2005 | Crystal’s still tops for local skiers

Crystal Mountain general manager John Kircher wasn’t upset when he picked up the October issue of Ski magazine.

Last year, another publication, Skiing Magazine, tabbed Crystal the seventh-best resort in North America. Thanks to a bad snow year, this month’s issue of Skiing Magazine drops Crystal to No. 20. And Crystal didn’t even crack Ski’s top 50.

“Those national rankings are nice, but they are not our goal,” Kircher said. “Our goal is to be known as the best ski area in Washington.”

Crystal has achieved that goal. Pros and readers alike picked Crystal as the state’s best ski area in a News Tribune survey.

In terms of amenities, Crystal can’t draw a national crowd like the region’s giants: British Columbia’s Whistler Blackcomb, Oregon’s Mount Bachelor and Idaho’s Sun Valley.

Unlike those big resorts that offer expansive base villages, Crystal is, and likely always will be, a day resort.

“You aren’t going to do a lot of shopping at Crystal,” says Keith Rollins, manager of South Hill’s Ski Mart and considered by some to be the mountain’s best skier. “And there isn’t a lot of lodging. Anybody who makes the trip across country to ski at Crystal is pretty hard-core.”

But as for the terrain, few offer as much as Crystal. With 3,100 vertical feet and 2,300 acres, Crystal is the largest ski area in the state.

The lift-serviced area is packed with a wide variety of runs, from easy cruisers like Queens Run to expert-only trails like Exterminator.

But what really makes Crystal popular with experts such as Rollins is the vast backcountry. The South Country offers the steepest runs in the state on Silver King and The Throne. The North Country is loaded with longer runs, bowl skiing and its own intense drops such as Niagaras.

“There are so many aspects to Crystal,” Rollins says. “It’s the best in Washington.”

Precisely what Kircher likes to hear.

“We are a local ski area,” Kircher says. “We can’t control the snow, so we try to do out best with what we can control. If you can give people good skiing and good food, they’re going to be happy.”

Craig Hill, The News Tribune