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Any Seattle folks? Crystal questions

#1
Hi - I’m calling out to the Seattle folks as I could use some insights on Crystal (intermediate terrain, lesson quality, crowds and traffic!).

Quick background on us - we started skiing this year after ten years off (and were only occasional skiers then). We have two kids, 7 and 9, and had them in all day/multi-week ski school at Stevens in the winter and spring - outstanding experience at SP! My husband and I spent the season finding our legs and are intermediate skiers, planning to take lessons next year to advance.

We had a great season, but I’m really nervous about crowds with the Epic price cut. I took the kids to Crystal today to check it out, we had a great day but the weather was terrible! Thick fog and wet snow and because the visibility was so poor we barely got off the greens on Forest Queen and I feel like I left not knowing much more than I knew this morning.

So as we decide between Epic and Ikon, can anyone share some insight into Crystal?
- Is there enough blue terrain to keep us happy and challenged as we grow our skills? We only rode Forest Queen and Quicksilver, how is the stuff off the other lifts?
- Are their youth and adult lesson programs good? My kids can ski any blue at Stevens but still need work on technique.
- What are the crowds like (but can they really be worse than SP )
- How is the traffic! We live in Bellevue

Sorry for the long note, but thank you for your insight!
 
#2
Hi Katmert! Crystal is my home mountain. I can answer this more fully later today but briefly: Yes, there is plenty of intermediate terrain, though it is steeper than what you'll find at Stevens. Traffic was never an issue until this year, really, with everyone driving separately. Crowds, you are right, not worse than Stevens. I have to run but I think it's worlds better than Stevens and will write more later.
 
#3
Hi Katmert! Crystal is my home mountain. I can answer this more fully later today but briefly: Yes, there is plenty of intermediate terrain, though it is steeper than what you'll find at Stevens. Traffic was never an issue until this year, really, with everyone driving separately. Crowds, you are right, not worse than Stevens. I have to run but I think it's worlds better than Stevens and will write more later.
Thank you! I did get the sense it was all around a bit steeper, and I loved the length of the runs!
Kathryn
 
#4
Like I said I do think there is plenty of intermediate terrain. Crystal is known for its more expert terrain, but honestly there are many days when I only ski blues here, and I don't get bored. One thing that is nice is that most of blues have edges or ungroomed little detours where you can play around and dip into ungroomed or steeper terrain.

Forest Queen has the most intermediate terrain, though there generally aren't the kind of mellow blues you'd find under Brooks or Skyline at Stevens. All of the blues off of the Forest Queen lift are a good bet in low visibility as there are trees on either side. (The top of the mountain is alpine terrain and can be tough in bad light.) Probably the easiest blue at Crystal is Downhill. It is always groomed. So is Mr Magoo, off of Downhill which goes through the removed terrain park, though you do need to veer left to hook back up with Downhill or go down the steeper, ungroomed Little/Mrs Magoo. Upper/Lower Chapelle's are groomed some days and they tend to be overlooked. Rolling Knolls, which is steeper, usually has a groomed path. There aren't really the kind of mellow blues like Stevens has under Brooks or Skyline.

The view up top will knock your socks off. From the top, Green Valley is a fun area. You first ski into bowl then down into a little valley. The Green Valley run marked on the map is a steep blue run that is technically groomed, though never have I seen courdoroy here. (I see another blue run called Pro Course marked on the map but I think that's just a slightly less steep but ungroomed way down--there's no obvious "run" there). Green Valley run and bowl are really fun but the bowl does get skied out and bumped up almost immediately so it's probably better not to expect a groomed run. If you got up to the top and didn't want to do Green Valley you can take the cat track Lucky Shot down the back side. It's a busy cat track that leads down the busy and skied out Lucky Shot run. It would be fun if it wasn't such a thoroughfare. From there there are short blue unremarkable runs down to the bottom of Rainier Express ("Rex"). On the map you'll also notice a long blue from Green Valley to the base (Kelly's Gap Road). It's a cat track and I've heard it's really unpleasant so I've never taken it.

Northway is mostly expert terrain and Chair 6 is all expert.

There are some blacks that are groomed some days and are pretty tame--Deer Fly, Lower Ferks and Middle Ferks, though the latter tends to be busy and strewn with downed skiers and boarders. There's a real variety of blacks here. The ones I just mentioned would be good for intermediates looking to progress, while the ones below Rex are much more challenging.

Gold Hills is a fun short run we will do on the way out, but sometimes it's used for racing only, and it's only open weekends in any case.

***
Crowds/traffic: Crowds really weren't an issue before Alterra bought it in 2018. Sure, the first powder day of the season would be nuts and powder days in general were busy. But people disperse here really well. Then when it went on Ikon, everything changed. You can't offer a pass that cheap in an area where 5 million people live within day trip distance and not have it affect things. So that first year was a real mess where parking regularly filled, and once it fills there's no overflow. Then this Covid year had some of those same issues. For the first time ever I got stuck in traffic starting on 410. That had never happened to me before. They acknowledged the problem and next year, they are only allowing 7 days on the base pass. Still unlimited days on the full Ikon pass. I doubt that will be enough to really reduce the crowding issues. You certainly don't have that regular traffic like Hwy 2 gets but it remains to be seen whether the volumes Ikon is bringing are going to keep overwhelming the area. For someone used to skiing Stevens (or Snoqualmie) it won't seem crowded in comparison. For those of us that have skied there for a while, it's frustrating.

Lessons: I hear good things but have never taken a lesson there.
 
#7
Thank you @Christy! This is amazing information and I’m so grateful you took the time to share you knowledge and love of the mountain! I’m tilting towards the Ikon pass, but might try to get out there one more time this season with your notes as my on mountain guide. Luckily we’ve had amazing snow to see us through the extended Spring.

And @newboots, thank you for the welcome! I’ve enjoyed lurking in this community for a few months - such an amazing group of women!
 
#8
Thank you @Christy! This is amazing information and I’m so grateful you took the time to share you knowledge and love of the mountain! I’m tilting towards the Ikon pass, but might try to get out there one more time this season with your notes as my on mountain guide. Luckily we’ve had amazing snow to see us through the extended Spring.

And @newboots, thank you for the welcome! I’ve enjoyed lurking in this community for a few months - such an amazing group of women!
Have fun. I'm a little worried Sunday will be the last truly good day with new snow--it's supposed to get pretty warm this week. But I know I've had snowy days later in April too so fingers crossed.
 

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