News Roundup: Mixed Bag


11 thoughts on “News Roundup: Mixed Bag

  1. pbropetech April 8, 2023 / 7:59 am

    Not surprised Alterra is backing down on on ‘reimagining’ Crystal. They seem to be realists, and in 60 years Crystal has seen many big-budget plans to turn it into something it’s not and probably never will be. They’ve all failed to some degree. Crystal would be money ahead if it focused on streamlining the skiing experience- which includes (re)expanding to the east side of the valley, parking and overall skier flow- rather than grandiose hotels/structures and trying to shoehorn more stuff into that drainage.

    Best quote- ‘Enumclaw is not the next Bend’.


    • Anthony April 8, 2023 / 10:05 am

      I actually don’t think the idea of a new hotel to keep more people on-mountain is a bad idea. The problem is that the resort’s growth over the past five years has exposed very real and very problematic parts of the ski day experience at Crystal that are just so much more fundamental and need to be fixed first.

      The road is the first pinch point, and I experienced it a few times this year. I would be on track for an 8:45am arrival, I’d turn onto Crystal Mountain Boulevard, and I’d hit a sea of red taillights that meant I didn’t get into a spot until 10:00am. Something needs to be done to improve traffic flow into the parking lots—slip lanes, additional queuing space, etc. And they need to double down on encouraging use of the shuttle from Enumclaw.

      The parking-to-lift experience is the second pinch point. If you’re not there so early that you get a spot at the front of B-Lot, you need to wait for a shuttle. And the shuttles are actual buses, not the open-air shuttles used at Big Sky or Taos, for example. They need to install the Park-N-Ride lift that was envisioned in their master plan, running from one of the lower lots to the main lodge. The Kelly’s Gap lift could help there too. And in the meantime, returning to the old open-air shuttles would help immensely. At the end of the day, they need to figure out a ski-back trail so you can get at least past B-Lot on skis instead of having to take a shuttle at all.

      On-mountain is the third pinch-point, although this one isn’t nearly as serious as the first two. There are some lift problems, and a replacement of REX and a gondola to Campbell Basin aren’t bad ideas. But in the short-term, they also need a couple small tweaks — loading carpets and new loading gates at Chinook and Forest Queen, for example, would make a big difference reducing misloads and improving capacity. Grooming additional runouts in Northway would help more people stay back there on so-so snow days, instead of the one-and-done so many people do since they don’t want to deal with the bumps and the end of the run. And then theres the oddity of Crystal once having RFID, then removing it. Bring it back.

      Finally, there are obvious lodge/dining capacity problems. The Mountain Commons project will start to chip away at that, but I still think they need another on-mountain option to reduce crowds at Campbell Basin and in the base area. Somewhere in Green Valley could work. In the short-term, they could also get creative like Summit at Snoqualmie and do things like half-off food after 2pm to reduce crowding and spread out when people eat lunch.

      Overall, I think the problem hasn’t been for lack of options for improvements, but lack of focus and lack of creativity. We haven’t really seen any benefits from Alterra’s purchase of Crystal, and the ones that we did see for a bit (unlimited on Ikon) weren’t feasible to maintain. They need to commit to some smaller changes even this summer (beyond Mountain Commons) to begin to chip away at some of these problems.

      Otherwise, imo, just give the place back to Boyne. 🤷‍♂️

      Liked by 2 people

      • Joe Blake April 8, 2023 / 8:53 pm

        I had a long-winded essay all written up, but really, it all boils down to this for me: Puget Sound is over. They won, whoever they are. Certainly not us plebes. Crystal, whether in the hands of Alterra, John, Boyne, or the stockholders, is a victim of the same thing that killed the Front Range, the Wasatch Front, SF, PDX, Bend, Bozeman, Boise, Mammoth, CB, Summit, PC, heck, even places like Duluth and Bentonville. Progress. It’s flat out bad for us all, and there’s no recovering. Crystal will be a sh!@show from here out, even if Pa cuts all the trees for parking and new lifts. The only way it won’t is if the economy crashes way worse than ’29, and then we’ll all have bigger fish to fry. There’s just too many people and too much money. If you can get out and still make money, find a place like Discovery or Saddleback and hold on for dear life until you get squozen (that’s a word cos I said it) again.


