Warren Miller 

City skiing


Since noon, big flakes of snow have been falling like dandruff on a blue suit and are now piled up a foot deep on our island north of Seattle.

A late breaking news story interrupts the mellow music on KING FM. The announcer says, "Thirty-eight inches of snow have fallen on Snoqualmie Pass in the last 24 hours. The pass is closed and so is Stevens and you can forget trying to get to Crystal Mountain because the Enumclaw snowplow driver couldn’t even get home from the Friday night bowling tournament. If you have to drive east, you will have to go south to Portland and turn left."

Are you stuck in Seattle, 50 long miles from the nearest ski lift? Don’t worry about missing that all-time powder day. You can carve turns right in town if you’re desperate. The way I see it, you don’t even have to leave the city to have a good ski day. You could downhill ski in the morning, do some cross-country skiing late in the day, enjoy a little apres-ski shopping and then top off the day with some fine wine from a Washington state vintner.

Powder hounds can find the steep and deep stuff all over Seattle. For that first run, point ’em down Columbia between Fourth and Fifth and get an awesome steep black diamond run. If you don’t get first tracks in the middle of the street, you can still find a lot of untracked powder out among the parking meters. Of course, you better be careful not to run into anyone here because at least half of the guys standing around in this area by the courthouse are contingency fee attorneys trolling for their next client.

The steepest and maybe the deepest double diamond street in Seattle is out on Queen Anne Hill between Prospect and Highland. It’s my favourite run and probably was my old man’s too because he named me after a run down it in a Model T Ford with a quart of prohibition whiskey under his belt. Yes, my favourite run in Seattle is called Warren Avenue.

City skiing is just like being at a resort; eventually, you’ll want to stop for refreshments. In Seattle, you can stop for a sidewalk cappuccino or other local specialties, such as a hot bowl of Ivar’s clam chowder, some pink tofu or sprouts and yogurt.

After lunch, fire up the four-wheel drive and head southwest towards Alki Point for some cross-country touring on the beach with Puget Sound and the Olympics for a backdrop. Touring on the snow-covered beach, you can dazzle the locals with such statements as, "Sure looks a lot like the Lake of Geneva from the Swiss side, but the boats are bigger and there’s a little more water."

After a day of skiing, you may want to shop for souvenirs, as if you were at a resort. You could head to Pike Place Market for a big selection of Abalone shells that light up or maybe a colourful wallet with the Space Needle painted on it.

Finally, it’s time for dinner. There’s a darling little waterfront spot in Bellevue. Unfortunately, by this time of day, the floating bridge is the longest parking lot north of the Los Angeles Freeway.

Winding up at Scenery by the Sea, the menu is very Northwestern and just right to top off a day of making turns on the best ski runs in Seattle. There is fresh frozen salmon, prepared twelve different ways and some St. Michelle wine, stomped by local feet in eastern Washington.

At dinner, you discover that other people have skied locally today, too. A sunburned, loud group is hoisting some local brews to Hugo Slow. Hugo climbed partway up the Space Needle elevator shaft and set a world’s record for a tip drop off of the Space Needle when he landed in one of the transitions in the nearby roller coaster track. He dropped 53 vertical feet.

They are sending a video of his tip drop to the local TV station, which has promised to show it and interview Hugo… just as soon as he gets out of the intensive care unit at Virginia Mason Clinic.

Being stuck in the city doesn’t mean you have to miss out on skiing. All it takes is a little creativity… not to mention the right city.


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