Crystal Mountain (Washington)
Crystal in March 2015
40 mi. (65 km) north
|Vertical||3,100 ft (945 m)
2,602 ft (793 m) - lifts
|Top elevation||7,012 ft (2,137 m)
7,002 ft (2,134 m) - lifts
|Base elevation||3,912 ft (1,192 m)
4,400 ft (1,341 m) - lifts
|Skiable area||2,600 acres (10.5 km2)
2,300 acres (9.3 km2)
300 acres (1.2 km2)
- 11% easiest
- 54% more difficult
- 35% most difficult
|Longest run||2.5 mi (4 km)
|Lift system||1 gondola
1 magic carpet
|Lift capacity||20,760 / hr|
|Snowfall||350 in (29.2 ft; 8.9 m)|
|Night skiing||Discovery chair open until 6PM some nights in 2014-15 ski season.|
Crystal Mountain is an alpine ski area in the western United States, in the Cascade Range of Washington, southeast of Seattle. Located in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Crystal is the largest ski resort in the state and is readily accessible from the Seattle-Tacoma metropolitan area through Enumclaw via Highway 410. It is primarily a day-use area, with nine chairlifts, various dining locations, and multiple hotels. Crystal is home to the Mt. Rainier Gondola; installed in 2010, it provides year-round access to the resort's summit and is the state's only high-speed gondola. Crystal Mountain is owned and operated by Boyne Resorts, a private Michigan-based resort company.
Crystal Mountain Resort opened in December 1962 with two double chairlifts. The first of these lifts, Miner's Basin was decommissioned in the summer of 2011. Its route was close to that of the new gondola and ended by the top of the Exterminator and Deerfly runs. The other original lift (Iceberg Ridge) was removed when the current Rainier Express chair was built. The site, just northeast of Mount Rainier National Park, was chosen after some Tacoma skiers were unable to start a resort within the boundaries of the park.
The following summer the Green Valley double chairlift was built, and the Quicksilver lift followed in 1964.
In 1965, Crystal hosted the collegiate ski championships in late March and the following week the U.S. Alpine Ski Championships, which included famous racers such as Karl Schranz of Austria, Olympic medalists Jimmie Heuga and Billy Kidd of the U.S., future triple gold medalist Jean-Claude Killy of France, and future gold medalist Nancy Greene of Canada. Crystal hosted the national championships again in 1968, a few weeks after the Winter Olympics. Kidd, Heuga, and Greene were again in the field, as well as Spider Sabich. Back from the Olympics and the World Cup tour, local Judy Nagel won the women's slalom and combined titles at age 16. Five years earlier, her father Jack Nagel (1926–2004) and the racing school at Crystal were featured in Sports Illustrated, with her older sister Cathy, then 14, on the cover.
The Campbell Basin chairlift opened in 1970, which opened Campbell Basin to skiing for the first time and traveled from the base area all the way to the site of the current Campbell Basin Lodge.
Two weeks after the 1972 Olympics, Crystal hosted the World Cup tour in late February 1972 with two downhills for both men and women, with the start above Campbell Basin. Weather forced a low start; the winning men's times were under 90 seconds. Newly crowned Olympic downhill champion Bernhard Russi of Switzerland won the Saturday race and took second on Sunday. American Mike Lafferty of Eugene, Oregon took second and fourth in the two downhills. A women's slalom scheduled for Sunday was cancelled due to weather.
In 1974, Crystal added its first triple chairlift, Bullion Basin. High Campbell, the highest lift at Crystal, was added in 1976. It was pre-owned, purchased from the defunct Yodelin Ski Area near Stevens Pass. High Campbell serves the summit of Silver Queen and provides access to The Throne, Silver King, Campbell Basin, Avalanche Basin, and Silver Basin.
In 1984, Bullion Basin was moved to its current location as the Gold Hills lift. That same year, the Rendezvous and Discovery triple chairlifts were installed.
