Blog Crystal

Ski Patrol Crystal Mountain Washington

Photo updates from Bottom of Chair 6

Posted in News, Photo of the Day

Snow removal continues on Queens Run

It’s been an amazing summer in the Pacific Northwest, hotter and drier than normal.   (Though what is normal, huh?  Guess that’s another topic.)  You’d think the snow would be long gone here at Crystal!  Not on Queens run near the bottom of Chair 6 though.  In-fact there are still several feet siting on the ground.

At the top of Chair 6, the new bullwheel is installed, rock work around the top terminal is well underway and the lift shack has been remodeled.  The concrete footings for each tower are in place, as is the footing and wiring for the bottom terminal.

Looking forward to seeing the final results!

What’s So Cool About Gazex?

Posted in Avalanche Hazard, Events and Activities, News

Exciting, new avalanche control technology is coming to Crystal this season. Three Gazex exploders are currently being installed in Powder Bowl, and if you’re not familiar with the technology, you’ll have to trust me on this one. Gazex is cool.


Because nothing says all-caps AWESOME like a fiery ball of gas setting off an avalanche. That’s two Hollywood-style special effects for the price of one. Let’s call it the Powder Bowl Two-fer.

Gazex Explosion

So what is Gazex?

Here’s the official marketing speak from the maker’s of Gazex (T.A.S). website:

Gazex is a powerful, permanent remote avalanche control systems. Gazex operates without explosives: the blast is caused by the detonation of a propane and oxygen mixture. The exploders are connected to a central gas shelter capable of storing sufficient gas reserves for the entire season.

Essentially it breaks down like this: a few squirts (and by “squirts” I mean a highly scientific mixture) of propane and O2 are blended in the exploder tube and lit on fire. This is the kind of thing ten-year-old boys’ dreams are made of. A blast of fire explodes from the tip of the tube and points straight down at the snow. This, in turn, will start an avalanche if conditions are right. If not, just like with explosives AC (Avalanche Control), the slope is deemed safe enough to ride.

These exploders are permanent installations. For this reason, Gazex isn’t going to be replacing the ski patrol avalanche teams anytime soon (phew!). Instead, our goal is to use Gazex in places like PB and possibly Rock Face–avalanche paths that overhang heavily trafficked pistes. The Gazex exploders are triggered remotely, which means that the patrol can fire them off quickly and if the hazard ramps up during a storm.

Our Powder Bowl Gazex exploders won’t necessarily mean that Southback is going to open anytime sooner. But they will help us expedite our “in-area” Avalanche Control, keep our snowcat drivers safer and help to mitigate avalanche hazard in Powder Bowl.

Most importantly, Gazex is simply going to be cool to watch.

Blaine in Powder Bowl preparing for concrete



Chairlift Graveyard

Posted in News

Crews are hard at work on the early stages of some of the changes coming to Crystal this summer.  Come up and see what’s going on.  It sounds like there’ll be some new snow on Saturday, and some sunshine on Sunday!


Chairlift Graveyard

What’s opening tomorrow?

Posted in Closures, Conditions, News


With 12 inches of new snow on the upper mountain over the past five days we came in today to do avalanche control work.

Lifts running will be the Gondola, Green Valley and Rainier Express.   Terrain open will be Snorting Elk, Green Valley and Middle Ferk’s and the rest of the frontside over to (and including) Lucky Shot.  The lift-served terrain is all “blue square” More Difficult terrain, and above.

Kelly’s Gap will remain closed, as is the rest of the lower area below the bottom of Rainier Express.

We hope you’ll come join us!

Look around

Posted in Photo of the Day


I know I have said this in the past but with only two days left of full operation I remind myself of the beauty this place holds. Today is no different as I look off in the distance at the cloud formations that are chaotic and breathtaking.

Next weekend Spring/Summer skiing begins weekends only.

Meet Your 2014 Dirtbag King and Queen

Posted in Skier/Snowboarder Stories

Nate Markquart and Tara Simpson rock the capes at the 13th Annual Dirtbag Ball


A couple of new royals have been crowned here at Crystal Mountain. Congratulations to Tara Simpson and Nate Markquart for becoming our  2014-2015 Dirtbag King and Queen. Some of you often ask, “what does it take to become royalty.” The short answer: it isn’t easy. Just take a look at all that Tara and Nate as examples.

