Crystal Mountain

Crystal_3

We consider Crystal to be our home mountain; we ski there far more often than anywhere else. It’s a day trip from Seattle, the largest ski area in Washington, and has more acres of the terrain that we like to ski than it’s competitors have total area.  

Crystal would be a decent place to first learn to ski, but if you’re looking for miles and miles of beginner runs you might be happier elsewhere. Likewise for intermediates; although Crystal does their best with the topography they’ve been given, folks looking for endless straight-down-the-fall-line groomers will find limited options.

Crystal_northway_2

In terms of vertical rise and skiable acreage, Crystal is similar to many famous Utah or Colorado resorts (it’s stats are very similar to Breckenridge, actually). But because the vast majority of those acres are found in Crystal’s ample advanced or expert terrain, the area really shines if you’re a stronger skier/boarder (or an intermediate looking to improve your craft).

The terrain is primarily on the east & north faces of a long ridgeline punctuated by several peaks & saddles. Lifts take you near the top of 4 of these peaks; several others can be reached by hikes varying from 5 to 45 minutes or more. There are open bowls, beautiful tree runs (as loose or as tight as you want them), and chutes for experts who explore a bit. In the pictures I’ve attached here, literally everything you see is in-bounds and avalanche-controlled.

Many visitors comment that the mountains here are steep; they force you to get better. There’s usually ample snow to help with that, and a maritime snowpack (i.e. higher moisture content) makes for excellent coverage and a monster base by spring. And while there’s an element of truth to the “Cascade concrete” reputation, the reality is that snowcone slush falls from the sky infrequently. No, this isn’t Utah’s freakishly dry snow, but a majority of the time the snow at Crystal is great compared to most places you can ski in the world… especially on the upper mountain above ~5500 ft.

I’m not eager for the weekend crowds to get any larger (they range from mildy annoying to ridiculous on holidays), but if you’re in Seattle and want to go skiing or boarding, Crystal is probably your best bet. The only exception is that there’s no halfpipe and not much of a terrain park; go to Stevens Pass if you want to ride park. Go to Crystal for pretty much everything else – especially if you’re an advanced or expert rider.

Crystal_northway_1

 

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