With 1,000 acres of backcountry terrain accessible only by hiking or long traverses, Crystal Mountain, located just to the east of Mt. Rainier in Washington state, has a reputation of being a serious snowboarder’s mountain. Once a small, slow-growth, privately held ski club, Crystal’s 1997 purchase by Boyne Inc. has put the mountain on the fast-track for major growth.
SNOWboarding Business visited the mountain this spring and met with Marketing Director Kelly Graham to get a first-hand view of the master development plan.
Some of the improvements are already underway: there’s a spruced-up base lodge and a new six-person, high-speed detachable chairlift has been installed. During our visit, the slow Midway Shuttle was being pulled out and replaced with another six-person, high-speed detachable chairlift-dubbed the Chinook Express.
However, most of the improvements are still a ways away. The master development plan calls for increasing the number of lifts from nine to seventeen-including a 100-passenger tram to the top of Silver Queen mountain. This will increase the amount of lift-serviced terrain by 1,000 acres. The plan also calls for limited development in the base area with the construction of a 95-room hotel, conference facility, improved employee housing, and remote base lodge.
There are also plans to install a horizontal lift that will link the bottom parking lot and North Backcountry trail terminus with the main lodge-saving visitors from the current slog.
For the summer of 1999, Crystal plans to spend a million dollars on a lighting system for night riding that will illuminate the terrain serviced by Forest Queen Express and the Chinook Express. A new 400-seat restaurant will also be built in Campbell basin.
“Because we’re on Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest land, we’re never going to become a huge overnight destination resort like Vail,” says Graham. “Everything we do, down to the smallest improvement, needs to go through a rigorous environmental impact review process. We’re in close cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service.”
In fact, this spring Crystal Mountain was awarded the Silver Eagle Award For Excellence In Water Conservation for its preservation of Silver Creek, a fish-bearing stream bordering Crystal Mountain’s gravel parking lots. The awards are presented annually by The Skiing Company.
A draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is expected to be issued in January 1999, and a final EIS seven months later. Barring any unforeseen delays in the process, Washington locals can expect to be zooming up for fresh powder in tram comfort during the winter of 2000. “With 2,300 acres, we will be one of the largest and best-served resorts in the Northwest,” concludes Graham.