Washington’s first high-speed detachable quad chairlift, the Rainier Express was installed in the summer of 1988, replacing the original chair 2. A fixed grip quad, Midway Shuttle, was added to connect the base area with Rainier Express. The Campbell Basin double was shortened because the lower half was no longer necessary. These upgrades were funded with money from investors, who in return would get future discounts on lift tickets and season passes. Today this group of investors is the Crystal Mountain Founder's Club.
In the mid-1990s, Crystal Mountain became deeply in debt and was unable to pay for further important improvements such as new lifts and lodges. The original investors sold the area to Boyne Resorts in March 1997. The deal directed Boyne to spend at least $15 million in capital improvements during the first ten years. In the first two years, Boyne purchased two high speed six passenger chairlifts, the Chinook and Forest Queen Express lifts to replace Midway Shuttle and Rendezvous, respectively. Boyne also made other improvements such as a new rental facility, paved parking lots, and five new Bombardier snowcat grooming machines.
The Green Valley double chairlift was replaced with a high-speed quad in the summer of 2000. In the summer of 2007, Crystal underwent a major expansion, building the Northway chairlift in the former North Backcountry. This increased developed terrain by 70% to 2,300 acres (9.3 km2). In addition, the Summit House restaurant was remodeled.
During the summer of 2010, a terrain park was construction and the Mt. Rainier Gondola was installed. The gondola travels directly from the base area to the summit house, and its first day of operation was New Year's Day 2011. On March 10, 2014, during an extremely severe avalanche period, as part of normal control work the ski patrol triggered an avalanche which destroyed the High Campbell chairlift. During the summer of 2014 work to replace the High Campbell and Quicksilver chairs was initiated. Both new chairs are scheduled to be in service for the winter of 2014-15. The High Campbell Chair, now renamed Chair 6 opened for the 2014-15 ski season. The Quicksilver chair was successfully upgraded from a double to a fixed-grip quad chair. The top station was lowered 250 feet to cut off the steep top part of the Quicksilver Run, now rated a green circle, over a blue square. The ribbon-cutting ceremony for both chairs was held on January 8, 2015 at 9AM for Quicksilver and 10AM for Chair 6.
World Cup alpine racers
Master Development Plan
Following the acquisition by Boyne Resorts, Crystal Mountain submitted a Master Development Plan (MDP) to the USFS, which included six alternatives for redevelopment of the mountain. A draft environmental impact study was issued in 2001 and finalized in August 2004. John Phipps, Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest Supervisor, selected Alternative Six with modifications from the Final Environmental Impact Statement. It approves new facilities including an aerial tram to the summit, a new chairlift in Northback, a surface lift, existing chairlift upgrades, base facility renovations, employee housing and wastewater facilities. The plan is the largest in Washington’s history, costing Boyne an estimated $40 million.
- Northway (C-12) provided direct lift access to the area north of the original ski area. Previously, this area was known as North Backcountry and required a long traverse or shuttle ride back to the base area. The new lift is a fixed-grip double chairlift from Doppelmayr CTEC, installed in the summer of 2007 with a top terminal on Northway Peak.
- Mt. Rainier Gondola provides direct access from the base area plaza to the summit, allowing for year-round access. Sightseers, skiers, hikers, and diners can all ride the gondola. This Doppelmayr CTEC 8-passenger lift was completed in 2010 and opened on January 1, 2010.
- High Campbell "Chair 6" Replacement (C-2) provided direct lift access to the area around Silver Queen and the Southback area. Previously, this area was served by a fixed-grip double known as High Campbell. The old chair was destroyed by an avalanche in March 2014 and was inoperable. The new lift is a fixed-grip double chairlift from HTM Skytrac, installed in the summer of 2014 with a top terminal on Silver Queen at 7002', still providing access to Powder Bowl, Southback and Campbell Basin. The new chair can withstand higher winds than the original.
