The Essential Guide to Crystal Mountain Ski Resort

Crystal Mountain Ski Resort
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With 2,600 acres to its name, Crystal Mountain is one of Washington State’s biggest ski resorts. It’s also the closest to Seattle at just two hours away, and only an hour and a half from Tacoma. Tucked along a corner of Mt. Rainier National Park, the resort not only is a fabulous place to go skiing and snowboarding, but it’s also got some pretty snazzy views of Washington’s most famous mountain. In the past ten years, the resort has only gotten better as more than $30 million has gone into adding high-speed lifts, expanding the terrain and dining options, and other improvements.

From the terrain to the dining options to where to stay, this guide to Crystal Mountain will give you the low down.

Terrain

2,600 skiable acres, 3,100-foot vertical drop, 2,300 lift-serviced acres, 11% beginner, 54% intermediate, 35% advanced/expert

With 57 designated trails, Crystal Mountain has terrain for all abilities, all within close proximity to Seattle, Sea-Tac Airport, Tacoma and Mt. Rainier National Park. Of the resort’s 2,600 skiable acres, 2,300 of them are serviced by 11 total lifts. The summit reaches 6,872 feet and the resort is generally open for skiing between about late November and mid-April, but sometimes opens in October.

Advanced: The Silver Queen summit, the second highest peak in the resort’s bounds, is a good place to find double diamond bowls and glade skiing. The summit is accessible via lift. Other advanced and expert trails include those off of the highest summit, Silver King, and some were even listed as among the most dangerous ski runs in the world.

Intermediate: Several intermediate trails, including Upper Ferk’s Run and Little Shot, are accessible from the area around the top of the Mt. Rainier Gondola and Rainier Express lift.

Beginner: Most of the beginner’s trails at Crystal Mountain are near the Chinook Express, Forest Queen Express and Discovery lifts, all within close proximity to each other as well. Beginners and first-time skiers can start off with the First Day Experience if they want to learn the ropes on how to ski the green runs.

Lift Tickets

There are a variety of lift tickets available. Day passes range from $35 for night skiing only and up to $80 for a full-price adult day pass. You can also purchase five packs to save on your daily price—these start at $345. Military with ID gets a $10 lift ticket discount. There are other discounts available for groups and corporate rates.

Food & Drinks

Crystal Mountain has six eateries located right on the mountain so you don’t have to hoof it off the resort to warm up, get a snack or sit down for a meal.

Summit House: Summit House bills itself as Washington State’s highest elevation dining. Right at the top of the mountain at 6,872 feet, the restaurant is at the end of the line for the Crystal Mountain Gondola. Enjoy Northwest cuisine with stellar views of Mt. Rainier and most of Western Washington’s other volcanos on clear days.

Campbell Basin Lodge: Located at the top of the Forest Queen Express chair lift, Campbell Basin Lodge serves up cozy lodge decor with an upscale food court so everyone can find something they enjoy, including wood-fired pizza.

Bullwheel: If you have a hankering for pub food, Bullwheel is the place to go. Enjoy a microbrew with your burger, sandwich or appetizers at this full-service restaurant.

Fireside Cafe: An outdoor cafe at the base of the Chinook Express chairlift that makes the perfect place to warm up. The Fireplace Cafe menu features hot drinks and sandwiches, soups and beer. Many Saturdays include live music, too.

Cascade Grill: Cascade Grill is a cafeteria-style restaurant is the place to go if you just need to eat quickly and get back to skiing.

Breakfast and lunch are served and menu items include everything from French toast to pizza and burgers.

Chinook Cafe: Located in the Day Lodge, Chinook Cafe is great for a pit stop. Grab a coffee or a snack or a beer, or sit and watch what’s playing on the TV.

Rentals & Gear

Crystal Mountain has a wide variety of rental equipment available:

The resort’s Rental Shop is located in the base area and has everything you need for a day on the slopes. Rent individual gear or rent a ski or snowboard package for $45. The shop features Rossignol equipment and one perk of renting is that you can swap out for size, fit or upgrade any time.

