There’s a lot more than ski slopes up at the White Pass Ski Area.
I mean, yeah, of course the main thing is the skiing. That and the snowboarding. Those are the basis for all the rest of it. White Pass Ski Area only exists because of them. But when you start talking to people about the place’s appeal, you hear as much about camaraderie and fun as you do about actual ski and snowboard runs.
Just search for “White Pass” on Facebook and you’ll start to get a sense of it. Among the pages and groups dedicated to the place are carpool groups, White Pass Mamas, White Pass Crew, White Pass Ski Bums and, famously, White Pass Trailer Trash, an 800-person Facebook group dedicated to denizens of the ski area’s RV lot.
“They call themselves White Pass Trailer Trash, and they’ve built decadeslong relationships, coming up and parking together and figuring out who’s bringing the wood for the bonfires,” ski area spokeswoman Kathleen Goyette said.
The group’s name is in keeping with the ski area’s come-as-you-are ethos. It’s not Aspen or Vail; it’s Eastern Washington.
“It’s almost like you can kind of tell when people come from somewhere far away,” Goyette said. “Their gear is all brand new. That’s not the White Pass locals; they’ve got a little more duct tape involved.”
The 84-member White Pass Locals Gear Swap group on Facebook is a testament to that. The page, started in December, is full of gently (and not so gently) used skis, pants and jackets.
“I don’t know about you guys,” an early post by group founder Josie Hall reads. “But my kids are growing like crazy, which means we are always needing more gear and have lots of old gear.”
“This was an incredible idea for our mountain family!!!!” reads one response.
That exchange is indicative of the family atmosphere on the mountain. A few years ago, some locals started using the hashtag #whitepassfamily on social media, something that has since been adopted by dozens of others, including the ski area itself. White Pass family doesn’t necessarily mean blood relatives, either. It’s more about a community that often feels like family.
“There’s a very family-oriented vibe that people here are attuned to,” Goyette said. “Some of that is because at our Day Lodge and our High Camp there’s a lot of communal seating. You can’t sit by yourself, so you end up meeting the people around you.”
Goyette, who has been working at White Pass since 1989, has all kinds of stories about the mountain’s characters. She’s seen relationships form. She’s watched children grow up on the mountain and then bring their own kids.
Plenty of them will be around for this weekend’s Winter Carnival at the ski area. The carnival — complete with a massive snow castle that requires help from professional contractors, architects and engineers to build — is the biggest annual party on the mountain. This is the 36th edition, and it figures to the biggest yet, Goyette said. Even the snow castle will be bigger this year.
Last year’s had a 5,500-square-foot footprint with towers reaching 25 feet high, so that’s saying something.
In addition to the castle, which will be accessible to the public, the free-admission carnival includes kids’ games, face-painting, ski races for kids, live music from the Marshall Law Band out of Seattle, a torchlight parade and a massive fireworks display put together by a crew that always brings its best fireworks, Goyette said.
“Most of their action is in the summer, so they get withdrawals,” she said. “They always go big for the Winter Carnival.”
While the carnival is the biggest, there are special events all season long at White Pass. Earlier this month, for instance, the ski area held its second annual Craft Brew Festival. It was a natural fit, because so many of the people in the local beer industry grew up visiting the mountain every winter. There’s a similar event, High Class at White Pass, every spring that highlights the local wine industry. The ski area’s connection to the craft beverage industry has long been a bonus for the White Pass family, Goyette said.
“You can come to White Pass and end up chatting with some of the most knowledgeable vintners and brewers in the world,” she said. “That just adds to the whole mystique.”