For the 2nd time in the last 4 years I started my ski season at Crystal Mountain, this being my fourth trip there. Reflecting on that it says a lot about the place. It really has everything you could ever want in ski terrain (as easy or as difficult as one could hope for), combined with an abundance of spectacular backcountry objectives right from the parking lot, with first class lifts and facilities, some sparse base “development” that can have its charms.....and all of it (generally) less than 2 hours from Seattle. Oh, and did I mention that when Ullr deems it so it can get incredible amounts of snow, and (notwithstanding some snow level variations) it can even be blower? Point being, if you’ve never been, plan a trip. Sure, planning a trip to Crystal (or anywhere in the PNW for that matter) can have its challenges, but I’ve skied the Seattle environs 6 different times, and have never been disappointed.
Even with the problems Crystal experienced this past weekend, we just skied three days of incredible conditions, much of it deep, untracked, light powder, and we never waited in a lift line longer than 10 minutes (save for getting to the front of the gondola line early Monday). I’m sure people had their issues this past weekend, but they didn’t affect me. To an extent I think Crystal (and Seattle skiers in general) are a tad spoiled.
So, as usual, the start of my ski season waited for the right conditions. I’m definitely a quality over quantity kind of guy. Inspiration finally stuck so 10 days ago I fired up Open Snow and the Delta app to see if conditions, tickets and an open weekend would align, and boy did they. It was clear the PNW was in for a big cycle, so it was on.
This would be a different trip for me, as I’ve been wanting to take someone with me on one of my chases for a while now. With my son home from college and my daughter graduated I got to bring them both. Crystal is a great mountain with which to introduce someone to western skiing (more so than remote Baker, which was my other consideration), and with suitable lodging available at the base of the mountain the choice (although debated in my mind a while) was easy. Being with the kids there would be no backcountry for me this trip, but I didn’t need it to get my fill of deep, untracked powder turns. Being with the kids, introducing them to my addiction, was priceless.
With more than 41 inches of snow from Sat to Mon it wasn’t a great trip for pictures, but I’ll drop what I have soon. I also have a little video to work with, although it’s time for a new GoPro as mine has proven unreliable. So don’t worry, more than just words are coming!
Also, I follow Crystal on social media....saw a lot of posts over the weekend about parking issues...lots full pre 8am and ppl being turned around to use a shuttle way down in town, only to find out that was shut down for the day as well. Did this impact you at all? Saw something about Ikon pass creating massive numbers here all of a sudden. Curious what you saw.
Crystal has had crowding issues for years - as does Stevens and even Snowqualmie. There is not enough capacity for the Seattle skier population. When you add in the 1 lane for the last 40 miles into Crystal and more into Stevens and you are going to have issues. They also have had some recent big storms that always increase the crowds.
As a result of the crowding, Crystal is going to stop selling walk up tickets on weekends and holidays.
Interesting development with them limiting ticket sales. Will be interesting to see if they go Deer Valley, or align with Pow Mow and Magic! Crystal is a mountain that stacks up with the likes of Alta, Snowbird and many other big, iconic western mountains, and has definite logistical issues. I’ll get to my thoughts on the Crystal conundrum in a few, but let me get some trip report details in first!
I skied Crystal near closing day last April (same trip I skied closing day at Aleyeska on), and I definitely want to get back there. What a great place, like you said, on par with other big western names, but yet still kinda no frills (which I like) in terms of "development" (met some ppl staying in one of the houses in some neighborhood set above the beginner hill, which they all jumped in a mini snowcat to get up to the house after we left the Snorting Elk and I was like "wtf?", googled it, turns out the houses all have some sort of snow machine access and you're allowed to park in Crystals parking lot with the stuff, pretty interesting). Some really nice in bounds terrain, and multiple pods within the place that had different feels. I hope to make it back as part of a larger PNW trip. I have a bunch of pics from that trip, I never got around to posting a TR. Aleyeska was quite a closing day as well with 24" storm on Easter Sunday 2019.