairlifts. Compare night uphill laps at the resort to true night backcountry skiing, where the snow is inconsistent and navigation can be challenging. It’s also nice to be able to focus on fitness and skiing rather than worry about avalanches. It is no wonder that uphill travel has become so popular at the Summit.


We have heard the argument that this is public land and we should not have to pay to access it. Yes, this is national forest land, but it has been leased to the Summit and the Summit most likely has the right to charge for access to improvements (we are actively working on getting the lease documents and will share our findings about the lease specifics!). In the summer, access to National Forest lands requires the purchase of a Northwest Forest Pass. Why should we expect to have free access in the winter, when maintenance costs are an order of magnitude higher?


We also believe the $49 fee itself is reasonable. Backcountry skiing is already an expensive sport, requiring a substantial investment in gear and safety equipment, in addition to travel costs. Compared to these costs, the Summit’s uphill travel pass is a relatively minor expense. It’s also worth remembering that $10 of the fee goes to NWAC, which is good for the backcountry community throughout the Northwest.


The Summit at Snoqualmie worked with the Forest Service in creating this uphill pass. It also needs to be mentioned that Skimo Northwest, a local non profit dedicated to growing the sport of skimo, had meetings with the Summit where they talked about uphill travel and brainstormed ideas for improvements. Skimo Northwest is a great group that we will work with closely going forward. Skimo Northwest and the Cascade Backcountry Alliance can ensure that the voices of backcountry skiers are heard in future discussions about uphill access.


In the long run, selling uphill passes puts an economic value on the backcountry community. If the Summit sells many uphill passes, this incentivizes them to improve the uphill experience because uphillers are now a paying customer. We would much rather have a fair price for uphill use than no uphill access at all, as many ski areas around the country have declared.


Addressing Safety Around the Alpental Valley

One consideration that feels overlooked is parking for the Alpental Valley. The Summit's policy dictates that on weekends, backcountry users must park in lot 7, which is just below the main Alpental lot. While this works fine for Snoqualmie Mountain, the majority of travelers are headed to Source Lake in the Alpental Valley.


We fear that this will result in people snowshoeing and skiing on the road to the upper lot. We would love to see the Summit address this potential safety problem, perhaps by allowing backcountry users to cross the footbridge and traverse the Alpental Base Area to the upper lot. We are open to working with the Summit on finding a solution.


Winter recreation at Snoqualmie Pass is increasing in many ways: resort skiing, backcountry touring, snowshoeing, and snow playing. As the uphill community grows, it’s inevitable that ski resorts like the Summit will take notice. To create positive paths forward, we need to see ski areas as allies and work together. After all, we are all part of one bigger community with a common goal: to enjoy our beautiful snow covered mountains.


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