        • ShangRei Garrett April 8, 2023 / 9:55 pm

          Well, somebody’s an optimits. But for real though, if you didn’t delete your whole essay you had written, I would love to read it and see more of your opinion and why you think these things.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Joe Blake April 10, 2023 / 10:13 pm

          See below. Not sure if it’s coherent. I tried to make it not-attacky. If fault exists, it’s so diffuse as to be categorised as “the economy” or “modern society” or “the one percenters”. Basically, s#!@ happens, and sometimes that which does really sucks and it’s hard not to feel crushed under its weight.


      • pbropetech April 9, 2023 / 8:21 am

        Looks like we have most of the same opinions, you just explained them better.

        My problems with the hotel are a) where do all those people park, and b) what do they do after the lifts close? We all know about the lack of parking; there already is a shortage and even if they build a hotel day skiers will still be CM’s bread and butter. (Yes, they could build the hotel over a garage but that adds a significant cost to the project). As far as b) goes, there is the Alpine Inn/Snorting Elk (I think- if it hasn’t closed) and Rafters or whatever they call it now. Unless there are plans to add a later-operating joint once a hotel goes in, options for those guests would be severely limited. I’m perfectly happy to go back to a hotel after a day of skiing, eat some ramen, read a book, and crash until first chair the next day- but I’m probably in the minority there.

        Lifts are a no-brainer here. I’m not surprised to hear that Chinook has misload issues; no-one could get on the old Midway and I haven’t seen an improvement in lift-riding ability in the intervening years. We tried a loading carpet then and it caused more problems than it solved. Maybe the technology has improved but I’m still skeptical. 9 has always been popular and arm-wrestled with 10 for lift-line waits, so making that run more efficiently would be a big help. I still think taking 5 out was a mistake, as it took some of the load off 9 for those headed up from the base area, but the proposed gondola would serve that purpose now.

        As for the busses, many ski areas rely on shuttles from remote parking lots- even Beaver Creek. And I have it on good authority that the open-air shuttles were dropped at WSP’s request and they won’t be returning. Seems those tasked with highway safety feel the trailers were unsafe, even though they were convenient.


        • Anthony April 9, 2023 / 11:54 am

          Yeah, on the hotel issue, my assumption is that anything Alterra builds would include underground parking, restaurant, bar, pool, spa, and the like. And before he was promoted, it seemed like DeBerry wanted to slowly expand the night skiing offering. LCC doesn’t really have much to do after the lifts close, either, but it seems to work out pretty well. 🤷‍♂️ Regardless, like I said, the hotel seems like such a distant issue when the day-of experience right now has such big pain points.

          The newer loading carpets are decent! My sense from Summit at Snoqualmie and Big Sky is that they work decently well. Won’t completely eliminate misloads of course but those + better gates at least *seem* to improve the situation slightly. I rode Chinook a few times this year where it stopped 4-5 times in a single ride up. 🤦‍♂️

          Liked by 1 person

        • Anthony April 9, 2023 / 12:05 pm

          Like, I can’t get over how much just implementing their base area master plan from 2004 would resolve so many of these problems. Make sure that the Kelly’s Gap lift runs until end of day for return to Lot G and it would be *chef’s kiss.*

          Liked by 1 person

    • skitheeast April 10, 2023 / 8:38 am

      Lifts and dining need to be addressed, but Crystal’s biggest issue is access, and Reimagine Crystal did not propose nearly enough in that department. Adding more parking or lanes to fix traffic and congestion is like adding a bigger bucket to fix a leaky ceiling. It will be filled up again pretty quickly and will not solve the problem. The fact that people are still preferring to drive to the base and seeking for others to use the alternative shuttles shows the scope of the problem, as any real solution would motivate most people to change. A car is never stuck in traffic, a car is traffic.

