:: METHOW VALLEY
Living in the Northwest for almost 3 decades and not (I think?) ever visiting the Methow Valley seemed like an absolute crime, so I nailed a couple dates down and made the 4.5 hour trek from Seattle. After cutting up through Blewett’s Pass from I-90 I drove east to Wenatchee, then headed north on I-97 before entering the Methow Valley on highway 153 (part of the Cascade Loop). The warm weather and sunshine made the drive more enjoyable, as well as the scenery along the mighty Columbia river.
I arrived in the small town of Winthrop in the early afternoon. It was a bit too early to check in to the Rio Vista hotel so I walked across the street (this is a tiny town) to the Cascades Outdoor Store to buy a ski pass for the afternoon, and chat with the very friendly staff. I donned my ski gear on at the car, walked across the pedestrian bridge over the Methow River and instantly hit one of the trails (right where the outdoor hockey rink is…dreamy for this Canuck!). My first trek took me across the basin through some private residences and farms to the Patterson Mountain area. The elevation was steep but also awarded me some great areas for the drone. And the sunshine was so wonderful, especially since I have thee worst circulation imaginable (and I grew up in Canada?!). Hard to believe I was skiing comfortably in a teeshirt and no gloves. The warm weather also made for softer snow, but the day was still incredibly fun and was able to glide pretty quickly through the groomed trails.
After a meal in town (a tasty burger at Three Fingered Jack’s Saloon) and a comfy night in the hotel (not many guests due to Covid, and the skiing season coming to an end) I got up early the next morning to explore the town of Winthrop which at 630am I pretty much had all to myself. This tiny western town definitely had the feel of an old Western movie with its classic storefronts and boardwalks connecting all the buildings. At 7am the Rocking Horse Bakery opened where I bought some strong coffee and extremely good pastries (grabbed an extra for the day). After that it was a quick 20 minute drive to Rendevous Mountain with a number of trails, breathtaking views of the valley and a handful of warming huts where skiers can stop to get some heat and rest.
I decided to pick Heifer Hut which was the farthest away and slowly made my ascent up the mountain. While there were a few other skiers here and there (some classic cross country skiers like myself, and some skate skiers) I pretty much had the whole mountain to myself. The clear skies and warm weather made the whole day unforgettable, but I got into a bad spot while climbing a grueling uphill section: I ran out of water, felt my heart racing and started to get panicky. I remembered earlier in the day seeing a park worker on a snowmobile towing a rescue sled and thinking, “Crap…is that how I’m getting down the mountain?” I stopped to rest, managed to catch my breath and started eating snow to hydrate. Gradually I felt better, more calm and made my way down the mountain. Not a fun situation, especially given I was so isolated. But I realized situations like this are part of the adventure, and a good lesson for the future…you know, that 32 ounces of water is probably not enough for 25 miles of skiing!
The hot tub back at the hotel was perfect to soothe my aching muscles, and ate another tasty meal back at Three Fingered Jack’s (and some well deserved adult beverages). In the morning I was definitely tempted to ski again but had to make my way back to the city. As I left the Methow Valley I was struck again by the incredible scenery of snow dappled mountains, reverent farms and pristine rivers cutting through the valley. The whole experience felt a bit transcendent, and I have no doubt I’ll be eagerly getting back there every winter for more adventures.