Pacific NW/AK/BC Crystal Mountain at MLK? Other Ikon base suggestions?

Slim

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Hi all,

I am trying to think of where to go skiing this January or February. I was thinking that the PNW might be a good region for January.
Continental areas tend to build snow slowly throughout the season, so they’re are at their best later in the season. Maritime climates run the risk of the ’R word’, so January seems like the safest bet, with typically colder temps reducing that risk.

Going with friends with an Ikon Base pass, so Crystal seems like a good choice for a trip starting at MLK. (Crystal is one of the few places without the Saturday and Sunday before MLK blacked out).

Also considered Utah, Combining Cottonwood Canyon resorts with 1 or 2 days skiing at Beaver Mountain, and/or backcountry skiing.
We have full Ikon and Indypasses, so we could buy discounted day passes for our friends on black out days, but it seems that might not be possible this year.


I read the Chrystal thread talking about crazy traffic jams and such, that doesn’t sound good. On the other hand, most other places have the same problem during holliday weekends.

How is crowding/traffic jam/parking etc, if staying on or near the mountain? There is not much lodging on the mountain right, and otherwise you are a couple miles down the road?

Other ideas? Looking for fun , interesting skiing terrain and lots of snow. Don’t care about night life, shopping, max vert, super steeps or groomers.

Either MLK weekend extended through the following Wednesday, or Presidents’ Day through following Tuesday.
 
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Tony S

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IME MLK weekend is by far the single worst weekend to ski in terms of crowds. I just write it off out of hand and go xc or something. Sorry. Don't shoot the messenger.
 
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Slim

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@Tony S , good point, We only ever skied that time once (at Winterpark), and it was busy, but nothing extreme.
Do you think MLK is worse than Presidents’ Day?

Also, there were some thoughts last year (at least in the Utah threads), that the blackout weekends were actually quieter than some other mid season weekends.
 

Bad Bob

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Not ICON but consider Spokane/North ID region. We have 5 ski areas (with about 20 chairs and 1 gondi total) within 90 minute drive of town. All the weather gurus are saying a colder winter with about a 30% increase in precipitation. Our areas are not noted for their large crowds either. Kind of like skiing out of Grenoble or Innsbruck areas, but yes our mountains are smaller. Reasonable connections and cost for air travel from Twin Cities. We do have food and beer as well.
You could do worse.
Just sayin'.
 
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Slim

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@Bad Bob , I had looked at some. Indy pass has Silver Mtn, and maybe others. We biked there, seemed fun, articles I have read about it make it sound good.

Unfortunately, our friends only have Ikon base passes, and will want to use them.
 

David Chaus

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Crystal Mountain is much more affected by weekend warrior ski traffic than by holiday vacationers. Most of the crowding issue is parking availability, which since last season they manage by limiting parking to those who have passes or have advance day ticket purchases. If you have an Ikon pass you shouldn’t have a problem. They may require reservations to limit the number of people, but haven’t stated that yet.

There are 3 small hotels at the base, and it’s a great idea, but not essential. There is some lodging around the bottom of Crystal Mt Blvd (which is a 6 mile access road), but more reasonable lodging in Enumclaw, about 45 minutes away. To me, 45 minutes is a short drive to go skiing, given it takes me 2 1/2 hours to get to Crystal.

If by traffic you mean the actual driving to Crystal, it’s not usually a problem. Hwy 410 basically ends at Crystal Mt Blvd in the winter, and once you’re out of the Seattle Metro area you’re on mostly rural highways that don’t get a lot of other traffic other than skiers and boarders. If you’re driving there, once you park you can take the shuttles to the base, which are open-air carts pulled by trucks, similar to Big Sky. In the morning there can be lines at the base, but it actually goes pretty quickly. In addition to the gondola there’s a high-speed 6 pack, that gives you the option of getting on a high speed quad or skiing down a bit to another 6 pack lift. So the crowds are dispersed pretty well.

The reason to go to Crystal is the terrain, which is pretty freaking awesome.
 
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Slim

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If by traffic you mean the actual driving to Crystal, it’s not usually a problem. Hwy 410 basically ends at Crystal Mt Blvd in the winter, and once you’re out of the Seattle Metro area you’re on mostly rural highways that don’t get a lot of other traffic other than skiers and boarders. If you’re driving there, once you park you can take the shuttles to the base, which are open-air carts pulled by trucks, similar to Big Sky. In the morning there can be lines at the base, but it actually goes pretty quickly. In addition to the gondola there’s a high-speed 6 pack, that gives you the option of getting on a high speed quad or skiing down a bit to another 6 pack lift. So the crowds are dispersed pretty well.

