Thursday, December 1, 2011

Ski Crystal, not Snoqualmie

Columnist compares Washington summits

By Alison Haywood, A&E Columnist

With another La Niña winter already upon us, it’s worth it to treat yourself to some decent slopes on which to ski and snowboard this season. Serious snow sport enthusiasts who are looking for the best powder and the best runs should save up to ski Crystal Mountain, rather than wasting money at Snoqualmie or gas to get to Stevens Pass.

Crystal Mountain received more than 100 inches of snowfall in the month of November and still has 36 inches on the ground at its base. This record-breaking snowfall is already fulfilling the La Niña promise of a colder, wetter winter.

Crystal is the largest ski area in Washington, according to its website, and it is well worth the slightly longer lift lines for access to its 2,600 acres of skiable area. Snoqualmie only has a total of 1,981 acres spread out across four different mini-resorts and has much less variation in terrain than Crystal.

I learned to ski on the slopes of Crystal and took the versatility of the mountain for granted. Going to Snoqualmie Summit Central for the first time last year, I was shocked and disappointed to have to ski directly down the lift line, something I hadn’t had to do at Crystal since I was seven years old and stuck on the bunny hill.

According to Google Maps, Crystal Mountain and the Summit at Snoqualmie are both approximately 70 miles from Pacific Lutheran University’s campus, with the drive to Crystal about a half hour longer. It’s worth it to get up a little earlier to spend more time on the slopes than on the lifts. The next closest resorts are Stevens Pass, almost 120 miles and a two-hour drive away, and Mount Baker, 130 miles and more than two hours away.

Crystal also has a relatively new stunt park for the jib junkies out there. You don’t have to buy a separate pass to grind the rails at Crystal, unlike Snoqualmie.

While a season’s pass to Snoqualmie is inarguably a better deal if you’re planning to hit the slopes more than eight times this season, for students such as myself who don’t have the time or money for that, day passes are the way to go. An adult day pass to Crystal costs $65, only $6 more than passes at Snoqualmie, which cost $59. Day passes at Stevens cost $62.

I’ve been skiing for 12 years and this is the first time I can remember the mountains opening before Thanksgiving. Don’t miss out on this record-breaking season. Spend the extra $6 to take advantage of Crystal’s transcendent terrain and plethora of powder.