2005 | Crazy for Crystal

November 6, 2005 

In addition to great skiing, Crystal Mountain ski area offers spectacular views of snowy basins and Mount Rainier.


In a bit of a surprise, readers picked Queens Run, an easy-rated cruiser run, as their favorite run in the state.

How could such a run be more popular than more challenging runs?

Crystal general manager John Kircher was only briefly surprised by this news. “Pound for pound, it’s a great run,” he said. “People always have fond memories of the runs they learned on. Plus, people tend to love longer runs. It’s a nice run.” The run drops 1,147 feet over more than a mile.

The pros and readers split on their favorite lift, but they both picked lifts from Crystal. What makes High Campbell and Rainier Express (REX) so special?

High Campbell, the pros’ choice, accesses some of the most hard-core runs on the mountain, including Silver King and The Throne in Crystal’s south backcountry. REX, the readers’ choice, is a quick, steep ride up to awesome views of Mount Rainier as well as intermediate and expert runs in Green Valley and the North Country. “Rainier Express would get my vote, too,” Kircher says.

Crystal Mountain is also known for having a good ski patrol. How does the mountain promote this group?

Crystal prints about 4,000 trading cards of its avalanche dogs each year and hands them out to kids. “We want the ski patrol to interact with the public and not just enforce rules,” Kircher says. “And I think they do that well.”

Adult lift tickets are up $5 to $50 this season even though Kircher said he hoped to hold off the increase for a year. What happened?

Kircher says you can blame inflation, last season’s miserable weather and big future plans for the price hike. But he plans to keep the price at $50 for a few years. Prices stayed at $45 for two years. “The trick is to control costs and still be as reasonable as you can,” Kircher says.

Plans to expand Crystal Mountain have been approved. When will we start seeing major changes at Crystal?

As soon as this season ends, work will start on a $6.5 million tram that will transport skiers and boarders from the base area to the top of Green Valley. The tram is expected to be finished in time for the 2007-08 season and could make Crystal a summer destination, too. Other plans call for remodeling the Summit House and adding lift service to what is currently the north backcountry for the 2008-09 season.


Crystal repaved the parking lots this summer.


The big addition last year was the $4.1 million Campbell Basin Lodge. Crystal also cleared some trees on the Kelly’s Gap and Right Angle runs, creating more open skiing.


 • Best Resort: Unanimous

 • Best Run: Readers (Queens Run), TNT (Iceberg to Deer Fly)

 • Hardest Run: Pros (Pinball), TNT (The Throne)

 • Best Backcountry: Unanimous

 • Best Rental Shop: Unanimous

 • Best Apres Ski: Unanimous

 • Best Steeps: Unanimous

 • Best Base Lodge: Readers

 • Best Lodge Food: Unanimous (Campbell Basin Lodge)

 • Best Ski Patrol: Unanimous

 • Best Medical Clinic: Pros, Readers (tie)

 • Best Chairlift: Pros (High Campbell), Readers and TNT (Rainier Express)

 • Best Parking: Pros, Readers

 • Worst Parking: Readers


Lift tickets: $50 general, $45 youths (11-17). $25 seniors (70 and older), $5 children

Season pass: $940 general, $825 youths (11-17), $250 seniors (70 and older), $50 children (10 and younger)

Night skiing: $25 general, $20 youths (11-17), $5 children (10 and younger); Fridays and Saturdays from 4 to 8 p.m. on three lifts

Hours: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Terrain: 1,300 acres serviced by lifts, 1,000 acres of backcountry, 400-foot long half pipe

Lifts: 10 lifts (two high-speed six-passenger lifts, two high-speed quads, two triples, three doubles, one children’s surface lift)

Trails: 50 runs (13 percent beginner, 57 percent intermediate, 30 percent advanced)

Summit elevation: 7,012 feet

Base elevation: 4,400 feet

Vertical drop: 3,100 feet including backcountry return

Annual snowfall: 345 inches

Cross-country: None

More info: 360-663-2265; snow line, 1-888-SKI-6199; skicrystal.com

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