Featured Image: Courtesy of Alterra Mountain Company
Nestled in the Cascade Range, Crystal Mountain is the largest ski resort in the state of Washington. Just a two-hour drive southeast of Seattle, Crystal Mountain attracts skiers from all over the Evergreen State for its 2,600 skiable acres and 3,100 vertical feet of PNW snow-sliding. What was a slow start to the season has now exploded into full-on winter thanks to a few massive coastal storms dumping truck-loads of the fluffy white stuff and summoning skiers from every corner of the state.
With the sudden influx of snow came an overwhelming amount of visitors these last few weekends, creating a serious over-crowding situation on the roads, in the parking lots and on the mountain––causing plenty of frustration and anger from eager weekend warriors and locals, alike, who were either significantly delayed or turned away from their ski day.
In an attempt to address the issue, Crystal Mountain’s President and COO, Frank DeBerry, released an open letter to the community. In it, the resort announces it will no longer be selling walk-up tickets on weekends and holidays to ensure the resort is operating at appropriate capacity. While many are quick to blame the overcrowding on the 2018 sale of Crystal Mountain to Alterra Mountain Company, and subsequently, the resort’s inclusion on the Ikon Pass for the 2019-20 season, DeBerry points out that this winter’s conditions, the resort’s rising popularity and the area’s ever-increasing population all play a major role.
“As skiers and snowboarders, we all love a big storm,” says DeBerry in the letter. “Yet as more and more of us have discovered the joy of a PNW powder day—and as word travels faster through our networks and our community—we’ve become a much bigger bunch.”
DeBerry continues on in the letter with immediate action from the ski area to help alleviate these issues in the near future, as well as for seasons to come. Along with plans to expand parking this coming summer, Crystal Mountain has started its own public transit program with coach busses running from Seattle, Tacoma and Enumclaw––with free transit from Enumclaw when all of the lots are full––as well as a reward incentive for carpools of four people or more. Electronic signage has been placed in Enumclaw with parking updates every minute and skiers can sign up for text message updates starting at 5:30 in the morning.
While these tactics can help mitigate congestion at the resort, Crystal Mountain knows more needs to be done to reduce overcrowding, so the resort made the tough but necessary decision to discontinue selling walk-up full day tickets at the resort’s ticket booths on weekends and holidays, effective this coming Saturday, January 18. Full-day tickets will still be available for purchase online ahead of time, but Crystal Mountain is also putting a cap on these ticket sales for holidays and weekends. Ikon Pass holders will continue to have unlimited access to the resort.
“This initiative is a part of maintaining our untrammeled experience and the rustic nature of why we love Crystal. Like everyone, we need to begin to change our behavior to help sustain our ski experience now and for future generations,” Deberry states at the end of the letter. “Our commitment is to provide our guests with a superior experience – we believe that these steps will move us towards that objective. As a community, we all love Crystal, but right now it’s a mountain that is feeling too much love and we are taking decisive action to preserve what it means to all of us.”
The move to reduce daily ticket sales is an interesting one that has created quite a bit of chatter on social media. Ski industry professionals have been weighing in on the new tactic and what it means for the future of the resort industry as a whole.