Mt. Rainier Gondola – Crystal Mountain, WA

Bottom terminal with cabins parked.
Riding up in the winter.
Tower 2.
Breakover towers just below the top.
The upper terminal sits right next to the Rainier Express unload.
Side view of the Uni-G-S top terminal.
Tower 14.
Upper station area.
Upper part of the lift line.
View down the line.
Breakover towers.
At one point the lift crosses over Iceberg Gulch and gets very high above ground.
Upper part of the lift line.
CWA Omega IV 8 LWI cabin.
View up the line.
Middle part of the line.
The tallest tower on the lift.
View down toward the base area.
Lower lift line.
The first four towers.
View up from the base area.
Tower 3.
Towers 1 and 2 adjacent to the bottom terminal.
Lower terminal.
View up at tower 2.
Top turnaround area.
Side view of the return station.
Terminal under cover.
Upper station next to Rainier Express and the Summit House.
Lift overview.
Loading area.
Loading area.
Parking area.

44 thoughts on “Mt. Rainier Gondola – Crystal Mountain, WA

  1. John Mole June 22, 2017 / 9:41 am

    Why are the cabins spaced so far apart?


  2. Cameron Halmrast June 22, 2017 / 9:57 am

    I believe 12 more cabins are being added this summer. The design of this gondola was to be low capacity to begin with since its used “mainly (not really)” for sightseers due to where the bottom terminal is located. If you want to use it for uphill transport as a skier, you have to zig and zag to get to it and its more of a hassle than whats its worth. However, its still faster having to wait in two lines at times to get to the top of Crystal.


    • Peter Landsman June 22, 2017 / 10:21 am

      A lower design capacity also saved Crystal a bunch of money. Besides needing fewer cabins, this gondola also has fewer towers, a smaller motor and narrower rope than if it had a bigger capacity.

      5 cabins are being added this summer. The initial number was 24 but one was damaged beyond repair and written off. Next winter Crystal will have 28 with an ultimate maximum of 36.


      • Joe Blake February 3, 2018 / 7:21 pm

        A few of the more had to be written off before this winter. Not sure if they were new cabins, though that would be a bit poetic given how unnecessary this lift is.


      • Joe Blake February 3, 2018 / 9:32 pm

        Without naming names, a very experienced employee chose to ignore a timing fault because he was at the bottom and the fault was at the top. Many grands of JK’s money down the tubes.


        • Peter Landsman February 4, 2018 / 8:11 am

          Yikes. Do you know how many they lost this time? With the new ones, this season’s total should have been 28.


      • Joe Blake February 4, 2018 / 10:40 am

        Not sure the number. They are characteristically mum about it. I’ll ask around when next I’m up there.


        • Peter Landsman February 4, 2018 / 10:55 am

          The new ones would have been numbered 24-28. Shouldn’t be too hard to see what numbers are missing.


      • Peter Landsman April 22, 2018 / 8:39 pm

        I skied Crystal today and the missing cabins are 10, 11, 12, 15 and 18. It’s not hard to figure out where the latest incident happened.

        Liked by 3 people

        • Joe Blake October 31, 2019 / 8:53 pm

          Interesting! I hadn’t heard there was terminal damage as well. Good thing the flagship lift gets such careful treatment. Like never rolling a brand new cabin down into Green Valley. Oh, wait.


  3. Andrew December 22, 2017 / 3:33 pm

    Would it be at all possible for Crystal to upgrade the gondola so that it could have more gondola cabins, or would they have to completely replace the lift?


    • Peter Landsman December 22, 2017 / 4:00 pm

      The maximum number of cabins the system was designed for is 36. Crystal started with 24, one was written off shortly thereafter so the total was 23. This year five were added, bringing them to 28. Eight more can be added in the future.


      • Andrew December 22, 2017 / 8:45 pm

        I meant a little bit more with the system, could they upgrade the motor, cable, and add towers without completely starting over?

        Liked by 1 person

        • Infill towers could be added at a later date as need be. Case in point, Vail’s first Avanti Express had a tower 7A that was added years after all the other towers (and when the lift was upgraded to a six pack, they just added a small extension for the wider crossarms)..


  4. Michael December 23, 2017 / 8:07 am

    That would all depend on the design of the top and bottom foundations and whether they could handle the additional forces that would be placed on them.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. GreatEight December 11, 2018 / 8:18 pm

    Do many skiers actually use this Gondola… It seems kinda useless


    • Paul Manafort December 11, 2018 / 8:46 pm


      It helps you get to the good skiing up top when conditions are bad on the lower half of the mountain. Also, athletic people like to do full mountain laps.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Joe Blake October 31, 2019 / 9:07 pm

        Also, it is much easier to accomodate early and late season Green-Valley-only openings or the lean years like ’04-’05 when the lower mountain isn’t viable but Rex and 3 are. The cat drivers don’t have to try to keep up the Tom Leonard Memorial Highway down Lower Skid.

