News from the snow
Crystal Mountain USA
The first visitors to the area that is now Crystal Mountain came seeking their fortunes, not fresh snow. Traces of gold were found in the Cascade foothills in the late 1800's and prospectors flocked to this area, originally known as the Summit Mining District. At one time promoted as being "richer than the Klondike", gold mining declined after World War I and large companies could no longer be persuaded to invest. It was'nt until 1949 that the recreational opportunities of the area were discovered. When attempts to put a chairlift up in Mount Rainier National Park failed, a group of dedicated skiers got together and began looking for another place to develop a ski area in the Pacific Northwest. The group finally decided on Crystal Mountain for its reliable snowfall and variety of terrain. A proposal was presented to the Forest Service in 1955 and three years later the Crystal Mountain Winter Sports Area was created 108km/67miles south of Seattle. The ski area opened for business in the winter of 1963 after initial funding for the development was raised by a sale of stock to approximately 200 investors. In 1965 Crystal Mountain hosted the National Alpine Ski Championships attracting legendary European and North American racers including Jimmie Heuga, Billy Kidd and Jean Claude Killy. Over the next few decades, Crystal Mountain grew quietly. In 1988 the area was the first in Washington to install a high-speed, detachable quad chairlift, the Rainier Express. In the years that followed, development at the area stalled. After experiencing several poor snow years in a row, the Crystal Mountain found itself deeply in debt and unable to finance new capital improvements. In March of 1997, Boyne USA purchased Crystal Mountain. This family-owned corporation had been interested in the area for more than a decade and made a commitment to invest significantly. Under the terms of the sale, Boyne USA is required to spend a minimum of $15 million on capital improvements over the first 10 years of ownership. Under the ownership of John Kircher, Seattle based family member, Crystal Mountain has added two new high-speed six-passenger chairlifts, one high-speed quad, expanded the rental shop, paved the parking lots, added five new grooming machines and upgraded many of the facilities. Crystal Mountain is now waiting for the Forest Service review and release of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, which will be followed by the Forest Service announcing which version of the Master Development Plan has been approved. This will guide the expansion of the area over the next 10 to 20 years and will greatly enhance the quality of the recreational area. The Plan calls for the addition of 6 new chairlifts, a year round tram from base to summit, new lodging and conference centre, an on-mountain restaurant, and additional service and maintenance facilities. The nearest major town is Enumclaw, so named by a group of native American Indians who once camped at the base of a nearby mountain. During the night, strong winds made loud thundering noises that kept them awake so they named the area "Enumclaw" meaning "strong wind" or "thundering noise." Located in south-east King County at the base of the foothills to the Cascade Mountains, Enumclaw is 750ft above sea level with amazing views of the majestic 14,400ft Mt Rainier. Approximately 64km/40 miles south-east of Seattle, it is the centre of business and shopping on the "plateau" and also serves as the gateway to Mt Rainier National Park. The Mt Rainier National Park was established over 100 years ago and encompasses 235,625 acres, ranging in elevation from 1,610' to 14,400' above sea level. The "mountain" is actually an active volcano encased in over 35 square miles of snow and ice, surrounded by old growth forest and stunning wildflower meadows. Rich in cultural resources the Park has been designated a National Historic Landmark District as an outstanding example of early park planning and NPS rustic architecture. As well as snowsports, recreational opportunities abound with endless hiking trails, boating, fishing and horse riding. The plateau is one of the largest horse breeding and livery areas in the United States.
Best known and largest of Washington's ski areas and a favourite of die-hard skiers who rate the local back-country ski opportunities as some of the country's best, Crystal Mountain is located in the Northeast corner of the Mount Rainier National Park. Boasting the area's biggest vertical and a high-speed six-seater chair, Crystal has a rustic Western feel.