Blog Crystal

Ski Patrol Crystal Mountain Washington

It’s a Beautiful New Year at Crystal Mountain

Posted in Conditions, Photo of the Day

We are all feeling pretty darn grateful for our luck. The snow has stayed dry and chalky, the skies are blue and the views are spectacular. Just a little over a week ago, we received our first real storm. We lucked out because we didn’t get nearly the rain that other resorts did, and we ended up with nearly two feet of snow. Thanks to low humidity and high pressure, the snow has stayed dry and nice. Nearly everything is open–Bear Pits still needs more snow to cover all those rocks and shrubs. The top of Chair 6 is starting to look pretty bare though. We are supposed to pick up some snow tonight. Fingers crossed the next big storm is all snow and no rain.

We’ve been lucky so far. I’m betting our luck continues.

Everything is groovy at Crystal!

Crystal Opens Wall to Wall (Almost)

Posted in Conditions, Weather

It has been quite a while since Crystal Mountain was open “wall to wall.” Last season our entire ski area terrain only opened for about a month from early February to March 10th. (In case you’re new here, March 10th was that fateful day when an avalanche–that my team mates and I set off during avalanche control–destroyed Chair 6.)

Sunny groomer day on Friday with the new Chair 6 in the background

Yesterday, only a week after the snow started to accumulate on our slopes, we opened pretty much wall to wall. From Southback to Northway, great snow now covers our slopes. Saturday was a pow storm day and Sunday was a legitimate face-shot type of day. The hard coral reef-like chunder from the quick little rain we got on Christmas Eve is completely buried now. At least I didn’t feel it anyway. I’m sure there are still a few hard bits under all this snow, but you’d have to look hard to find them.

Evelyn getting after it on Saturday

Cars are buried in the parking lot. The RV lot is full, and the crowds have returned. Yesterday was our busiest day of the season so far, but the lines weren’t even that bad. When the snow is this good, people tend to spread out. As one guy on the lift yesterday said, “everyone is doing their thing.”

The new Chair 6 opened to excited skiers and riders on Christmas Eve. The first chair honors went to Dan Howell and Kyle Miller. Way to go guys!

Dan Howell and Kyle Miller waiting for first chair honors on the new Chair 6

There’s still a few pockets of terrain closed. Kelly’s Gap will open today. Niagra’s will remain closed due to low snow. Brand X and Penny Dawgs will most likely open soon pending more assessment. The chutes at the bottom are still pretty bare of snow, so we’ll see.

Kevin doing avalanche control on Boxcar

Southback is especially good and deep. The new ride on Chair 6 is fast and comfortable. The top is still a bit tight–we hope to widen the off-load area next summer. A few rocks are poking out at the top, so be careful getting off the ridge.

Hiking the Throne on Friday

Otherwise, its been a great holiday season so far and we are all feeling blessed by this great snow.

So it Begins: Crystal to Open Tomorrow

Posted in Conditions, Photo of the Day, Weather

Today Patrol worked on preparing equipment and boundary rope lines for opening tomorrow, Monday.

Kim working on the boundary line.


Toboggans lined up at the summit


Crystal will have limited operations with the Gondola and Green Valley lifts running. We received a foot of snow this weekend, just enough to open Green Valley, which has the best coverage. My advice is to bring your rock skis and remember that the season is still young. The coverage is low and you will most likely find a few unmarked hazards. Enjoy the views and the smiling faces around you. Plus, remember that you’re the lucky ones–lapping up the snow instead of working in town. We look forward to seeing you on the slopes soon.

Meet the Crystal Mountain Avalanche Dogs

Posted in Events and Activities

Crystal Avalanche Dogs get in on the Airlift Northwest training

If you like dogs and you also enjoy beer, then join us this Saturday, November 15th at Elysian Fields Brewery. This event will feature an opportunity to meet some working dogs, purchase this season’s new dog shirt, as well as have a rare opportunity to get a pint of Elk Frost in the city!

We will also be featuring an Avalanche Awareness Demo led by Dallas Glass from International Mountain Guides at 5:00.

There will also be a silent auction held to benefit the Avalanche Rescue Dog Program. We will also be selling $1 raffle tickets and drawing great prizes. Cool swag include apparel from Outdoor Research, a Level I Avalanche Course, and much more.

Please join us for a fun night of bringing the Crystal stoke to Seattle to benefit our hard-working dogs!

Ski Patrol Prepares for Upcoming Season

Posted in Photo of the Day

Last week, the Crystal Mountain Ski Patrol gathered for our annual training. We are all looking forward to a great season. With all the recent improvements on the mountain and within the patrol, we can’t wait for the snow to fall. Here’s a few photos from the past week.

Chair 6 haul rope as of Sunday was half way around!

Bottom of Chair 6. Winter is just around the corner.


Crystal Avalanche dogs pose with Airlift Northwest helicopter


Thank you Airlift Northwest for taking part in our ongoing first aid training.

Snow Safety Director, Chet, demonstrated of our new Gazex exploders in Powder Bowl.

Lisa P. models one of the patrol’s new BCA Float airbags.


Chair evacuation training



Kala and Christina getting cozy during training.

It was a bonding experience as always.

We woke to a layer of fresh snow Monday morning!