        On a somewhat related note, I worked Chinook back in ’99 when we opened in late June and the amount of customer faceplants on the summer pavers was surprising. I got a quick introduction to ski area customer service when the pre-Boyne company president’s daughter (how’s that for roundabout?) gave me the beans after she got her boot stuck under her chair and couldn’t unload and the chair dragged her for a bit while I got it stopped. 6-packs don’t stop on a dime. I’d have been pretty pissed, too, had our roles been swapped.

        Liked by 2 people

  6. alex December 11, 2018 / 9:12 pm

    Does anyone know why they changed their mind from the Tram that was proposed in the master plan to this low capacity gondola?


      • Paul Manafort December 13, 2018 / 1:04 am

        Also, Superior Tramway (Riblet) was apparently going to build the tramway. Them shutting down in 2003 probably helped contribute to the change.


        • AvocadoAndy March 27, 2019 / 9:57 pm

          Real shame they didn’t make it. This gondola is just disappointing. Feel like a tram here would be a lot more exciting and symbolic.

          Liked by 2 people

        • pbropetech July 18, 2021 / 7:29 am

          Superior Tramway and Riblet are not, and never were, the same company.

          Liked by 1 person

      • Enumclaw kid March 31, 2020 / 6:44 pm

        There was talk in the plan at the time of having to move the top terminal of Rex to make room for the tram terminal. It would no longer have been possible to ski directly from the top of Rex to Snorting Elk. I recall reading that at the time and thinking “that’s both a bad idea, and expensive.”

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Raj Thorp February 26, 2020 / 10:12 pm

    Very interesting. Since it has low capacity compared to other Gondolas, then why does it run so slow at only 800 fpm?


    • Teddy's Lift World February 27, 2020 / 3:58 am

      Short length UNI-G terminals.


  8. Enumclaw kid March 31, 2020 / 6:47 pm

    My chief complaint about the gondola is that the line cut right through some of the most fun inbounds steep tree skiing – the Upper Bull Run / Upper Exterminator area. I’m concerned that the proposed Kelly’s Gap lift line will do the same thing to Right Angle Trees.


    • Joe Blake August 1, 2021 / 8:05 pm

      It’s a conundrum, isn’t it? A Kelly’s Gap chair would be so useful on storm days, or to avoid the gondola tourists. Or to lap O Meadows and Niagaras. Hm.


  9. Aaron W March 2, 2022 / 10:27 am

    Something similar to Ramcharger 8 at big sky would be infinitely better than this load of carp we got


    • AvocadoAndy March 2, 2022 / 12:10 pm

      Given the length and steepness along with some pretty large unsupported spans near the top, I don’t think a chair would be a good fit here at all. The plan originally was for this to be a tramway built by Riblet but with their bankruptcy in 2003 that obviously never happened. As Peter pointed out, Crystal’s manager has expressed that he wants this thing replaced with a higher capacity gondola system at some point in the near future with this one being relocated to Campbell Basin.


  10. pbropetech March 2, 2022 / 9:10 pm

    I’m very curious where y’all have heard the Riblet rumour. They never built a detachable tramway; the best I could see them having designed is a 750-FPM pulse lift with four to eight (most likely eight) pulses of a few gondola cabins apiece. I was in operations at Crystal during the formative years of what wound up as the current MRG and I never once heard any Riblet mentioned as a contender. Garaventa, Poma, and Doppelmayr were all in the mix; as we know, Garaventa and Doppelmayr merged (after I left there) so it was down to two manufacturers by the time this was built.


      • Chase March 3, 2022 / 12:38 pm

        Wow. I’m not sure the world was (or is) ready for a riblet traveling 2000 fpm.


      • pbropetech March 3, 2022 / 8:00 pm

        In 2005 Riblet was not a player, having gone out of business in 2003. I know I’ve said this before, but Riblet and Superior are not the same company. Superior was founded by an ex-Riblet engineer, which through the rumour mill (or modern social media fourth-party ‘I know a guy’ posts) could have morphed into ‘Superior is the same thing as Riblet’, but in all reality is not. The Ellis family were indeed involved with Riblet, but that’s as far as it goes. They were able to buy much of Riblet’s patents; I know they still make insert clips for ski areas with operating Riblet lifts. Superior could definitely have built a tram, but it seems the situation changed.


        • Will March 3, 2022 / 8:08 pm

          Do you think Superior Tramway could revive the Riblet name and start manufacturing fixed grip lifts again?


        • pbropetech March 3, 2022 / 9:56 pm

          No. If they do it’ll be under their own name; the Riblet trademark and company is done. Superior has built a few lifts, actually, but they do it under their own aspect. If you need a comparison SkyTrac is the closest example, where former CTEC engineers started their own company but used many of the former firm’s designs.


  11. kevin May 31, 2022 / 11:19 am

    i rode this yesterday, and the 30th cabin was GREEN!


    • Joe Blake December 29, 2022 / 4:51 pm

      Well, Washington WAS one of the first two states (the internet says first by 3 hours, so take that, Callmeradbro) to legalise the recreational ganj. . .and when we got the first teaser cabin, the instructors all piled in to make it a ganj’ola. Can’t remember if the teaser cabin was green, or not.


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