Taryn Zard, Staff Writer
Darker days and colder nights are upon us. The cold can be depressing at times, especially when it is gloomy outside by the time dinner is over. However, the winter also means that great, snowy, outdoor activities are available. If you enjoy skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, building snowmen, or just drinking a nice cup of hot chocolate, Crystal Mountain might be the place for you. If you have never done anything in the snow before, but want to give it a chance, stop on by. Nestled in the shadow of Mt. Rainier and the Cascade Mountains, Crystal Mountain is in Enumclaw, Wash., just under nine miles from the base of Mount Rainier National Park. Estimated to open on Nov. 23, Crystal Mountain is the last ski resort to close in the area, staying open until mid-April. There are day passes available. Prices for youth (ages 13-22) ranges from $45-$87 and adult passes range from $52-$99.There are also five-day vouchers/five-day direct cards, and seasonal “Ikon” passes. The adult (ages 23+) Ikon Base-Pass is $799 and gives you 12 unlimited ski and ride destinations with up to five days at 28 destinations, as well as summer access on the Mt. Rainier gondola ride. Similarly, there is the Ikon Pass, which is $1,099, and gives you two more unlimited ski and ride destinations, up to seven days at 26 destinations, summer access to the Mt. Rainier gondola ride, and no holiday blackout days. The seasonal pass works at the Pass on Snoqualmie as well as Crystal Mountain.
Crystal Mountain offers lessons for groups or privately—though the private lessons range from three to four times the cost of group lessons. The mountain also offers tours, rentals, a fireside sundeck, lodging, and six different dining options. In addition to the many slopes and trails for skiing and snowboarding, there are two freestyle terrain parks: Disco, for beginners, and Silver, for those who master Disco, where you can unleash your wild side. There are jumps, boxes, and different rails to practice tricks on. There are also trails you can go snowshoeing on to explore the peaceful sights the snowy Alpine has to offer. The rental snowshoes keep you above the snow while walking and have metal teeth that provide traction to the slippery, icy planes on the mountain. Something they recommend is bringing a separate, designated camera for taking photos other than your phone, as the battery dies quickly in the cold and you never know when an emergency might arise where you will need to call someone. The last feature Crystal Mountain offers is Washington’s only gondola ride. Starting at 4,400 ft., with a vertical incline of 2,456 ft. and a speed of 800 ft. per minute, you will reach the top in only about 9 minutes and 39 seconds. The Gondola opened Jan 1, 2011, and has normal Winter operating hours from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., with the last scheduled down-lift at 4 p.m. The hours of operation depend on the weather, so be sure to keep updated on the reports throughout the day.
When I asked the head of Saint Martin’s Charneski Recreation Center and SOAR program (Saints Outdoor Adventure Recreation), David Crawford, if they plan on making a trip next semester, his response sounded promising. “We’ll be doing a number of winter trips in January/ February to take advantage of the snow,” Crawford stated, so keep your eyes open for any deals to the slopes from SOAR. In addition to Crystal Mountain, it sounds like there will be other opportunities for fun times in the snow. Crawford added, “We’ll be doing ski trips, snowshoeing, and sledding.” Even though the cold, dreary weather is upon us, there are lots of opportunities for amusement—just not “fun in the sun.”