The Ski Mountain
At 2,600 acres, Crystal Mountain is the biggest resort in Washington and its 486 inches of annual snowfall make the $68 lift tickets well worth it. The resort is a serious skiers mountain and a two hour or less drive from Seattle/Tacoma. You’ll see plenty of hardcore families ripping together, but the terrain – especially in the backcountry – draws a diverse crowd of ages and skill levels. The mountain is full of steeps, but has plenty of groomers that supply a variety of terrain for all ability levels.
The Mountain Experience
The resort is tucked into the northeast corner of the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest off of scenic Highway 410. Crystal provides idyllic views of the tallest mountain in the state – Mt. Rainier – on clear days. The tree-lined access road and snow-capped log cabins may make you feel isolated, but Crystal is an easy day trip from major cities in the Puget Sound. With 57 named trails, two backcountry areas, and an open boundary policy, it will take you several days to explore everything.
Crystal Mountain Ski Terrain
• Beginner: This isn’t a typical beginner’s mountain, but there are designated slow-skiing zones off Forest Queen and Discovery, and terrain designed for beginners at the base area. Take Discovery or the new Quicksilver chair to access easier terrain. For confident beginners there’s nothing better than taking laps on Queen’s, a long tree-lined groomer that winds from the top to the base.
Current Snow Conditions
• Intermediate: Roughly half of the terrain is labeled intermediate, and the bulk of it is accessed from the top of Rainier Express (you’ll likely hear it called Rex). No matter the snow conditions, take a few quick laps on Lucky Shot, where you’ll hit cat tracks, groomed bowls, and tree-lined terrain. If Lucky Shot is crowded, ski off the front side of the summit down Green Valley, an open bowl (moguls optional).
• Advanced: About a third of the mountain is advanced terrain. The higher you go, the more open, exposed bowls you’ll find. Northway in the north backcountry has several chutes and a few wide open bowls. If you want to earn your turns, take the new High Campbell express and hike to Silver King, one of the six peaks that span the ski area. You’ll find big lines off the north side of the King and good tree skiing off the backside of Silver Basin. If there’s new snow, hit Exterminator or Employee Housing for long powder runs on a sustained steep that drops 1,500 vertical feet.
• Terrain Park: The Sasquatch park on Mr. Magoo does the trick (no pun intended). It started as a jib park with rails and boxes, but the resort recently added a variety of jumps.
The mountain’s vast real estate means you always have options. Patchy snow at the base? Head to the summit. Cloudy or flat light on the north side? Chances are you can find sun or blue skies if you head south. That said, the weather can change quickly, so always be prepared with extra layers. First tracks go to those in line around 8:30 a.m. before the lifts open. On weekends, you may have to wait up to 10 minutes on the beginner-friendly Forest Queen, but lines move quickly and are nonexistent on weekdays.
You can’t go wrong with the mountain nachos and a pitcher of beer at the Bullwheel or the Que Tu Taco Truck. For those who want mountain luxury, take the gondola to the Summit House for a fresh Pacific Northwest menu and wine list.
Nearest Ski Town
Greenwater is the closest town, though not really a ski town. And while there are some lodging options, the area is mainly residential.
There are several offerings right off the base area and slopeside rentals off the Gold Hills chair, as well as private cabins scattered along Highway 410 and in Greenwater. Crystal draws a large RV culture on weekends. Spots are first come first serve and power hookups cost $35. For greater lodging options, the town of Enumclaw, 40 miles away is your best bet. Use the “Explore Crystal Mountain’s Best Ski Lodging Deals” box above and right to find your best Lodging choices.
Skiing with Kids
There are group and private lessons daily, and a freeride program led by professional skier, Ingrid Backstrom for kids who want to hit backcountry terrain. The slow speed areas are monitored in family-friendly zones.
Lift Tickets and Season Pass Cost
Packages can provide a lot of savings if you know what you’re looking for. The first-timers package includes a two-hour lesson, lift ticket, and rentals. And the more lift tickets you buy at once, the more you save.
By Anna Callaghan