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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.

Mountain

Crystal Mountain was chosen as the site for a ski area because of its consistent snowfall record and the variety of its terrain. The season normally runs from mid-November to mid-April and the annual snowfall averages 380 inches/32 ft/9.75m. The car park may be packed but once you're up on the mountain there's plenty of wide open space for everyone. The uplift capacity at Crystal Mountain is 19,110 skiers per hour with state-of -the-art lifts including two2 high speed 6 passenger chairs, two high speed quads, 2 triple and 3 double chairs so any after-lunch lift lines soon disappear. Specially designated slow areas have been set aside for beginners so they can learn safely without being surrounded by faster skiers. Six green runs make up 13% of the terrain. Broadway, Meadow and Skid Road all leave from the base station and return back there while Queens, and Snowgarden are further up but the route back down is all easy terrain. Intermediates are spoilt for choice with more than half of the skiable terrain (57%) made up of blue runs including the longest run, Northway, at 2.5 miles. Advanced and expert skiers will find plenty of terrain to challenge them especially the Powder Bowl and Campbell's Basin. One of the best ways to explore Crystal Mountain's rugged terrain of outback runs and learn the techniques required for safe backcountry skiing would be to book a lesson with the Ski School. Their professionally trained instructors will cover freeriding, steep techniques and more while helping you get to know the mountain. So confident are they of your progress that they actually guarantee all their group lessons. With 1,000 acres of backcountry terrain its worth trying snowshoes at Crystal Mountain. Rainier Rides Ski and Board Demo shop offer high performance Burton snowshoes for rental. These shoes are much more effective for climbing steep surfaces and have been proven time and time again on the face of East Peak. Poles are included with rental and maps are available for direction of hikes.

Families

Crystal Mountain's Ski and Snowboard School is staffed by professionals who will combine just the right amount of instruction and play with exercise and rest to make your child's experience of skiing or snowboarding one they will enjoy. Ski lessons are provided for children from 4 years up to 11 years while snowboarding is for minimum age 7 up to 11 years. A full day of lessons includes lift ticket, lunch and supervision and a half day of lessons includes a 2 hour lesson, lift ticket and supervision. Lift tickets are not included.

Eating Out

A wide range of dining options at Crystal Mountain. The Summit House, Washington's highest restaurant at 2094m/6872', is located at the top of the Rainier Express Chairlift. Its varied menu includes gourmet pizza, pasta, soup and fresh salads made daily. The Cascade Grill at the Silver Creek Lodge is close to the slopes so you can fuel up with breakfast or a quick lunch while The Deli at The Silver Creek is the place for made-to-order deli sandwiches, salads, beer, wine and more. Sourdough Sal's serve satisfying fayre for lunch and dinner with a full cocktail service in a festive atmosphere and great views of the slopes. Their dinner menu features a variety of Northwest entrees and pizzas made to order. The Alpine Inn Restaurant is good for breakfast or dinner and they have a wide selection of fine wines. At the Snorting Elk Deli you can ski in and sit down or pick up a take-away of fresh homemade soups, sandwiches, pastries or delicious stone-fired pizza. Voted Top Ski Bar in the West by Snow Country Magazine, the Snorting Elk's cosy Rathskeller with its roaring log fire is a great place to ski in and enjoy food from the Deli along with full cocktail service and a wide assortment of microbrews and wines.

Apres

The Snorting Elk Cellar Bar in the Alpine Inn is the place to go for apres-ski. Voted Top Ski Bar in the West by Snow Country Magazine its tucked away in the trees, across a little wooden bridge on the west side of the upper car park. The Snorting Elk very often has live music with bands travelling from Seattle.

Boarding

Crystal Mountain does'nt have a snowboard park yet but its natural terrain does make it a huge playground for riders. The chairlifts are a huge bonus for snowboarders - its so much easier to ride a chair than a T-bar especially for beginners. The Forest Queen Express and Chinook Express are both high speed 6-seaters providing access to steep and deep in the Powder Bowl and Campbell's Basin. With 1,000 acres of backcountry terrain riders have plenty of wide open space for cruising though if you are new to the area its best to take a guide or book a lesson with the Cascade Snowboard School. Their half-day courses have long been a favourite and are organised by ability so you won't spend too much valuable time standing around. A minimum one year's previous snowboarding lessons are required so the standard is pretty good and you're sure to pick up lots of tips on backcountry riding from their excellent team of qualified snowboarding instructors. 57% of the terrain is suitable for intermediates who will find plenty of natural jumps and hits. Rainier Rides Ski and Snowboard Demo shop feature top quality Burton and Salomon snowboards and the staff at RR will ensure that your board is set up correctly and your chosen equipment matches your needs.

// HIGHLIGHTS //
Vertical drop
945m
Resort height
1189m
Airport
Seattle
Train station
Tacoma
beginner
13%
intermediate
57%
expert
30%