Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Crystal Mountain

The third stop on this winter's "IKON pass ski tour" was Crystal Mountain Resort, in the neighboring state of Washington.  After flying to our destinations the previous two ski junkets, I was happy this trip didn't require air travel - the resort was a relatively short four-hour drive from home.

Enjoying adult beverages at the bar

It was round three of the "Adventures of Kim and Linda."  Leaving on Valentine's Day, we abandoned our hubbies for this ski trip.  Taking a leisurely drive up Interstate 5 and then eastward through a few Seattle suburbs, we arrived at our destination by mid-afternoon.  After checking in to our very small (and expensive!) base area hotel room, Kim and I wandered across a large parking lot to check out Crystal Mountain's day lodge.  At the bar, we celebrated our safe arrival with a round of adult beverages.

Cute, alpine-themed buildings

The wind had picked up during the last leg of our drive and by the time we arrived at Crystal Mountain it was absolutely howling.  I felt sorry for the folks who were still out skiing!  With that wind it had to be absolutely bone-chilling cold.  Not long after sitting down in the bar, we began to notice snowflakes swirling in the air.  By the time we walked back across the parking lot to find dinner, the skies were dumping snow.

There wasn't much for dining options at Crystal Mountain's base area.  Kim and I had the choice of an expensive German-themed restaurant or a deli.  Naturally, we chose the lower-priced deli, but it still wasn't cheap.  We shared a mediocre plate of nachos and washed them down with $12 beers. (Yes, each!)  

This is what 10 inches of overnight snow looks like

The next day dawned to a thick coating of fluffy powder snow.  I was pleased to see that a whopping 10 inches had fallen overnight.  It completely covered my car, parked along the road outside our hotel.  I was giddy.  Can you say powder day?  

Like many of the Pacific NW ski resorts this season, lower than normal snowfall had plagued Crystal Mountain.  As a matter of fact, upon reading a few dire conditions reports from their website, Kim and I almost pulled the plug on this trip.  But being within the "7-day no refund" window on our hotel by the time we thought about cancelling forced us to carry on.  Now I was glad we did!

It had snowed every day Kim and I had been in Utah, and we joked that now we'd also brought the snow to Crystal Mountain.  (Maybe they need to pay us to come here more often!)

Can you say powder day?

Crystal Mountain's parking lots were strung along their long entrance road.  A shuttle bus picked up skiers from each lot and ferried them to the lodge.  However, the lot closest to the lodge didn't offer any such transportation.  Unfortunately for us, that's where our hotel was situated.  Reaching the lifts would require a long trek across this icy parking lot in our ski boots.  I considered moving my car into the first lot to make a shorter walk, but a nearby resort worker told us this area was reserved for paid parking.  Apparently people pay $2,000 to park here for the season!

Kim and I were both miffed that our hotel didn't offer any kind of skier transport (especially for the price we paid!)  Although I opted to brave the walk in my ski boots, Kim wisely decided to carry her boots and change at the lodge.  (I've often joked that walking across an icy parking lot wearing ski boots and carrying your ski equipment should be an Olympic sport.)

Yes, the snow was great!

Fortunately we both made the trip across the parking lot with zero mishaps.  Kim went into the lodge to change into her boots and rent a locker to store her shoes.  I was practically salivating at all the fresh powder snow, so Kim told me to go ahead and take a couple runs and she'd catch up.

I jumped on Crystal's gondola and it whisked me to the very top of the mountain.  Having skied here twice in 2017 and '18 I remembered where to go upon disembarking.  Skies were cloudy and a bit foggy so the wonderful views this place was known for were practically nil.  But the snow amount and quality more than made up for that.  Although the early-bird skiers had tracked up most of the slopes already, I started down a run and had a great time swishing through the fluffy goodness.

Clouds parting at the summit

I did have one minor mishap - approaching the chairlift base, the slope began to flatten.  Being in fairly deep snow, I wasn't going fast enough to cut through it and something tripped me up (I blame a "snow snake!")  Before I knew what was happening, my skis stopped abruptly but my body continued forward and I skidded face-first into the snow.

Ugh - not a good way to start the day!  I picked myself up, dusted the snow off my goggles and helmet, and scooted uphill to retrieve my poles.  Luckily, nothing seemed to be hurt except my pride.

The nearby mountains were gorgeous

Kim rode up the gondola and we reunited at the top.  After a run here, we headed for the "Forest Queen" chairlift and spent most of the morning making laps down its powder-filled slopes.