Rentals of the latest demo gear by Rossignol, Dynastar and Lange are also available if you want to try out what’s new.

Snowshoes and poles are also available, as are ski jackets and pants.

Lessons & Clinics

Crystal Mountain offers lessons, camps and clinics for all kinds of skiers at all kinds of levels. Sign up for private lessons, group lessons or even join one of the Mountain Sports Teams. Specialty lessons and clinics include:

Women’s Clinics: Crystal Mountain has several women-only clinics, including Crystal Moms, which pairs nicely with moms who have kids in the Mountain Sports Teams.

Freeride Camps: For those interested in or already on their way to learning to Freeride. The camps instruct skiers on how to inspect a run, powder techniques and other skills needed to Freeride ski.

First Day Experience: If you’ve never skied before and aren’t sure where or how to start, sign up for the First Day Experience to learn the basics. Lessons are available for all ages every day that the resort is open.

Skiing and Snowboarding Alternatives

Crystal Mountain is a fabulous place to ski and snowboard, but there’s more to this place than just these two activities.

Gondola Rides: Any time of year, the Crystal Mountain Gondola is a popular reason to visit the mountain. The eight-person gondola takes riders 2,500 feet to the summit and is open both to skiers and snowboarders as well as the ski-less. At the top of the gondola, enjoy lunch or dinner at the Summit House restaurant, too. It’s just about the perfect date any time of year. However, the gondola does close during high winds or other nasty conditions.

Snowshoe tours: If you want to get out in the snow, but don’t want to zip down a mountainside, a snowshoe tour might be the perfect way to go. Snowshoe tours offer a chance to ride the lifts as well as explore the snowy expanses of the resort. Bonus – tours often integrate dinner or a wine tasting or another activity.

Live Music: There’s nothing finer than some live music with your snowy experience. You’ll find live music at Crystal Mountain on Saturdays.

Lodging

Crystal Mountain partners with nearby lodging options that are all within a 10 to 15 minute walk or drive of the resort, and that meet different budgets.

Alta Crystal Resort: Alta Crystal Resort is small with 23 cabin-style suites that range from one bedroom to suites with two bedrooms, including a Honeymoon Cabin perfect for couples. The property includes a hot tub, a heated pool, fireplaces in the rooms, kitchens and a snow play field. Views are stellar.

The Village Inn: Just a six-minute walk to all the things to do at Crystal Mountain, the Village Inn has rooms with either a queen-sized bed or two twins. Rooms on the bottom floor are pet friendly, while rooms on the second and third floors have balconies.

The Alpine Inn: With Bavarian style and close proximity to the Alpine Mill Restaurant and the Crystal Mountain Gondola, The Alpine Inn has a variety of rooms that can accommodate couples and families alike. While the rooms are basic but cozy, they have private bathrooms and Wi-Fi and a fireplace are available in the lobby.

Quicksilver Lodge: Also only a five-minute walk to the gondola and Alpine Mill Restaurant, the Quicksilver Lodge is at the base of Crystal Mountain and has rooms with queen-sized beds, flat-screen TVs, DVD players, free Wi-Fi and coffee makers. If you need more space, the Loft rooms have a queen-sized bed as well as two full-sized beds in the loft.

Silver Skis Chalet: Just 150 yards from the gondola and lifts, Silver Skis Chalet is a condo property where rooms have kitchens, living room, sleeping space for up to eight, outdoor grills and an outdoor heated pool that’s heated to 98 degrees even in winter. Condos are individually owned so you’ll find more personal styling here than in the hotels.

Crystal Chalets: Another condo property, Crystal Chalets is perched on a hill and has beautiful views, but also a lot of stairs to climb. Like Silver Skis, these condos are all individually owned and decorated, and all have kitchens, living and dining spaces, full bathrooms and balconies.