Pacific Northwest Ski blog (and a few other places!)

Lots or reports from skiing around the Pacific Northwest, with some East Coast excursions thrown in for good measure

Tag Archives: Crystal Mountain

April Riding in the Washington Cascades

Deep snow. No crowds. Generally good weather. Spring skiing in the Cascades in mid-April can be majestic.

Crystal skied beautifully all weekend on their penultimate weekend of the season. There had been lots of snow on the Friday and the remnants were plentiful all over the mountain on Saturday. Sunday a crazy wind hit the high ridges until lunchtime. Crazy as in ‘almost impossible to push off Rex and head down the hill’ crazy. The groomers everywhere were great though, soft and perfect for laying down long carving turns. By noon when the wind dropped, the wind blown off the Green Valley chairs was epic.

A great weekend of steeps and quality snow and groomers.

Mission didn’t disappoint the following weekend either. Sunny clear-ish weather meant for cold nights and warmer days. This delivered classic Spring corn snow by noon. The highlights were laps of The Castle on both afternoons. Perfect corn on a majestic Spring ski weekend.

That wrapped up another superb season at Mission for us. Just 14 days. But with included free days at 49 Degrees and Snoqualmie Pass, that adds up to 20 days on a ~$400 season pass.

We have purchased again for next year 🙂

 

Crystal 10,900m, 8000m vert

Mission Ridge 8000m, 6700m vert

60 days, 496,800m vert, 16 powder days

Crystal Delivers Deep

Saturday at Crystal delivered the groomers that Whistler the previous weekend had denied. With plenty of opportunities to jump off piste and play in soft snow, it was a fine old ski day. It was fun to ride at high speed on Crystal’s great terrain.

Then about 5pm it started snowing. We retired to the Snorting Elk and watched the snow dump. There were no groomers to be found Sunday. Everything was buried under 18-24 inches of light blower pow. What a storm. What a ski day.

With so much snow, the upper mountain lifts were slow to start. With the sound of bombs ringing around the peaks, I hopped on the Chinook chair – singles line magic – before 9am and bolted to the Forest Queen to get in some quick laps. The terrain over there has flat spots which are challenging in knee deep snow, but the steeper pitches were truly amazing. It was powder cloud time. Every turn.

By 10.30 the upper mountain lifts opened and the line at REX (Mount Rainier Express) shrank to a couple of minutes. So we just lapped the bowl in Green Valley, the trees to the left of Middle Ferk, and the steeps down to the base. Wash, rise, repeat. There was so much deep untracked snow that short traverses delivered huge rewards.

There may not be many better days than Sunday this season. Although I said that about Whistler last Saturday. That was a great day. This was even better.

Saturday 9000m vert, Sunday 6100m vert

Season totals 5 days,  32,800m vert, 4 powder days

Spring Saturday, Winter Sunday at Crystal Mountain

Winter weekend crowds mean we avoid Crystal Mountain like a Donald Trump rally. Those Seattle-based hordes mean crowded everything all weekend long. But by mid March the crowds are playing baseball and golk, and on most years the skiing is still fabulous. This Saturday saw the 500 inches for the season broken – thanks El Nino!! There’s as much snow as I’ve seen at Crystal in 15 years.

Saturday was Spring. Great groomers, and some tasty remnants on north facing aspects from the previous day’s storm. Powder Bowl was excellent. So was Paradise Bowl and the steep-sometimes-groomed run into Snorting Elk ripped all weekend. Half way down Bear Pits was where winter snow turned to ball-y, solid crud. Those last few turns weren’t my favorites of the weekend.

It started drizzling late Saturday night but by Sunday morning it was snowing steadily to the base, with a couple of inches on out truck. Squalls moved in and out all day  topping up the excellent conditions. Sunday was as empty as I’ve seen Crystal for many years, which just meant more pow for us. First groomer pow off the Forest Queen. Then pow off the north facing lines that run back in to Green Valley and Snorting Elk Bowl.

Conditions warranted a couple of runs into Northway, where wind was constantly loading Paradise Bowl and serving up fantastic conditions. After lunch we timed a run down Powder Bowl in a cloud. White on white on a 50 degrees slope isn’t may favorite, but at least the snow quality was excellent.

Great ski hill. Great conditions. Absolutely fantastic weekend.

Saturday 10,100m, Sunday 8200m vert

Season Totals: 51 days, 407, 600m vert, 23 powder days

Powdery Xmas Presents at Crystal

After a 3 year absence from skiing Crystal, we were greeted incredibly warmly on Xmas Eve with 9 inches of new snow, light crowds and excellent weather. But like some of my friends, a warm welcome rapidly becomes a celebration involving excess Double Dead Guy consumption, which is enjoyable, but challenging. That’s Crystal for you. By noon we’d skied lines in Powder Bowl, Bear Pits and Green Valley that are as steep as you can ski anywhere. It’s a great, kick-ass mountain.

