Backcountry Skiing Crystal Mountain Washington by Matt Schonwald

Matt Schonwald out for a blue sky harvest in FF Forest. Photo by Trúc Nguyen Allen

Matt Schonwald out for a blue sky harvest in FF Forest. Photo by Trúc Nguyen Allen

Every December my excitement rises in anticipation of that chest deep blower run off Exterminator followed by a run out Northback then Southback then a few laps in FF Forest and Bullion before I hit the Elk with a perma grin. My first run in the NW over 30 years ago was the deepest day I had ever seen and I forgave the long lines and slow chairs as each run seared my brain like a brand that Crystal now owned my powder consciousness. Crystal sit in the sweet spot of the PNW, on the NE side of Mt Rainier giving it fantastic views and on the Pacific Crest straddling the East/West Divide. The altitude gives Crystal over 1,300’ above the rest of WA ski areas with its long ridge lines running from 6-7,000’, which is its best kept secret. Cold, stable, and even blower powder make touring worthy.

Matt Schonwald crashing the party at Party Knoll. Photo by Trúc Nguyen Allen

Matt Schonwald crashing the party at Party Knoll. Photo by Trúc Nguyen Allen

Skiers designed Crystal, they explored the area, took a few rides in avalanches before settling on the current spot. The founders brought over some Austrian to help develop the terrain and they even hosted a World Cup and National Championships in the 60’s. Like the story of Tatooine in Star Wars, Crystal faded from the public eye and as the lifts grew slow and unreliable, locals looked around the boundary and saw a gold mine. I spent 6 years living there as a ski patroller, waking up before sunrise to do control work excited to look out a see where I would tour next Year after year exploring a new bowl, a steep chute, and the Apres kept getting better as my friends would gather around the pitcher hatching the next adventure.

Crystal Mountain Backcountry Skiing. Photo by Trúc Nguyen Allen

Crystal Mountain Backcountry Skiing. Photo by Trúc Nguyen Allen