Nestled on the northwest edge of Mount Rainier National Park, Crystal Mountain is Washington’s premier ski and snowboard area. With 2,600 acres and over 50 runs that range from bunny slope to expert, the resort is the largest in the state. And with Mt. Rainier looming right next door, Crystal Mountain also has some of the most incredible views.
What Makes It Great
When Crystal Mountain first opened in 1962, it had two double chairlifts; after investing $30 million over the past decade, the resort now has nine high-speed lifts, which can carry a total of 19,588 passengers per hour. It has also significantly expanded its acreage; most recently, the resort extended onto Northway Peak, which offers black and double black diamond runs for advanced and expert skiers and boarders. As one Seattle snowboarder put it, Northway is like “Crystal grabbed the Alpental backcountry and added a lift.”
But Crystal isn’t just for lifetime skiers, within the whole area there is something for everyone: 11 percent of the runs are beginner-friendly, 54 percent are intermediate, and 35 percent are expert or advanced. There are also 300 acres of prime backcountry terrain. Receiving an average of 486 inches of snowfall a year, many Washingtonians consider Crystal Mountain’s backcountry powder to be the gold standard.
Crystal Mountain is easily day trip-able from Seattle. For those coming from further afield, there are plenty of lodges to stay in at the mountains base. There are several restaurants and food stands to keep you going throughout the day, or to recount your day’s stories over beers afterward.
The variety of terrain is sure to keep all levels of skiers or boarders appropriately entertained.
There’s even something in which non-skiers can partake: The Mt. Rainier Gondola, which takes you from the 4,400-foot high base to the 6,856-foot summit in an 8-passenger cabin over about a ten-minute ride. Skiers and snowboarders will zoom down the slopes below you, and the gorgeous Cascades surround. You can enjoy lunch at the cozy upscale Summit House restaurant at the top. The gondola is also open over the summer for scenic rides.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Open seasonally. Ticket sales open 8:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 8:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. Friday to Sunday and holidays. Lifts operate 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Rental equipment is due back by 4:30 p.m.