Duncan Howat

DEEP ENOUGH: Duncan Howat’s Dynasty at Mt. Baker Ski Area

There are no condos at Mt. Baker Ski Area. No high-rise hotels or luxury storefronts. And if there’s a hot tub, it’s the best kept secret since Bigfoot’s whereabouts. In the day and age of mega-resorts and conglomerate ski passes, this small, locally owned, 1,000-acre-ish ski hill at the end of Washington state’s Highway 542 is as much an anomaly as it is a rarity. 

Mt. Baker is not a secret. Its snowfall is mythic, breaking records and placing Baker toward the top of many powder skiers’ bucket lists. Yet perhaps its most impressive characteristic is that the ski area has remained independently owned and operated for more than half a century, staving off outside acquisition and bankruptcy, while cultivating a fiercely passionate local community.

At the helm of the ship, navigating the rolling waves of an industry that has redefined itself countless times over his five decades in charge, is Duncan Howat. As Mt. Baker’s general manager from 1968 to 2019, Howat has been a part of almost every major moment of the ski area’s storied history—everything from historic storm cycles and international recognition to drought and communal tragedy. In many ways, his impact on Washington state skiing has been larger than life. In fact, when he steps away from his role this winter, three people will step in to fill his shoes. Howat represents the last guard in a generation that changed the way we ski, leaving a lasting imprint steeped in community, deep snow and an enduring family legacy…

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