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Mt Baker, Washington: Jobs, Accommodation, Terrain and Nightlife

Mt Baker, Washington - It's all About the Snow

 

Mt Baker, Washington State, is a ridiculous powder mecca, with an annual average of 659 inches of snow (16.7 meters).

It also claims the title for the most snow in one season, with a completely unreal 1,140 inches (29 meters) falling during the 1998/99 season. Think about that – that’s around 9 stories of snow raining down on you over the season. Finding a job at Mt Baker is therefore all about living that powder dream.

Season opening is usually late November, depending on the snow, and closing is generally end-April.

 

Location and Getting There

The closest major international airports are at Seattle and Vancouver. From Seattle, the drive is around 2.5 hours. From Vancouver, it’s around 2 hours.

From Vancouver, you take the Trans-Canada Highway/BC-1 E and exit 92 to the US Border, then follow WA-547 S until the traffic circle. After that, take the 2nd exit for WA-542 E until you get to Mt Baker.

From Seattle, take I-5 to Exit 236 Bow Hill Rd, turn right onto Bow Hill Rd, continue onto Prairie Rd, turn left onto Upper Samish Rd, turn left onto WA-9 N, turn right onto WA-542 E/ Mt Baker Hwy and go on WA-542 E until you get to Mt Baker.

The Baker Bus runs from the town of Bellingham to Mt Baker on weekends and holidays. A round trip from Bellingham is $14. This is not super convenient, so you will probably need your own car to get to Mt Baker or arrange with someone to give you a lift up there.

Getting to work

Baker has a 15-passenger shuttle that leave from Bellingham, Maple Falls, and Glacier, seven days per week, to get you to work. This is only available on your work days, so you’ll need to get a car or get a lift with friends on days off to go riding.

 

Town and Resort Vibe

Mt Baker is super remote. It is 40 miles up a dead-end road, with no other resorts really nearby. The terrain area is small and the lift infrastructure is relatively old-school. There is no on-mountain accommodation and very few shops, while the nightlife is pretty dead.

Unfortunately, some of the locals don’t like the fact that Mt Baker has earned an international reputation. They would prefer many of the visitors to stay away and leave the resort to themselves. Some of the locals have been riding this hill for years and would never ride anywhere else, but they sometimes aren’t the friendliest on the lifts!

On the plus side, Baker is pretty cheap in general which is good for a seasonal worker’s wallet.

 

How is the Terrain?

The resort is small, with just 1,000 skiable acres (404 hectares) of terrain. The vertical drop of 1,500 ft (472 meters) is also quite small.

Within that small area, Mt Baker packs a serious punch for expert riders. There are steeps, drop-offs, chutes, cliffs and solid tree riding to be found throughout the area. Most terrain is below the tree-line.

You are not going to enjoy Mt Baker over your season unless you get your skills up to tackle the expert terrain. Intermediate terrain is in short supply at Mt Baker.

Beginners are a little better catered for, but if you’re working a season, you should come here for the expert terrain, not the beginner stuff.

In terms of backcountry, Mt Baker really shines. There is incredible terrain in the backcountry here, just remember to take avalanche precautions.

Snow

With its incredible average of 659 inches of snow (16.7 meters), Mt Baker is one of the world’s great powder meccas. It absolutely dumps down at Baker and you can expect plenty of faceshots throughout the season, especially during the week.

However, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. While it dumps down, due to the low elevation of the mountain (just 5,000ft / 1,500 meters at the top of Panorama Dome), and its fairly coastal location, the snow is quite wet and heavy. It is far more akin to Californian snow than the super dry Utah or Colorado powder.

There also aren’t tons of sunny days at Baker, often because it’s snowing so much!

Crowds

Baker is no backwater. Unfortunately, it gets pumped with people, especially on good powder days, meaning the in-bounds powder gets tracked out very quickly on weekends. This is particularly so given the small in-bounds terrain area.

Try to get your days off during the week when there are far less people and much more powder, and terrain, to yourself.

Mountain Stats

  • Average Annual Snowfall: 659 inches (16.7 meters)
  • Panorama Dome Elevation 5,000 ft (1,500 meters)
  • Vertical Drop 1,500 ft (472 meters)
  • Lifts: 10 (8 quad chairs and 2 tows)

 

Jobs at Mt Baker

Mt Baker Trail MapWorking at Baker means dealing with all the snow! This can be sometimes quite challenging, given if you’re on lift operations you will be shoveling more than at other places, or if you’re a driver you will be more often in bad driving conditions. The work at Baker can be quite tough and physical as a result. 

In all likelihood, you will need to work all major holidays as this is when Baker is at its busiest, including Christmas Day.

There are not many jobs at Baker given it’s a small operation. Jobs are available in custodial, lodge cooking, food service, ski and snowboard instructing and sales, lift ops, parking lots, rental and repairs, retail and the ticket office. Deadlines for applications are generally early to late October with interview in late October. You apply at jobs.mtbaker.us

The people working at Baker are generally very chilled and awesome people, and it's a pretty tight community.

You generally work around 30 hours a week, with more during the peak times. Pay is around $9.47 per hour which is minimum wage in Washington State.

With a large number of returning locals each season to work, it can be tough to break into a job so your first season you might need to go with your second or third pick of jobs, especially if you get in late. However, the interview process is very straight-forward and easy.

One of the downsides to Baker is the long commute each day up from Bellingham. You will often need to leave around 5.30am in the morning on the staff shuttle to get you up to work, and you won't get back home again until 7pm. There is only a small amount of staff accommodation on-mountain at Baker so many employees live in Bellingham.

However, you generally get pretty good ride breaks during the day and management is quite good with getting employees out on the snow. If you are paying for gas to get up the mountain each day, the low pay means you won't be able to save very much, even if you'll have a pretty great time.

 

Where to Live?

There is on-mountain staff accommodation for a small number of employees. Many other staff live in Bellingham, Maple Falls, Kendall and Glacier, although you really need a car, or have friends with cars, to live in these places as the staff shuttle will only take you up to Baker on your work days.

The local paper is the Bellingham Herald which is a good place to look for places to rent.

Maple Falls, Kendall and Glacier are each tiny little mountain towns with not much in the way of nightlife. In Glacier, Milano’s is a little Italian place with beers on tap. Chair 9 does some tasty pizza and is the best après-ski at Baker, with a small but nice vibe after a day riding or working.

Bellingham has more in the way of nightlife, and more choices for seasonal accommodation.

You might pay $700 upwards for a 2 bedroom place if you are willing to share in Bellingham.

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