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Family-friendly fun in the mountains

White Pass Ski Area offers instruction, rental equipment and military discounts

Hannah Parker on the magic carpet at White Pass during her first ski lesson. Photo credit: Mary Parker

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White Pass Ski Area is locally known as the place to ski with families.A two-and-a-half hour drive from the Joint Base Lewis-McChord area; it is an easy day trip.

Before your first visit, take the time to view the White Pass website, especially for beginners.  There is a section on insider's tips as well as a packing list.  It is lots of good information for first timers.

On a recent visit, our group departed at 5 a.m. and took Interstate 5 south to exit 168 for Highway 12.  This is a breathtaking scenic byway, and if you are lucky enough to have a sunny day, there are awe-inspiring views of Mount Rainier. You will want to plan your stops due to limited services on Highway 12.  In Silver Creek, we stopped at "The Buck Stop" for a quick break.  The gas station and market is owned by the Lyons family.  Dawn Lyons is up early to open at 5 a.m.  "We serve hot food at the deli counter beginning at five," said Lyons.  "If there is snow, we get quite a bit of ski traffic and like to be ready."

We arrived at White Pass around 8 a.m. and found parking right out front.  Lifts open at 8:45 a.m. but the lodge opens at 8 a.m. to purchase lift tickets, rent equipment, and schedule lessons.  White Pass prices are reasonable and family-friendly with children and youth tickets up to age 15.  Three-day, EZ Ski/Ride packages are $109-$155.  It includes instruction, rental equipment and progressive lift tickets.  The package can be used any three days during the season.  In addition to package discounts, White Pass offers a very generous military discount on lift tickets.  

New skier Hannah Parker, a military child, took the group lessons, which are one-and-a-half hours long.  She had so much fun she begged her mom to let her take the next lesson.  In two lessons, Hannah was snowplowing like a pro and navigating the bunny slope. She was quite animated and smiling while discussing her experience. "Today was my first day, and I learned to ski. I'm not scared to ski anymore. The teachers were funny and fun."

Military spouse, Mary Parker, said, "The instructors were excellent, both the group lesson for my nine-year-old and the personal instruction for my two teenagers. Our whole family enjoyed White Pass. The skiing was great, with open, well-groomed slopes, no lift lines, and in a beautiful setting."

The older teens and adults in our group, who ski, found plenty of challenging ground to keep them happy.  The teens enjoyed the terrain parks.  Usually on a trip like this, you don't expect to use emergency services.  A new skier (who shall remain nameless to avoid embarrassment), with one lesson under the belt, chose to try a jump at full speed.  This spectacular move ended up with the newbie sprawled out below the jump.  The professional staff at White Pass quickly loaded the skier on a sled stretcher and brought him to first aid.  Our group was very impressed with the speed and safety of the whole operation.

To make the day easier for families, White Pass offers childcare on-site and a nursing room for mothers.  The cafeteria cooks up kid-proven foods such as chicken fingers, grilled cheese sandwiches and corn dogs.

After a full day of skiing, our group was back home by 6 p.m.

The Buck Stop, 5-9 p.m., Monday-Friday; 7-9 p.m., Saturday-Sunday, 2912 US Highway 12, Silver Creek, 360.985.2303

White Pass Ski Area, 8:45 a.m. to 4 p.m., daily, 48935 US Highway 12, Naches, 509.672.3100,

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