Mount Rainier is famous for its abundant backcountry, where the snow seems to reach out forever, and the Telemark skiing is unmatched in Washington. Many beginners head to the Paradise parking lot to ski up the unplowed road, or out the trails to Nisqually Vista, Narada Falls, or Reflection Lake. None of these are groomed, but it generally doesn’t take long for other folks to set down tracks in the new snow. The area gets an incredible 630 inches of snow in a typical year!
The east-side roads provide other skiing options, including, of course, the groomed slopes at Crystal Mountain Ski Area, just a few miles outside the park’s northeast corner. For a quieter experience, the Ohanapecosh area is a good bet. Park near the ranger station and ski up the roads toward Cayuse Pass or Box Canyon if you are ambitious, but be sure to check about avalanche dangers before heading up. Easier skiing can be found in the unplowed Ohanapecosh Campground loops.
Facilities are open for winter sports at Paradise from December to April. The park constructs a supervised snow play area here in early December; no snow sliding is allowed before that time to protect the vegetation. The area is a very popular place for inner tubes, saucers, or other soft sliding toys (no wooden toboggans or sleds with metal runners are allowed), but bring your own, since they are not available for rent.
Ranger-led snowshoe walks are offered at the Paradise Visitor Center on winter weekends and holidays. Snowshoes are free to use during these walks and can be rented from the lodge gift shop or the Longmire Store at other times.
© Ericka Chickowski from Moon Washington, 8th edition