The crowds were focused on the huckster lifts (Northway, Chair 6), but even these diminished by 11am as the local pow hounds headed home. At 15F, the snow had come down super light, and in places was seriously deep due to the wind pushing it around. You didn’t have to try hard to find fresh or lightly tracked snow all day. It was everywhere, even at 4pm. I love Xmas skiing!

Xmas Day dawned cold and mostly clear. The groomers were as good as you get, ever, anywhere, and we spent the day alternating between warp speed carving and play in the pow. The runs into Snorting Elk Bowl were especially sweet, offering steep winchcat groomed and soft, chalky bumps to play on. Even the Crystal Glacier, aka Middle Ferk’s Run, was skiing so well we lapped it three times.

With Crystal’s incredible scenery and terrain, and deep snowpack from wild December weather, this day had a ‘calm before the storm’ feeling. We reveled in having one of the best ski hills in the world to ourselves (relatively speaking) for a day. I suspect it wasn’t that  way the next day …

Xmas Eve 8100m, Xmas Day 8200m vert

Season Totals 14 days, 103,400m vert, 9 powder day

 

Cruising the Cascades in early January

The only place in striking distance where new snow was forecast was the Washington Cascades, so that’s where we headed for the first weekend of 2013. First stop, Mission Ridge, delivered it’s usual mix of soft packed and wind blown pow, shredding groomers and  little treasures lurking in the nooks and crannies of the mountain. And due to the NFL Playoffs, it felt like we had the mountain to ourselves.

Next stop was Crystal Mountain, where the storms were due to hit big time. On Monday we benefited from 3 inches overnight, and constant snowfall in the morning. This started to freshen a somewhat frozen front side of the mountain, while on north facing slopes we found fine powder skiing as plentiful as dykes at a Florence + The Machine gig. It kept snowing lightly into Tuesday, and propelled by wind, Powder Bowl was a billowing powfest and groomer pow was everywhere and wonderful, even on the surprisingly finely manicured Glacier (aka Middle Ferk).

The big storm was due Tuesday night, but like the Republicans acceptance of tax hikes for the rich, it arrived somewhat late. But when it arrived at 7am, it turbo dumped. Northway had been closed the previous day, so as the new snow built up on yesterday’s freshies, the skiing was amazing. So few people were competing for the terrain, virtually top-to-bottom lines of deep untracked were available for the picking by mid-morning. The wonders of midweek skiing had me smiling like Ted Nugent at a gun rally.

We headed home via White Pass, where we hoped the remnants of the storm would be available for the picking. First lift rides confirmed these hopes, but the frontside untracked and wind blown layer hid mine fields beneath. The groomers rode like semi-freddo, but angular frozen bumps and steeps with death slide potential lurking off groomed soon made us enthusiastic to explore the newer terrain off the Couloir Express. The difference was remarkable. Additional altitude kept the base soft, and the lack of crowds kept the pow plentiful. Low angle cruising through the trees in the beautiful, cold sunshine kept us happy for the rest of the day.

Mission Ridge: 9600m, 8400m vert

Crystal: 9500m, 11200m, 10200m vert

White Pass: 7400m vert

Season Totals: 31 days, 15 powder days, 281,400m vert

Late May at Crystal Mountain

With luck that would rival Chelsea in the Champion’s League this season, Crystal certainly picked the perfect first two winters to expand its operations for Spring skiing. With near record, La Nina-driven 500+ inches of snowfall each season, there was never any doubt that local SWAPs (Skiers With A Problem) like us were in for some great May skiing. A warm mid-month had caused some serious low down meltage this year, but top to bottom skiing was still conveniently possible for the last weekend of operations of the Chinook Express and Forest Queen chairs. This gave plenty of terrain and snow for a Crystal-style weekend of skiing and apres debauchery. In the case of the latter, the Snorting Elk may have been quiet, but Guatemalan brandy proved a more than adequate substitute 😉

Saturday rivaled, if not excelled, the conditions at Bachelor the previous weekend. Crystal’s many steep lines were draped in soft, sugary snow where the sun did it’s freeze-thaw work, making for epic bump skiing under the Rainier Express. Anything facing north-ish held firm, grippy cream cheese that was made for carving fresh arcs down the fall line. The gate-accessed Bear Pits, which falls as steeply as the Greek economy,  was close to steep skiing nirvana all weekend. It was hard to imagine better, and it’s terrain like this that really is Crystal’s signature.

A sunny, warm Saturday transitioned into a damp, grey Sunday. The rain at lift opening time was pretty ominous, and we expected the worst. But somehow the snow held firm, the groomers skied like butter, and the rain became very light drizzle and then nothing. Once again, high quality laps of Bear Pits, including the line formerly known as K2 Face, made a mockery of the dodgy weather. Late May skiing really shouldn’t be this good.