Tara has skied at Crystal for 28 years, and most years she skis 120+ days every season. That’s more than some of us on the patrol! When the lifts close, she keeps skiing all year on the mountains and glaciers of the PNW. For five years in a row, she made turns all year (that’s skiing at least once every month of the year).

She lives full time in Greenwater with her husband Carl, who she regularly skis with at Crystal. She’s lost count of how many first chairs and first gondola cabins she’s been on. She has even worked her professional life into 40 hours on the weekends so that she can ski Monday through Thursday every week.

Tara says it best when she explains why, “My happiness and freedom is found in the mountains. It’s what fills me up.”

Nate Markquart has had a season’s pass at Crystal since 1998. He stays in his 1968 Airstream trailer with his wife Kate and their two labs. He’s also lived in the clubs, and in Steve Fratella’s trailer over the years, but finally purchased the trailer four seasons ago and they haven’t looked back.

Nate is known in B Lot as the host with the most. He and Kate regularly host dinners and after-ski parties at their cozy trailer complete with a wood stove. Nate is known all over the mountain as a generous and positive force.

While Nate has many favorite runs at Crystal, when the snow is light and powdery down to the road, he loves to ski Left Angle Trees. Even this season he had one great run in Left Angle that he claims made the entire season worthwhile.

Look for Nate and Tara next season in their Wapiti Woolies Dirtbag hats. Our members of the royal class often act as informal liaisons between patrol and the public. So feel free to reach out our King and Queen if you have any questions or concerns. They deserve your respect. These two are certainly the real deal. Welcome to the Dirtbag world you two.


Avalanche Skills Workshop

Posted in Avalanche Hazard, Events and Activities

Crystal Mountain Ski Patrol is offering a 2 hour introductory workshop on safe travel in avalanche terrain and deep snow safety. This course will cover basic concepts such as avalanches, weather forecasts, transceiver searches and strategic probing and shoveling. This class will be held outside. No gear is required for this workshop. The class has a minimum of 3 students and maximum of 8.

Date: April 13, 2014

Cost: Free

Registration: Call 360-663-3060 or stop by Ski Patrol

Our Curious Closures of Southback & Powder Bowl

Posted in Avalanche Hazard, Closures, Conditions, News

A few people have noticed that our closure of Powder Bowl–and of Southback from Queen’s Run–don’t really make sense in terms of our normal logic of opening and closing terrain.   Unusual circumstances call for unusual measures.  Allow me to explain…

First, for this to make sense you have to remember that in addition to being a beautiful expanse of nature, Crystal Mountain is also a business.  A business with a permit to operate in its own best interest by the Forest Service.  So while there may be sketchy backcountry gnar that I choose to teeter across on my day off to get to something good, that’s a lot different than a company such as ours offering its customers skiing in those same sketchy areas as part of their lift ticket purchase.  (That’s why lots of ski resorts have Permanently Closed Areas—You don’t necessarily die the moment you set foot in there, but the hazards are so extreme that closing the area to everyone is warranted!)  And we communicate the extent of responsibility our company is willing to assume by indicating which areas are “open” and which areas are “closed”, with signs.

Also for this to make sense, you need to know (if somehow you haven’t heard) that Chair 6 (High Campbell) got destroyed by an avalanche on March 10th.  So, we’re not doing avalanche control work in Southback anymore, and with the reduction in compaction created by less skier traffic, it’s even MORE “avalanche prone” than usual–similar to true backcountry. 

For the remainder of this season, Southback is CLOSED to lift-accessed skiing.  We’re treating it like the true backcountry, and ski-tourers are allowed to travel there under their own power from the Quicksilver trail.  (Not to be confused with the Quicksilver lift, which is closed for at least the rest of the season, and probably forever, if it gets replaced!)  But we’re PROHIBITING access from the Lake Elizabeth outrun onto Queen’s Run–and similar areas–to reduce “sucker tracks” that lure guests who might not be fully aware of the increased avalanche danger there, into short hikes into avalanche start & runout zones.

Powder Bowl is a little different.  We’ll evaluate the skiing, and open it when we think the skiing conditions and visibility will appeal to the average kind of customer who’s likely to hike up there, taking into account any avalanche danger Powder Bowl skiers might create for Lucky Shot skiers passing below.  There will probably be times that it will look pretty but the skiing sucks, and you won’t understand why it’s closed.  I hope you’ll trust that we’ll open it anytime it doesn’t seem unwise.  We put a lot of thought and discussion into these kinds of decisions, and prefer to have terrain open whenever operational concerns allow.