      There are only two real solutions to this problem. Option 1 is to build a ton of condos/hotels at the base to spread out when people arrive. In Colorado, I-70 can get pretty backed up on both Friday nights and Saturday mornings, but imagine how horrendous the highway would be if these two traffic volumes were combined and all on Saturday morning due to there being no bed base around Summit and Eagle County. Option 2 is to build an alternative mode of transit with a high capacity that receives priority to incentivize usage, with this latter part likely requiring all base lots to be quite expensive to use. A pie-in-the-sky solution here is a rail link from Seattle, but a more down-to-earth approach is to build a gondola from Ranger Creek Airport with a parking garage.

      Either option would require a significant push and likely be unpopular at implementation, as most people hate change and breaking their existing habits. However, the alternative is to let the problem get incrementally worse every year or price tickets and passes so high that only a select few can even afford to ski at Crystal.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Joe Blake April 10, 2023 / 10:10 pm

        Well said on all points. The push for the access gondola you propose, however, would be at least as much as the mythical LCC 3S even before considering the expected lack of popularity. (I agree with you that NIMBYs would abound.) The line would have to skirt the Park, would either go through some of the only unprotected old growth in the entire Cascades or around it and be even longer, all the while being very expensive. The Boulevard is 6 miles long, and a quick Goooooogle Earth plot puts a Ranger Creek 3S at just about the same with two angles to avoid that old growth and the Park. And, unfortunately, there’d still be 410 (Hey! Today’s 410!! Wheeeee!!!) to contend with, and it’s always going to be a rural 2 lane cos the State doesn’t directly benefit from any recreation along the White except in gas and sales taxes, which, while high, are still very limited. The Store, Tiana and Mr Tiana, and whoever bought Bob and Debbie’s, can’t finance a pothole patch, let alone more capacity. There’s no incentive for the State to put any more than the bare minimum investment into the highway. To that point, the DoT now pulls plow drivers from Enumclaw and GW when other State road crews need help. In point of fact, one Sunday this February, CM (including one of the “good authorities” PbRT mentioned) had the entire Boulevard bare all the way down from A Lot, but the State hadn’t even run a plow anywhere on 410 and it took almost two hours from the Guard Station to the Pickle Factory. 17 MPH on a 55 MPH road due to the conditions that two CM drivers had beat. In addition, all of the recreationalised (another word, cos I said it) land is federal and the State basically does not log anymore. Meanwhile, as you well point out, Alterra is very open about pricing people out instead of limiting their income with a rigid reservation structure and reasonable pricing.
        I am not actually against any solutions. Hotels to spread commute load make sense, as would creative transportation. This discussion (about the entire Range) has been ongoing on this here internet box in various threads. It’s frustrating to us all, and there just aren’t viable solutions. So many stakeholders, too many customers. The needed solutions are huge, and the possible solutions small. So much of the money is held by out of state corporations like Boyne and Vail, in addition to this thread’s Alterra, rather than being available locally for public solutions. WA has such a regressive tax structure, among the worst in the nation. It’s possible (if quite difficult) to live in GW and work at CM and not pay a dime directly to the State, and as such 410 doesn’t really exist except as that one bumpy road on the way to The Park in the summer. Just the White River alone has four separate tax spheres in addition to a sovereign nation, but only the Forest Service gets money out of CM, and that is just from a lease. We can posit ideas, so far intelligently even, but we do not control anything of value. Sorry, Shangrei, for the bleakity. (I’m on a wording roll, gosh darn it!) I grew up in Enumclaw and my home no longer exists, the physical house my parents inhabit notwithstanding. I am sad. Ima watch some pallas cat videos on YouTube and go to bed. Uff da.

        Liked by 2 people

        • skitheeast April 11, 2023 / 9:51 am

          A 3S gondola with only one angle station could be built from the airport to the base while travelling roughly along the canyon floor. I do not know where any protected areas are located within USFS land, but it would not even come close to the National Park boundary. Yes, 410 would continue to be used, but that road is not nearly as bad as Crystal Mountain Blvd. It does not get nearly as much snow, has better shoulders, and is less curvy.

          LCC is a good comparison, but I think this one would be simpler. 1 angle station instead of 2, no midpoint unload station, fewer avalanche slide paths, shorter length, no nearby residents to complain, etc. Plus, LCC’s costs include a road widening, additional busses, and other items that would not be needed.


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