Saturday 10,600m Sunday 6400m

Season Totals: 68 days, 590,200m vert, 28 powder days

Skiing around Mt Rainier

I’m sure my climate scientist friends would tell me it’s sheer coincidence, but it seems that whenever La Nina takes a break in bringing huge winter storms to the Pacific Northwest, the east coast of Australia gets deluged with unwelcome summer rains. Last year it happened in January/February and Queensland got flooded, but this year it seems like La Nina has taken an early, pre-Xmas southern vacation.

The snow drought continued here through mid December, but luckily cold weather was keeping the Cascades snowpack in fine shape. We hit White Pass on a stunning, sunny Friday, cruising the new backside terrain all day long with what seemed like 10 new friends, and constant Mt Rainier views. I was impressed by the rolling new runs, with heaps of off-trail opportunities once the snow pack builds. A bit more vert on these runs, and it’d be perfect. As it is, I suspect it’s the perfect mid-winter draw for weekend crowds, leaving the advanced frontside runs for crazies like me. I can deal with that 😉

After skiing, we essentially circumnavigated Mt Rainier to get to Crystal Mountain, the king of Washington skiing. With more cold weather and sunshine, and none of the usual Crystal hoards to dodge, Saturday was another superb groomer day. Even better, the sun worked magic all morning on the steeps under the Rainier Express, making for spring-like skiing through corny, crystalline slush by early afternoon. This we exploited frantically until the sun crept away, and these lines deteriorated as rapidly as a Charlie Sheen show.

Sunday unfortunately was a little dreary. Foggy, cold, grim – a day for the diehards. We hung in until 2pm, but it wasn’t difficult to jump shop early and head home. Come back soon La Nina, we’re missing you.

White Pass – 7300m, Crystal – 8700m, 6200m

Season Totals: 11 days,  79,300 vert, 3 powder days

More new videos from last season

Various clips from around the Pacific Northwest during 2010-11 ski season:

A foggy end to the 2010/11 Season

Spring just didn’t want to arrive this year. By mid-May, bluebird days are usually the rule rather than, like this year, as rare as  originality on American Idol. Luckily, the incredible amount of snow that still covered the Cascades meant excellent skiing, even if you had to squint hard to see what you were sliding down.

Occasionally the clouds would lift and we’d have fleeting reminders of what Spring skiing should be like. We even had the luxury of a couple of hours sunshine at Bachelor one Saturday morning. A strong northwest wind had solidified most of the upper mountain, making even the groomers off the summit a proposition best attempted with courage and razor-sharp edges. But as the sun turned ice to cream, we had three of those hallmark Bachelor runs, carving fresh tracks through snow-laden lava gullies until the boundary rope at the bottom of Cows Face put an end to the decadence.

On May 22nd, Crystal was still skiing beautifully top-to-bottom for our final day of the season. At 3pm, I dropped off the top of REX in the dense fog, carefully picked a path through the well disguised moguls in the bowl below, and followed the gondola line all the way to the bottom for a steep season finale. 2000+ vertical feet of sheer excitement is a great way to end a ski season. Is it November yet?

Skiing stats:

4 days:  (Bachelor) 7300m, 8900m,  (Crystal) 8300m, 8200m vert

Final Season totals:

74 days, 23 powder days, 637, 700m vertical

La Nina deserts the Northwest in January

January 2011 was the strongest La Nina reading in decades. Unfortunately, the old girl seems to have decided to park her butt in warmer climes, dumping massive amounts of rain on Australia in the process. Those goddamn Latina chicks, always in search of sunshine 😉

This left a very mixed bag of ski conditions around the Pacific Northwest. We got a decent day in at Mission before the 2nd Pineapple Express of winter deluged the Cascades with enough rain to dampen even a Sean Hannity rant. The following weekend brought 6 inches of heavy-ish pow to Silver Mountain on the Saturday, and the soft untracked remnants and cold conditions made Sunday much better than an average sloppy seconds day.

The month ended with sunshine, cold and fortunately a few inches of new snow at Crystal. In 3 days, the conditions went from slick, ‘only fools leave groomers’ hardpack to a soft, creamy 3 inch layer of fresh. Good enough to spend most of the weekend exploring the wondrous, steep terrain off the Northway chair. It’s even wilder out there than I thought, like a shopping expedition with Lyndsay Lohan, except easier to get away with the booty. The best inbounds terrain I know of on the West Coast, north of Squaw and south of Whistler, that is. Epic stuff.

Mission Ridge – 10,200m

Silver Mt – 7700m, 7300m

Crystal Mt – 8300m, 9200m, 7800m

Season totals: 28 days, 10 powder days, 225,700m vertical