Crystal's glitzy gondola is the 'what's new' headliner for NW ski resorts
A roundup of new additions to ski and snowboarding resorts around Washington, Oregon, Idaho and British Columbia
Seattle Times staff reporter
There are some huge changes coming this winter to Washington ski and snowboard areas.
The biggest head turner is the Mount Rainier Gondola at Crystal Mountain Resort, an eight-passenger lift — the first of its kind in the state — that is expected to open in early December.
"This will be the only gondola at a Washington ski area, so we've earned some pretty cool bragging rights," said Tiana Enger, the marketing manager at Crystal Mountain Resort. "Crystal is no longer just for snow enthusiasts. With the new gondola anyone will be able to travel to the summit to enjoy the breathtaking view of Mount Rainier and Northwest cuisine at the Summit House." The latter brags that it is Washington's highest restaurant.
In less than 10 minutes, riders will reach the top, at 6,856 feet, in half the time of the old two-chairlift route. And they will stay dry and warm.
The 13-tower Doppelmayr gondola, with an estimated price tag of $5.8 million, will have 23 bright-red cabins with dark smoked glass, plus the option to hold 13 more. It will rise almost 2,500 vertical feet from the base to the summit. The uphill capacity is 600 people per hour, which can increase to 900 with the additional cabins.
The addition of the gondola will also allow Crystal to open earlier and stay open later, with skiing in high-elevation Green Valley, and it will serve as a backup when the Rainier Express chair is not able to run due to high winds.
Crystal has announced a Dec. 10 grand-opening celebration for the gondola. Installers have been scrambling to meet that goal, with tower installation continuing into this month. For updates and a gallery of installation photos, see www.mtrainiergondola.com.
Plans at Crystal include additional activities such as mountain biking and a zip line, possibly by the summer of 2012, depending on approval by the U.S. Forest Service.
The Summit at Snoqualmie
Summit East ski and snowboard area, part of The Summit at Snoqualmie resort, reopens after an extended closure, with two new chairlifts providing access to more than 150 acres of intermediate and advanced terrain.
On the front side of Summit East, the East Peak Triple Chair will unload at the top of The Knob, providing tree-lined, rolling fall-line runs. It will also load directly at the base, doing away with the uphill hike required for the old lift.
On the back side of Summit East, the Hidden Valley Double Chairlift will open up 65 acres of terrain that hasn't been available to skiers and boarders for more than 20 years.
The long-awaited expansion of Summit East comes after a landslide took out the area's main chairlift in January 2009. Stabilization of the slope was completed last summer.
"We are ecstatic to reopen Summit East and introduce some amazing new terrain," said Dan Brewster, general manager for The Summit. "Guests will be rewarded with extensive fall-line skiing, steep pitches and solitude that Summit East is known for, while enjoying world-class views of the Gold Creek Valley."
Looking toward the future, the Summit's master-development plan, approved by the Forest Service in 2008, will also allow construction of a mountaintop restaurant and additional base-area amenities.
White Pass Ski Area
The Paradise Basin expansion at White Pass Ski Area gives an additional 767 acres of terrain, doubling the size of the ski area this coming winter.
The basin will include a new Doppelmayr Basin quad fixed-grip chairlift that is approximately 3,700 feet in length with a top terminal at 6,200 feet elevation. The quad accesses four ski trails and one lodge-access trail along with an access trail from the existing Holiday Trail and an egress trail to the existing Quail Trail.
The detachable Doppelmayr Couloir Express quad chairlift in the basin is about 4,200 feet in length with a top terminal elevation of 6,541 feet. It includes seven ski trails and an egress trail from the High Camp Lodge.
All the developed and undeveloped trails and facilities at White Pass are in a subalpine area of naturally open vegetative terrain necessitating little tree removal and almost no ground disturbance.
The White Pass High Camp Lodge is located on a slight ridgeline between the Basin and Couloir chairlifts. This structure allows guests to use the two upper lifts without returning to the base area for services.
Around the state
Here are other significant changes to Washington areas:
• The 49 Degrees North Ski Area in Eastern Washington's Stevens County added seven alpine trails and 170 acres of glades on 5,295-foot Angel Peak, which is the terrain west of Chair Four. There are new restroom facilities at the summit of the mountain, and an expanded sun deck on the front of the lodge.
• Loup Loup Ski Bowl, east of Twisp in Okanogan County, rerouted and improved the popular Flat Loop Nordic Trail. Loup Loup also remodeled its day lodge rental shop and kitchen.
• Mt. Spokane Ski & Snowboard Park added guest-locker storage areas to the main day lodge.
Also new for Washington skiers: North Cascade Heli-Skiing, in partnership with J.R. Helicopters, will offer backcountry helicopter skiing with a fast, powerful Eurocopter AS350 AStar B3 aircraft.
Mt. Bachelor Resort near Bend installed a fully enclosed 200-foot moving carpet-style lift for beginners at the West Village base area, and relocated the Martee West moving carpet to the Sunrise Lodge.
The Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Resort created an adventure-terrain park specifically for its ski and snowboard-school operations, and equipped it with a rope tow. Also new: the Fresh Tracks Deli and Vertical Restaurant and Meeting Center in the North Lodge.
Timberline Ski Area at Mount Hood added more than $4 million in improvements to the lodge complex — including the paving of all parking lots — and has added a landmark sign at the approach to Timberline Road.
Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area installed a 400-foot moving carpet lift in the Coach's Corner beginner area.
Schweitzer Mountain Resort added the Starfish Terrain Park, with beginner and intermediate jumps and jibs.
At the Whistler-Blackcomb Resort the Nintendo Terrain Parks crew is bringing park riding to the forefront by adding an Olympic-sized Superpipe. Crews are widening and straightening the Superpipe's fall-line for better riding and to accommodate the 22-foot Global Pipe Cutter and are also improving the Nintendo Terrain Park on Whistler Mountain.
The 15-foot mini pipe returns to Blackcomb Mountain.
Fernie Alpine Resort completed blasting of the "Sky Dive" traverse, which will result in easier access to this run. Tree glading between Cruiser and Cedar Center has opened up some intermediate glades.
Red Mountain Resort expanded its skiable terrain by cutting new runs on Grey Mountain, and will feature terrain accessible for backcountry use only.
Red will offer backcountry-guided tours from the top of Granite to a newly erected yurt called the Alpine Glory Hut.
The newly renovated and expanded day lodge at Red includes a conference center, rentals and ski/snowboard services, coffee and wine bar, retail and general store space as well as a newly appointed Sourdough Grill & Pizzeria and Rafters Bar & Lounge.
Whitewater Ski Resort's new Glory Ridge Triple Chairlift opens another 749 acres of advanced terrain with old-growth tree skiing. The new chair will cater to skiers and boarders looking for deep-powder descents.
Seattle Times transportation reporter Mike Lindblom describes some of the factors that may have led to the collapse of the I-5 bridge over the Skagit River in Mount Vernon on Thursday, May 23.