Backcountry Research Project Wants To Track Your Ski Tours

Posted in Avalanche Hazard, Events and Activities


The Snow and Avalanche Lab at Montana State University wants to track your ski tours. While not all readers here are heading into the backcountry, many of you like to spice it up by earning your turns on occasion. If so, you could be a part of some exciting research simply by using an app on your phone.

Led by MSU faculty Dr. Jordy Hendrikx, the project aims to collect GPS location information and survey responses from backcountry skiers and riders to better understand what types of terrain decision we make. Their focus is on backcountry skiers and riders of all abilities and experience. You need not be an expert backcountry skier to participate in this research.

Every track submitted will go into the draw for some great prizes kindly donated by Black Diamond Equipment. The more tracks you submit the more chances you have at winning a prize!


At the Northwest Snow and Avalanche Workshop in Seattle this weekend, Jordy presented the data gleaned from last season. He had tracks from Utah to Norway with information about the steepness of terrain travelled, the avalanche conditions and the dynamics of the group.

Surprisingly, however, there wasn’t a single track from the state of Washington. Jordy mused that perhaps skiers and riders in Washington just don’t venture out into the backcountry. Or perhaps, and this seems more likely to me, folks around here like to keep their stashes a secret.

Why They Need Your Help

Whatever the case, you need not worry. Jordy isn’t sharing your goods with the world. Instead, he and his team of snow science graduate students are looking for decision making patterns in the backcountry.

He’s already drawn some interesting conclusions from last season. One that I found particularly illuminating was the effect that women have on decision making. Groups of all-guy backcountry users tend to get into riskier situations. Jordy and his team can track this by comparing the steepness of the terrain entered with the avalanche hazard rating for that time and location. Add one gal to the mix and the riskiness stays about the same. But add two or three ladies to the group and the levels of risk-taking start to go down. All-women groups are the most risk-averse of backcountry users.

The Three Shivas were also in attendance at NSAW on Sunday, giving our version of the Chair 6 Avalanche story. I’m here to tell you, if you want to be sure to have a safe backcountry experience, just bring one of us along. Once you’ve seen a slope go big, you never forget it.

How to Sign Up

Click on the image below to sign up. Jordy needs some Washington backcountry users to broaden his study. Just think of it as your way of “giving back.”


Snow Guardians: Documentary on Ski Patrolling

Posted in Avalanche Hazard, Employment, Skier/Snowboarder Stories

Ever wonder what it’s like to be a professional ski patroller? Perhaps you have wondered about the lives of avalanche forecasters, or you have considered joining a Search and Rescue group.

The film Snow Guardians documents the lives and work of patrollers and rescuers. Based in Montana and focusing on Bridger Bowl Ski Patrol, with footage from Yellowstone Club and Big Sky Resort, Snow Guardians depicts an accurate portrait of patrol life.

This is no small feat.

A documentary on ski patrolling seems like a no brainer. Of course viewers would find explosive control and snow-related emergencies interesting. Saving lives and throwing bombs? Why wouldn’t today’s viewers lap that up? Well, of course there’s more to it than that.

Camera crews often clamber for access to our lives. At Crystal a few years ago, reality television crews followed some of us around, hoping to capture the daily ups and downs of the job. Their task proved difficult. Few members of that camera crew were strong enough skiers and riders to truly “shadow” us. Plus, they were carrying an extra hundred pounds in camera gear.

Most ski patrols aren’t too keen on having a camera crew join them on their avalanche control missions. The use of explosives in the mountains is tightly regulated, and adding in anything extraneous would seem unnecessary and maybe dangerous. By the looks of it, the makers of Snow Guardians do an excellent job of showcasing avalanche control without getting in the way. No doubt the videographers were highly skilled themselves and able to get great footage without endangering anyone. As a ski patroller, I have a keen appreciation for how hard it must have been to film this documentary.

Add to that the nature of the job, when emergencies happen at the most inopportune moments, and you can begin to see how challenging a task this is. Furthermore, ski patrollers tend not to be attention-seekers. We aren’t the sharing type, by nature. It helps that the producers of this film had friends on the Bridger Patrol, which no doubt opened some doors.

What makes Snow Guardians so good is the level of access they had to the inner workings of the Bridger Bowl Patrol. Billed as a documentary that teaches the importance of backcountry knowledge and skills, I see it as a clear glimpse into our world. Snow Guardians is for sale. It’s about the price of a hard cover book, and it’s worth the money. Check out the trailer below.

Mark your Calendars – Winter Wag Event

Posted in Events and Activities, News, Photo of the Day

Photo by Cembalski Photography


Please join the Crystal Mountain Avalanche Dogs for an Elysian Brewing-hosted fundraiser. This event will feature an opportunity to meet some working dogs, purchase this season’s new dog shirt, as well as have a rare opportunity to get a pint of Elk Frost in the city!

We will also be featuring an Avalanche Awareness Demo led by Dallas Glass from International Mountain Guides at 5:00.

There will also be a silent auction held to benefit the Avalanche Rescue Dog Program. Cool swag at this auction include apparel from Outdoor Research, a Level I Avalanche Course, and much more.

Please join us for a fun night of bringing the Crystal stoke to Seattle to benefit our hard-working dogs!

When:  Saturday, November 15 at 4:00pm – 9:00pm
Where: Elysian Fields, 542 1st Ave S, Seattle, Washington 98104