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Summer lift
NW ski areas open door to scenic wilderness
If you thought Northwest ski areas were just  1for skiing, then drop by one of them during the heat of the summer and you'll see that hikers and bikers are also getting good use out of these mountains and the resort lifts. More and more nowadays, ski resorts are becoming year-round businesses, looking for ways to bring in revenues during the off-season. Ski resorts are located in some of the most beautiful places in the Northwest and the summer views are just spectacular.

And that's why many of them will have their lifts operating during the summer months for people who love to get out in the Great Oudoors. Whether you enjoy hiking, biking or maybe having a nice meal in a mountain-top ski lodge, you'll want to consider visiting one of our Northwest ski resorts in the summer. They generally open for summer business toward the end of June when the snow's gone from the upper levels. Lift ticket prices are quite reasonable.

Here are a few choices, along with some activities you can experience this summer at Northwest ski resorts:

Crystal Mountain

This popular ski resort is just a little over an hour's drive southeast from Seattle and operates a gondola during the summer months. The Mt. Rainier Gondola is quite a scenic ride over meadows of wildflowers where you climb over 2,000 vertical feet to the summit of Crystal Mountain.

At the top you will find an unparalleled view of Mt. Rainier and the Cascade Range, as well as the Summit House, the highest elevation restaurant in Washington State. If you want to just relax, you can soak in the views from one of the slingback chairs situated along the ridge.

And if you love hiking, there are miles of hiking trails nearby. Interpretive ranger walks are also offered on select days. They'll teach you about the local history, geology, wildlife and more. Each gondola cabin seats up to 8 people and the ride is 12 minutes each way. Prices are as low as $22 roundtrip for adults.

For more information go to www.crystalmountainresort.com or phone (360) 663-2265.

Summit at Snoqualmie

How about a concert in one of the most beautiful locations anywhere? Chinook Fest Summit, which will be held July 8th though the 10th, is a fun music festival held at the Summit at Snoqualmie. This area is reached on Interstate 90 and is the easiest to drive to from Seattle.

You'll be able to enjoy watching some incredible musicians, with a lot of other activities also scheduled. Lots of different types of music are planned -- roots rock, funk, folk and Americana. Chinook Fest Summit features multiple stages, highlighting local and regional talent.

There are also lots of outdoor activities. Local artisans will be on hand and the festival also will feature local brews, wines, and ciders. Festival-goers will also be able to camp-out for this huge event, with spots available both on and off the slopes. It's an all-ages event so families are welcome.

For more information, visit www.summitatsnoqualmie.com or phone (425) 434-7669.

Stevens Pass

Another mountain close to Seattle is Stevens Pass, which offers scenic chairlift rides and lots of hiking trails to explore. For just $12 you can head up the Hogsback high-speed quad chairlift and enjoy the peace and serenity that is the Cascade Mountains in the summer time.

You can either ride the lift back down or walk down the scenic hike-only trail back to the base area. From the top of the lift you have spectacular views of the North Cascades.

The 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail runs straight through the heart of Stevens Pass, so you can enjoy a part of the West Coast's most notable hiking routes.

There is a lot to see on the trail -- you'll see animals like pika and marmots and lots of wildflowers as well.

For more information, please visit www.stevenspass.com or phone (206) 812-4510.

Mt. Hood Meadows

For residents of Portland and Southwest Washington, Mt. Hood Meadows offers $10 chairlift rides on Saturdays and Sundays from mid-July through early September.

The Stadium chair treats passengers to stunning views of the Mt. Hood National Forest. You'll unload at the top beneath a Cascade canopy of pines and immediately connect with nature while hiking the Timberline trail.

The ride down is breathtaking and reveals the full panorama of Central Oregon -- which includes majestic Mt. Jefferson with the three Sisters on the horizon.

This natural setting is enhanced with intimate and soulful acoustic performances by talented musicians on the Sun deck, where Meadows serves up a delicious barbecue and cold refreshments. Mt. Hood is just gorgeous and a popular destination for Portland residents. Mt. Hood Meadows offers great views and is the perfect setting for relaxation.

Many special events, ranging from mountain runs to water color workshops, are presented throughout the summer.

For more information, please visit www.skihood.com or phone (503) 337-2222.
PHOTOS: Crystal Mountain gondola
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