Although the two areas we skied that day seemed to have adequate snowpack, I noticed the lower part of the mountain was a different story.  Grass and bushes poked up from a scant snow layer.  The lifts in the bottom third of the resort weren't running at all - despite the previous night's snowfall, there still wasn't enough coverage to safely ski.  Low snow amounts seemed to have affected the skier traffic coming to the resort.  Due to lack of skiers, we encountered scaled back services throughout - only one mid-mountain lodge was open, and the base area had just one dining establishment serving food and drink.

Cold temperatures kept the snow in good shape

Another thing Kim and I observed at Crystal Mountain - people were rude.  We were shuffling through the lift line when two young men on snowboards barged through, cutting in front of us so they could ride up with their buddies, without so much as an "excuse me."  And several times when Kim and I would stop at the side of a run to take a quick break (which is where you are supposed to stop instead of the middle of a run), skiers and boarders would fly by at high rates of speed, often missing us by inches.  The only ski patrol I saw the entire two days we skied at Crystal was a group working on someone who'd crashed and injured themselves.  Not sure if the resort cut back on ski patrol too?  Kim and I have skied at many different resorts, and we'd never witnessed such bad behavior as we did here.

Sunny skies the next day meant Mt. Rainier views

By midafternoon we both began to tire and the snow started to transform into bumpy moguls from all the skier traffic.  Moguls wear out already tired legs, so Kim and I decided to call it a day.  Following the designated run with adequate snow coverage all the way to the base got us safely back.  We ate a very early dinner in the day lodge and then spent the rest of the evening in our hotel room, watching the one channel we could get on our TV, and reading (me) or doing puzzles (Kim).  There wasn't much else to do unless you wanted to hang out in the dingy bar next to the deli (which we did not care to revisit.)

Another great mountain capture

The next morning dawned with clear skies.  Hooray - no visibility problems!  Kim and I traveled to the mountaintop once again because I wanted her to see the killer view of Mt. Rainier from the gondola's upper terminal.  And yes, it was a beautiful panorama of snowy peaks.  Mt. Rainier looked spectacular decked out in her finest white.  Unfortunately, the wind was absolutely howling across the ridge, blowing snow into our faces, so I stopped just long enough to snap two photos, before quickly descending to a lower, more wind-protected elevation.

The slopes were nicely groomed

Temperatures stayed cold enough overnight to preserve that the nice fluffy powder snow we'd enjoyed the day before.  Resort workers had transformed yesterday's bumpy surfaces into smooth groomed corduroy.  No moguls today!  It was easy skiing all morning, as we zipped effortlessly downhill.  The skies were bright blue, and the scenery spectacular.

Gotta get a ski selfie!

Today happened to be Friday.  Although we enjoyed short lift lines to begin with, it didn't last.  Word of new snow and people getting a jump on the weekend brought out the masses, and soon Kim and I found ourselves standing in long lines.  The slopes were also getting really crowded.  I don't care for lots of people flying by while I'm trying to ski.  I'm always afraid someone will plow into me.  Tired of fighting crowds, and knowing we had a long drive ahead, Kim and I decided to quit at noon and head home.

The weather was so nice, I didn't want to leave!

Crystal Mountain Resort got mixed reviews from both Kim and I.  Although it had lots of great - and very steep - terrain, a lot of the slopes weren't open due to lack of snow.  And a lot of the dining areas weren't open either.   It was like they'd already given up on the season.  The base area lodging didn't impress us at all.  Our room was old, worn, and extremely tiny - not worth the big bucks we spent.  It didn't even have a microwave oven, so we had to eat all our meals at the resort, which was expensive.  Breakfast options were extremely limited, and dinner wasn't much better.  We had to walk a far distance to get to the lifts, with no shuttle option.  And we found many of the people who recreate here rude, with no visible ski patrol presence to keep folks in line.

So, although we got to use our IKON passes again on a nearby Pacific NW resort, I doubt we'll return anytime soon.


  1. Beautiful pictures--- Very well done!

  2. It's sad when so much of your trip was disappointing. At least you had that snowfall to make the trip worthwhile.

  3. ...gorgeous, we "enjoyed" a snowless winter.

  4. Good to hear a ski report and enjoy all you wonderful photos!

  5. Sounds to me like you've had a great winter for skiing! It's been terrible here.

  6. Amazing winter vistas and fabulous skiing when the slopes weren't inundated. What a shame about the rest of Crystal Mountain.

  7. Sorry to hear that people were rude. The scenery is beautiful


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