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In my mind snowboarding has always been reserved for those who’ve already learnt the basic skills required from a youth spent skate boarding, body boarding or surfing.

I decided long ago that I was a skier.

Two of something i.e. available limbs, in this case legs, are always going to be better than one i.e. two legs strapped securely to one board.

While house sitting just outside Vancouver we decided to make the most of the British Colombian winter and head to the slopes like so many of our neighbours. Although a lifelong skier I had tentatively decided to join Ben and learn to snowboard…stay tuned for our first lesson report below.

Of course being just two hours from Whistler we immediately set about researching the costs of gear hire, lift passes and lessons at one of the world’s most famous ski resorts. However our findings sent us back to the drawing board, bottom lip in full pout.

Now as you’ve probably gathered we like to think of ourselves as savvy travellers, and as such searched high and low for the best deal before hitting the slopes.

While the allure of the world famous Whistler Backcomb tempted us to forfeit our habitual money saving tactics, we remained steadfast and true to form ended up saving over 400%.

MOUNT BAKER WASHINGTON

Mount_Baker_from_Stevens_Pass-eldanCredit: Photopedia, Image Courtesy of Eldan

An hour south of the US/Canadian border in the state of Washington sits Mount Baker. Follow Washington State Highway 542, it leads there and nowhere else.

An anomaly in the world of ski resorts this little known club pioneered the art of snowboarding along with a few select others and paved the way for boarders to hone their skills. When the sport first took off many other resorts closed their doors to anyone strapping their legs onto a board, thus Mount Baker became a Mecca for anyone wanting the chance to ride ‘super gnarly terrain with their balls deep in powder’.

FYI – I pinched the above quote from a snowboarding article – can you tell?

A bare bones set-up there is just a basic club house serving hot drinks, wholesome food and a cold beer. While the resort has avoided selling its land for property development – you’ll find no overnight accommodation or après ski entertainment – it has attracted a following so loyal that some of the world’s best pro boarders can be found tearing down its slopes in a bid to claim a prized duct tape trophy!

The winner of the Banked Slalom race receives the wad of tape and makes history as a winner of a race legendary amongst the snowboarding elite. Billed as an annual return to the purest form of the sport boarders collect to ride the white wave with good friends. While many spend hours honing the technical elements of their skill and equipment the competition is anyone’s to win. Speed and agility reign supreme.

SNOWBOARDING LESSON #1

mount-baker-bogginCredit: CC Flikr, Image Courtesy of Boggin

Now Ben and I were not partaking in the Legendary Banked Slalom snowboard race – I think perhaps we may need a bit more experience – we were there to take our first snowboarding lesson. Popping our snowboarding cherry proved an exhilarating experience and after just an hour we were sitting on the lift with our instructor heading up to the top of our first green run.

While the theory of snowboarding is relatively simple – weight distribution and balance dictate direction and speed – the practise takes … well … practise!

As we came to the top of the lift I prepared to make my exit. The instructor had described a graceful departure and as my board twisted underneath me and my face planted itself firmly in the snow, I caught a glimpse of Ben demonstrating the correct technique.

Drat.

My ‘better’ half had succeeded in dismounting the lift with relative ease and was attempting to warn the occupants of the chair behind that their path was littered by a noob boarder.

Oh the shame.

As I lay on the clearway attempting to right myself my peers glided past and glanced down at me in pity.

‘You’ll soon get the hang of it’ one shouted over her shoulder.

With one almighty heave I was back on my feet and shuffled over to Ben and the instructor.

Moving at a glacial pace we began our descent of the run. With each turn my thighs begged me to relieve them of the torturous pain. It turns out most people recommend a rigorous schedule of squats and lunges to prepare for a day on the piste. In our haste to hit the slopes we had negated this pre ski prep and were beginning to regret it.

Twenty minutes later we made it back to the club and took the opportunity to rest our weary limbs before another attempt at exhibiting our pro snowboarding skills.

I think it’s fair to say we still need a little more practise!

LOW COST SNOW TRAVEL

charli-mountbaker-washington-usa

We thoroughly enjoyed our lessons with the crew at Mount Baker and think the location is a great alternative to the crowded slopes of larger resorts.

So why not treat yourself to a ride through a pristine environment and save yourself some hard earned cash at the same time.

FACTS //

  • Mount Baker is two hours drive from Vancouver and two and a half from Seattle.
  • We opted for the ‘Best For Beginners’ package which gives you a one and a half hour lesson, full gear hire and one all-day lift pass for US$49.
  • For those who do not require instruction an all-day adult lift pass is US$54
  • Mount Baker consistently enjoys one of the highest average annual snowfalls of any resort in the world and consequently fresh powder is always in abundance.
  • Due to its location crowds are rare and you’ll often feel as though you have the slopes to yourself. Ben and I were always the only students in our lessons.
  • Twenty miles from the nearest recognisable civilisation the area has an incredibly laid back vibe. Newcomers are welcomed and learners treated with respect. You won’t find any snooty ski bunnies here.
  • It has intentionally avoided becoming another package holiday location with heated pavements and après ski lounges, and is admired by hard core fans of the sport for its unspoilt terrain and pristine powder.

If you are contemplating avoiding the crowds and utilising the opportunity to explore some spectacular back country Mount Baker is a tempting option.

