Atop Crystal Mountain: tons of snow, sunny skies and views of majestic Mt. Rainier. Photo by John Boesche.
By John Boesche
It’s hard to believe the 2012-2013 ski season is already in full swing! Much of the credit goes to our friends at Crystal Mountain, who have created a skier’s paradise that now extends into July each year. I repeat: July! The resort is home to one of the longest ski seasons in North America, meaning the term “off-season” is almost obsolete these days.
The key to such a long ski season is the Mt. Rainier Gondola, which was completed in 2010. The first of its kind in Washington, Crystal Mountain’s commitment to the gondola was more of a statement than a project. No longer would the resort only be considered a mecca for snow enthusiasts; it would position itself as a year-round destination. Covering 2,500 vertical feet in just under 10 minutes, the gondola has opened up an entirely new playground for visitors in the spring and summer (the gondola only ceases operations for two months in the early fall). You’ll find yourself busy with hiking, biking, horseback riding, disc golf and even fine dining when the hills aren’t covered in snow. Once you reach the top and enjoy an out-of-this-world view of Mt. Rainier and the Cascade Mountains, you’ll wonder why you waited so long to visit.
Crystal Mountain lies on the sunny side of Mt. Rainier, just six miles from the northeast entrance to Mt. Rainier National Park. The resort continues to grow and push the boundaries, ensuring its rightful place as a “must-see” destination while in Washington. For those driving from Seattle, a little over two hours on the road takes you from the waters of Puget Sound to the shadow of picturesque Mt. Rainier (just slightly above sea level at 14,411 feet).
So while we’re all celebrating winter storms and powder days now, be sure to keep this hotspot on your to-do list year-round. As the resort itself touts: “Seasons change. Your destination doesn’t have to.”
Dine with a View
The true gem of Crystal Mountain in the summer is the Summit House, Washington’s highest restaurant. Perched at almost 7,000 feet above sea level, this dining experience provides unparalleled views and traditional Northwest cuisine. With an average entrée price of $25, the Summit House provides fine dining in a casual environment and at a reasonable price.
Stay and Play
Whether you’re up for a day on the slopes or a hike in the summer, think about making it a weekend trip. Crystal Mountain Hotels offers a variety of lodging options within a short walk to the base area. And after a full day on the mountain, make sure to check out the Snorting Elk for a beer and some laughs. Outside of having an awesome name, this cellar is home to war stories from the locals and live music on the weekends.