The reason to go to Crystal is the terrain, which is pretty freaking awesome.
Thanks @David Chaus ! Yes, the terrain looks great, and I have never been to the PNW in winter. @dovski did a very successful job discouraging me from Snoqualmie Pass (plus it's blacked out too), so Chrystal seems to be the way to go.
As far as the drive, On a ski trip, I prefer to keep it under 15 minutes of driving usually. Especially witha rental car with all season tires, but will consider Enumclaw too.

However, every ski resort I know of is on "mostly rural highways that don’t get a lot of other traffic other than skiers and boarders", that just seems to mean the traffic is worst when it's time to ski!
Screen-Shot-2019-12-02-at-9.28.22-AM.png
 
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David Chaus

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I understand your concerns.

This isn't the Cottonwoods and it isn't I-70 in CO, you wouldn't see a situation like the picture above unless the roads were blocked by something. The roads are pretty well maintained. The start of Crystal Mt Blvd is at 2500' elevation and if there is snow on the roadway on Hwy 410 it usually isn't bad. The base at Crystal is 4400' but pretty well maintained. It might slow down on Crystal Mt. Blvd but then again the speed limit is 30 MPH (not that anyone actually pays attention).

That said, if it were me, I might spring for a room at the Alpine Inn. There are links on Crystal's website for accommodations.
 

Bad Bob

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Crystal Mountain really is the class act of Washington. The hill rocks. Would think that staying at one of the lodges there would get you on the short list if they are doing any kind of a lottery for skiing.
 
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Slim

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Well, we don’t need any steeper terrain than Snowbird, but I do like the aesthetics. Sounds pretty nice. If it doesn’t end up working for the combined trip, I’ll keep it on my list for another trip.
 

Lex P

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I'm a long-time Crystal skier. My understanding based on their website info is that Crystal is going to limit slots for season pass and multi-day holders on peak holiday weekends. https://www.crystalmountainresort.com/media/news/community-letter-about-the-20-21-winter-season

Between the holiday crowds and social distancing requirements you are not going to get a lot of runs during MLK holiday. My ski crew and I got in a couple of days last season when they re-opened in June following the March Covid closure. They had a 500-person cap using a lottery system that was filled in two minutes each day that week. Even with the 500-person limit the lines at Green Valley were 15 minutes long, and that was in June when the majority of people have been done with skiing since March.

As info, the drive from Enumclaw to Crystal is 45 minutes in good conditions. Crystal has major parking issues on big holiday weekends and people have been turned around due to the lots being full--there is no cell reception past Enumclaw so you can't get updates on the parking lot situation. So it is a gamble. If you go, get lodging at either Greenwater or Crystal.
 

markojp

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Lodging at Crystal if possible if you're travelling.
 

crgildart

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Slopeside resort managed lodging is probably the best way to guarantee you will get access to the slopes amid any lottery or restrictions everywhere this season. Big spender ski area lodging customers are getting highest priority most places.
 

Posaune

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Remember, that while Crystal has a world class hill and tons of snow, most of it quite skiable, its main stream of income is from its existence as a local ski area for the Seattle Metro area. With Covid, nobody can clearly know what things will be like this season, but historically the hordes are big enough that Crystal doesn't have to reach out much to folks outside the region. MLK weekend has been huge throughout the PNW. How it will look this year is anyone's guess.
 

markojp

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With the border closed and not likely to open any time soon, I'm guessing it's going to be off the hook busy.... I'd look at Schweitzer and maybe Mission, though non- season pass tickets might not be available for Mission this season.
 

markojp

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Slopeside resort managed lodging is probably the best way to guarantee you will get access to the slopes amid any lottery or restrictions everywhere this season. Big spender ski area lodging customers are getting highest priority most places.
There are really no "big spender" lodgings anywhere in the Cascades unless you're staying in Seattle or Bellevue which sort of defeats the purpose.
 
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Slim

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Thanks for all the info folks!

Anyone out there feel there is a better destination?

I have considered Big Sky and the Cottonwoods
 

dovski

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I like Crystal, but would definitely choose Snowbird/Alta over it in a heartbeat. Snowbird/Alta will be limiting parking this year as a way of controlling crowds. My solution is to stay slope side at GMDs.

Crystal is a great day trip if you live in the Seattle area, but the lack of true aprés ski or nice lodging at/near the base makes it hard to recommend as a destination resort.
 

markojp

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I like Crystal, but would definitely choose Snowbird/Alta over it in a heartbeat. Snowbird/Alta will be limiting parking this year as a way of controlling crowds. My solution is to stay slope side at GMDs.

Crystal is a great day trip if you live in the Seattle area, but the lack of true aprés ski or nice lodging at/near the base makes it hard to recommend as a destination resort.
We ski without distraction around these parts. :)
 
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