Crystal Mountain Ski Area, WA
Big mountain sidecountry access, lots of snow, good lift system, locals only
Think east coast down home meets west coast big lines and pow
Often dismissed by outsiders as wet, Crystal’s upper mountain and sidecountry offer the goods for you riders of the storm. Crystal is a ski area, emphasis on area. The lack of “resort” ensures this area focuses on snow and terrain. Because it is far from commercial air service and National Forest restrictions limit development, Crystal will remain exactly the way the pow hounds prefer—local and rider focused. Real estate will not guide decision making, dining will not drive the price of a lift ticket, and riders will not fight tourists for pow lines—which brings us to our next point.
Slush, Cascade Concrete, mank, sponge…it’s true. It’s better for core that you hear it too. Those who would fly into Seattle in their private jets for a weekend of groomers will certainly find damp conditions—probably even sleet during their holiday. The area gets slammed with a never-ending cycle of Pacific storms. Mags (especially the one titled by a three letter word) will speak of the damp conditions and lack of dining, accommodations, spas, and shopping. But the secret: above the groomers and sleet, is an upper mountain piling with snow.
Remember the Vancouver Olympics, how the locals were getting five kinds of pow on the upper mountain while the comps down below were getting rained on? Same thing at Crystal. With 3100 feet of vert, the core is high and dry in the pow while the newbs down in the grooms complain.
The storm provides the lightest conditions, as NW pow will often set up following the stormy goodness. Besides, it will be tracked out by the bluebird day (if there ever is one).
Ride Rain Ex or Green Valley’s Trees until High Campbell opens. From High Campbell hit the bowls and chutes of Campbell Basin. Hike the Throne for untracked.
An alternate to High Campbell is the Northway lift. Northway, which accesses the Northback Country, is a relatively new lift which provides access to what use to be hike to and shuttle bus terrain. There are plentiful cliffs, drops and hucks from the lift. Although most terrain is accessed from the new double-fixed chair, some worthy terrain is still accessed only by bootpack. On the coldest of days, skip the return on Northway and ride to the main road. Beware the mank on the bottom half on warmer days.
When avy conditions permit (and only with the proper gear) go to Southback Country. Hike Silver King ridge for some epic sidecountry. Its the imposing peak chair left of The Throne. This is where The North Face Masters, among other big mountain comps are held. Proceed with local knowledge and bring you’re avy gear, partner, and A-game for this ridge.
Park and Pipe
Crystal Mountain, an alpine dominated area, did not have a terrain park until this year. Sasquatch Jib Park, under the Forest Queen Chair, offers an assortment of off-the-shelf boxes , rails and bonks. As the name suggests, the park has no jump line. There are plenty of natural airs in South Backcountry and Northback Country. For a full park, go to Snoqualmie. Bring a poncho.