- Quicksilver Replacement (C-4) provides access to the green circle Quicksilver and black diamond Boonndoggle runs and is accessed by the Discovery triple. Previously, this chair was served by a fixed-grip double installed and left untouched since 1964. Crystal Mountain wanted to make the terrain more beginner-friendly and lowered the top station by 250 feet to avoid the steep slope at the top. The Quicksilver run was previously a blue square but was changed to a green circle. The base station is equipped with a loading carpet to ease the loading process. The new lift is a fixed-grip quad chairlift from HTM Skytrac, installed in the summer of 2014 with a top terminal altitude of around 5200'. The new chair has a higher uphill capacity, and the Quicksilver trail was regarded over the summer.
Proposed and Approved
- Kelly's Gap Express (C-13) will rise westwards from the new Bullion Base and terminating above and to the north of Green Valley Express.
- Bullion Basin (C15) would rise eastwards on the other side of valley from the Bullion Base to an area that previously had a lift abandoned in 1983 (the footprint of a lift and trails can be viewed from the top of Rainier Express). This lift will also allow access to East Peak backcountry area for expert skiers. Rumors suggest that although this lift was included in the Record of Decision, the lift may not actually be built. As of July 2007, Crystal has received the former Millicent double chair from Brighton Ski Resort (Utah) to possibly be installed as the Bullion Basin chair in the future.
- Park N' Ride (C12) will provide access between the new Bullion Base and the current base area.
- Two new surface tows at the old base area (Ptarmagin, S1) and new Bullion Base (Pika, S2)
- High speed replacements for the Quicksilver and Discovery chairs with no additional trail development.
Under Forest Service review
- High Campbell replacement: The aging High Campbell chair was proposed to be replaced by a new fixed grip lift with the same capacity, either a double or quad chair to be constructed in 2012. But as of winter 2013, has yet to happen. This event is overcome by events: during a routine avalanche-clearing operation 3/10/2014, the chairlift was inadvertently and irrevocably damaged.
Rejected by Forest Service
- Silver King lift, this lift would have started on Queen's Run and serviced the summit of Silver King.
- "Collegians get short rest before next ski tourney". Spokesman-Review. Associated Press. March 29, 1965. p. 11.
- "Swiss in alpine meet". Spokemsan-Review. March 1, 1965.
- "Miss Greene adds slalom ski crown". Spokesman-Review. Associated Press. April 4, 1965. p. 3-sports.
- "Canadians win titles in skiing". Leader-Post. CP-AP. April 5, 1965. p. 5.
- "Nagels, Greene, head field". Spokesman-Review. March 8, 1968. p. 23.
- "Ann Black wins downhill". Spokesman-Review. Associated Press. March 9, 1968. p. 11.
- "Vermont girl wins slalom". Spokesman-Review. March 10, 1968. p. 7.
- "Judy Nagel sins U.S. slalom title". Spokesman-Review. March 11, 1968. p. 12.
- Holt, Gordy (March 23, 2004). "Jack Nagel, 1926-2004: Ski pioneer 'bubbled' with energy". Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
- "A maestro tunes his teen ski stars". Sports Illustrated: 24. February 11, 1963.
- "British gal goes first in downhill". Spokesman-Review. Associated Press. February 25, 1972. p. 23.
- "Skiers aim at repeats". Spokane Daily Chronicle. February 26, 1972. p. 12.
- "Eugenean takes second as Russi takes World Cup event". Eugene Register-Guard. February 26, 1972. p. 1B.
- "Crystal Mountain - World Cup". FIS. Retrieved December 17, 2012.
- "Swiss star is winner in ski cup". Spokesman-Review. Associated Press. February 27, 1972. p. 3-sports.
- "Slalom? No". Spokesman-Review. Associated Press. February 28, 1972. p. 12.
- http://www.seattlepi.com/getaways/336494_crystalift25.html. Missing or empty
- "New gondola opens at Crystal Mountain". Seattle Times. Associated Press. January 1, 2011.
- Official website
- Ski Lifts.org - photos of lifts at Crystal Mountain
- Northway lift - Seattle Post-Intelligencer - 25-October–2007
- Ski Crystal.com - photos of Northway lift installation - 2007
- Northway lift: Crystal Mountain's chairway to heaven - Seattle Times - 21-February–2008
- World Cup Downhills Feb 1972 FIS-Ski.com