Now I know you’ll all be thinking ‘well were am I going to stay?’ Here’s your answer, the Mount Baker website lists available accommodation and shuttle transport times to the club house.

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Have you experienced the unspoilt beauty of Mount Baker? Share your snowboarding stories with us in the comments below.

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22 Responses

  1. Nicole | Suitcase Stories

    Snowboarding looks like so much fun! I’ve never tried but would love to. I haven’t ever skied either – I really need to spend time in the snow and try these things!

    Reply
    • Charli | Wanderlusters

      You’ll love it I’ve no doubt! Many people say snowboarding is harder to learn but once you get the hang of it you progress faster than when learning to ski.

      Reply
  2. Sam D | Travellingking.com

    Good on you for trying Snowboarding. Pete (my husband) is a snowboarder and generally good at everything so on our first trip I decided I best try snowboarding.. I am terrible at it but on the plus I dont fall down as much! It is kind of like riding a bike, even though we spend 1-2 weeks in the snow each year, I always remember how to snowboard! Amazing!
    Looks like an amazing place to snowboard, nice white fluffy snow (we get mostly hard icy snow!)

    Reply
    • Charli | Wanderlusters

      Thanks for stopping by Sam. Mt Baker was pretty awesome, it’s renowned for it’s fluffy powder so perhaps you should head over there and steer clear of the icy slopes close to home!

      Reply
  3. Arianwen

    I’d love to try snowboarding, but after my recent experiences of sandboarding, I may need to reconsider! Have you tried both? Are they similar?

    Reply
    • Charli | Wanderlusters

      To be honest I’ve never even heard of sandboarding! I would imagine any sport where by you utilise a board to traverse down a slope would be similar….but I could be wrong!

      Reply
  4. Iain Mallory

    I’m a fan of duct tape not so much so of face plants.

    Looks like a great snowsports destination. I like to think of myself as both but in truth wish I could snowboard half as well as I ski.

    Reply
    • Charli | Wanderlusters

      Snowboarding is actually a lot of fun. I always said I’d never be able to do it but after just a few lessons I could manage a green run at a reasonable pace. I think my ski bunny days are long gone!

      Reply
  5. Marisol | TravelingSolemates

    Mt. Baker looks beautiful and so lush with snow! What a great find to learn snowboarding. I took a lesson in Whistler several years ago. Didn’t get much from it- and it was pricey and crowded. Will keep Mt. Baker in mind next time I find the motivation to take a lesson again. Love your photos.

    Reply
    • Charli | Wanderlusters

      Thank you Marisol. I can’t really comment on the differences between Mt Baker and Whistler however I do know the price varies quite drastically! We thoroughly enjoyed the experience and would recommend Mt Baker to anyone looking for a more authentic snow escape.

      Reply
  6. Leigh

    I’m sorry that when I lived in Vancouver that I never made it skiing (not snowboarding) to Mount Baker. I’ve tried snowboarding once and figured out quickly how to turn one way but never did get the hang of turning the other way. Fun for a day but I’m a skier at heart.

    Reply
    • Charli | Wanderlusters

      Haha, it took a huge amount of brain power for me to figure out how to shift my weight in the correct way each time I needed to turn! Not only did my thighs ache I also had brain ache by the time I got to the end of a run!

      Had we not have been so concerned about cost we would never have found Mount Baker. It always pays to be a savvy traveller!

      Reply
  7. Mary {The World Is A Book}

    I showed this post to my husband who is an avid snowboarder and you’ve got him intrigued with the lack of crowds and price at Mt. Baker. I’ve tried snowboarding and just wasn’t cut out for it too. Thanks for sharing your experience with us.

    Reply
    • Charli | Wanderlusters

      Thanks Mary, although Mt Baker is a little far from the beaten track it is well worth a visit. We couldn’t believe the value for money with regard to gear hire and lessons. I’m afraid I can’t vouch for the gnarly terrain off piste however we overheard plenty of chat in the club house from those who’d returned from an afternoon of exploration!

      Reply
  8. Johanna | ZigaZag WA Travel & Lifestyle

    Snowboarding looks such fun, and what an awesome place for it. I’ve been skiing in Europe but never Canada and I’m a bit like Lucy above, I can never stay on button lifts – absolutely hopeless and then I knock other people off like dominoes! One day maybe I’ll create a bit of ‘ski carnage’ (lucy’s words!) in Canada too!

    Reply
    • Charli | Wanderlusters

      We found Mount Baker to have everything we required from a resort. The laid back vibe and attitude of those who frequent the club house made our experience even more personal. You almost feel like you’re part of an extend snow loving family up there!

      Reply
  9. Lucy

    I’ve never tried snowboarding but love to ski. My boyfriend’s a beginner though and caused the most spectacular ski-lift pile up I’ve ever seen. There was a really long steep button lift and he fell over halfway up, got dragged along then let go, knocked me and three skiers behind off, sending us sliding 100m downhill with skis and poles going everywhere. Total ski carnage!

    Reply
    • Charli | Wanderlusters

      Oh that makes me feel a whole lot better! I have to say I really enjoyed the challenge learning to snowboard became! Those pro boarders make it look effortless however my thighs can vouch for the fact that rather a lot of effort is involved!

      Reply