It's snow time! Enjoying the best the Northwest ski areas have to offer

These shiny new gondola cars await their final installation on the new lift at Crystal Mountain. Each can hold eight skiers who will stash their gear in the carriers on the outside of the cars. - Contributed photo
These shiny new gondola cars await their final installation on the new lift at Crystal Mountain. Each can hold eight skiers who will stash their gear in the carriers on the outside of the cars.
— image credit: Contributed photo

It is Crystal clear: the state of Washington has become state of the art. While most Western states and provinces where ski resorts are located have long featured gondola lift transportation, the Evergreen State could not make that boast. Until now, at Crystal Mountain.

The brand new Mt. Rainier Gondola will whisk passengers from the base area up to the summit in less than 10 minutes. I haven’t taken a ride yet because no one has: final preparations are being made for the scheduled opening date of Dec. 17. The cabins will each seat eight snowsport enthusiasts in weather-protected splendor for a ride of almost 2,500 vertical feet.

Another significant change at Crystal for this season is the opportunity to use RFID technology with lift tickets. The new GO Card ticket program will allow skiers and riders to load tickets in advance online and go straight to the lift. Guests can get a GO Card when they first purchase a ticket; then it’s theirs to reload and keep forever.

Lastly, I should mention the Sasquatch Jib Park, located on the 4,400-foot-long Mr. Magoo run under the Forest Queen Express chairlift. Comprised of approximately 30 features varying from different kinked rails, straight rails, boxes, bonks, stalls and pole jams, this should be an extremely popular place to hang with the shred set.

These kind of improvements don’t come cheap; the estimated cost is over $6 million. To help achieve some payback on this investment, Crystal will be selling lift tickets with or without gondola rides included. With a GO card, the adult ticket cost is $60 without the gondola, and another $8 with the gondola. Without a GO card, these costs are $65 and $73, respectively. So you can dial it up just about any way you choose. Crystal opened last Friday with limited operations, but with the snow flying it won’t be long until more terrain is available.

Crystal is not the only local ski resort that has major changes this season. Up at White Pass, the long-anticipated expansion into Paradise Basin is complete after literally decades of negotiations with the Forest Service. This expansion basically doubles the size of the ski area and includes two new lifts. This should really make the drive more worthwhile, as previously the terrain was a bit limited in size. Adult weekend lift tickets here will cost $57.

At Stevens Pass the major change for this season is not really on the mountain but in the parking lot — there is a new pedestrian overpass that straddles Highway 2. It will no longer be necessary to dodge traffic trying to get across the road, which should make your first run of the day a more relaxing one, at a cost of $60.

And finally, for today’s “what’s new” review, at the Summit at Snoqualmie there has been a major expansion at Summit East, with two new lifts and about 150 acres of new terrain. A full day adult lift ticket at the Summit will be $58.

It could be an epic year. Be ready when the snow flies.

John Naye is a Mercer Island resident and past president of the North American Snowsport Journalist Association. He can be contacted at

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