It’s hard to beat Crystal Mountain on a sunny day.
When I stepped off the resort’s gondola, I was treated to a stunning view of 14,410-foot Mount Rainier just 12 miles to the south. Not a bad way to begin a February day at Washington’s largest ski area.
Snow, terrain and more
- Location: Crystal is situated off of State Highway 410, 39 miles from Enumclaw, Wash., a small town at the base of the Cascade foothills. The ski area is about a two-hour drive from downtown Seattle.
- Snowfall: Nearly 500 inches a year fall here annually. Snowmaking was upgraded on the lower mountain following the drought year of 2015, and additional snowmaking improvements are planned for the mid-mountain.
- Terrain: About 2,600 acres are spread over several lift-served basins. About 35 percent of the terrain is rated advanced; 65 percent is beginner and intermediate.
- Vertical: Lift-served vertical is 2,602 feet (the base is 4,400 feet; chairlift access goes to 7,002 feet) but those willing to do a little hiking can stretch the vertical to more than 3,000 feet.
- Lifts: One eight-passenger gondola, two high-speed detachable six-passenger lifts, two high speed quads, one fixed-grip quad, two triples, two doubles and one children’s surface lift.
- Views: On clear days, Mount Rainier dominates the skyline, but you’ll see much more. The Olympic Mountains are visible to the west, as are most major peaks in the Cascade Range from the Canadian border to Oregon.
Lot to lift access
- Crystal has five parking lots. The lower lots are served by free shuttles to ferry skiers to the base area. In addition, drivers can drop off equipment and passengers next to the ticket kiosk before parking.
- Private bus and van services operate from Bellevue, Seattle and Tacoma bringing skiers to the mountain. Information is here.
- Several private lodging options are available on the mountain. Three lodges and two condominiums operate at the base area; another lodge is about 15 minutes away on Highway 410.
- Drinking: Washington’s best après ski bar, the cozy Snorting Elk, is located in the old-school Alpine Inn just across a wooden bridge next to the top parking lot. You’ll find a well-oiled group of hard-core skiers swapping tall tales here at all hours.
- Dining: On the mountain, there are two day lodges, one in base area, the other in Campbell Basin. The upscale Summit House restaurant at the top of the gondola offers sit-down dining with views of Mount Rainier.
- Vibe: Because it’s Washington’s largest ski area, Crystal has a “resort-y” feel. While a great many hard-core skiers of all income levels come here, you’ll also run into some very rich folks.
- Tickets are $72 for an adult all-day pass; $48 for 70 and older.
- Highest-elevation, biggest and best ski area in Washington.
- Can be crowded on weekends; weekdays are empty.