Rainier Express – Crystal Mountain, WA

crystal 3-19-06 128
TB-41 Grip
crystal 3-19-06 141
Bottom terminal.
crystal 9-2-07 265
Top terminal in the summer.
Crystal July 16 078
Top terminal.
Crystal July 16 120
Looking down the lift line.
Crystal July 16 141
Bottom drive terminal.
Breakover towers near the summit.
northway 6-30-07 002
Looking up the lift line from the bottom terminal.
northway 6-30-07 010
Looking up the line in the summer.
Side view of the drive station.
View up the line.
Maintenance rail.
View riding up.
Arriving at the return.
View down Sunnyside.
Lower lift line.
Most of the lift seen from Quicksilver.

44 thoughts on “Rainier Express – Crystal Mountain, WA

  1. Andrew October 4, 2017 / 9:14 pm

    The stations were painted white sometime after these pictures were taken. The pylons remain green however.


  2. John October 23, 2017 / 3:24 pm

    They were white to begin with, so that’s cool. As I recall the towers were black, the terminal legs were blue (as was all the steel inside), and the towerheads were galvanized (zinc-coated). Boyne painted everything green somEtime after I left there (1997).


  3. Raj Thorp January 27, 2020 / 8:57 pm

    These types of terminals are quite rare. Besides the one at sunshine village in BC, do any of you guys know where some others are?


    • Donald Reif January 27, 2020 / 9:10 pm

      There’s this, Angel Express, and the White Peaks Express at Waterville. White Peaks is the only one of these three to be a top-drive, as Rainier and Angel are bottom-drive lifts. They are the precursor to the Competition terminal that came out a year later.


      • AvocadoAndy January 28, 2020 / 9:10 am

        It’s a shame they didn’t continue to develop these, they’re surprisingly modern looking. I remember thinking it was some aftermarket retrofit the first time I saw it. Given Doppie was still making CLD-260s when these came out it seems like these would have given them a much more competitive edge as far as terminals go.


        • skier72 January 28, 2020 / 10:13 am

          Agreed. I like this terminal design better than the clunky competition terminals that came out next. I also find it a shame that Poma didn’t introduce their Satellit Terminals to North America, but it was an exclusively European product. I just think the Satellit terminals look better than any North American product Poma produced.


        • Donald Reif January 28, 2020 / 12:24 pm

          The only lift I can think of in North America that comes close to having the look of the Satellit terminal is the Peak Chair, which is a Doppelmayr.


        • Donald Reif January 28, 2020 / 12:26 pm

          If they were kept for a few more years, the American Eagle, Beaver Run SuperChair, North Ridge Express and Squaw One Express lifts would’ve all had these terminals too. It’s also likely that this design would’ve still been shortened to the two-mast design of the Challenger terminals.


        • Ryan Murphy January 28, 2020 / 9:30 pm

          They’re pretty long though. Albeit, shorter than an Alpha Falcon, but the soon to be released Challenger and UNI are much more compact than these are.


        • pbropetech January 29, 2020 / 2:03 pm

          The length was pretty conventional for that time. The equivalent Doppelmayr terminals were similar. If you ride a lift of that vintage you’ll notice the acceleration and deceleration is much slower and smoother. The ’88 terminals we’re talking about had exactly the same machinery inside as the Performance (what you’re calling an Alpha Falcon), so they’re the same length even if they don’t look it.


        • Max Hart January 29, 2020 / 5:49 pm

          The Performant detachables (Flyer at Copper) had vault drives with tensioning at the return.

          The Alpha Evolution terminals (Falcon Superchair at Breck) always had combined drive/tension terminals (obviously) and fixed returns.

          Then there was Big Burn, which I don’t think there’s an actual name for. It was Poma’s first overhead drive detachable (fixed drive, tension at return).

          The 1988 unnamed terminals seen on this lift were mechanically very similar, but they are fully enclosed. The masts look almost exactly like those on Big Burn (i.e. same arrangement and shape on both types of terminal). Also like Big Burn, they have a fixed drive and tensioned return. Even the trumpets are exactly the same. They seem to be structurally and mechanically the same, but the 1988 terminal is fully enclosed.

          The Competition terminal came out in 1989. 5 detachable quads were built that year. American Eagle at Copper and Squaw One are the same; both have the same masts from the 1988 terminal and a fixed drive with a tensioned return. Eagle had Competition chairs, while Squaw One had 2nd Gen. Arceaux chairs. Another, the Louis Exp. at Mount St. Louis Moonstone, Ontario, is a bit different; it has a combined drive/tension terminal, and a fixed return. It had 2nd Gen. Arceaux chairs as well. This makes that lift Poma of America’s first fully enclosed overhead drive/tension detachable. The other two are Vanier and Cheval Blanc, both at Mont Ste Marie. These two are mechanically the same as Eagle and Squaw One, but only have a partial enclosure over the fixed drive terminal and a “pancake” enclosure at the tensioned return. Both have 2nd Gen. Arceaux quad chairs.

          Some big changes were made in 1990. The Competition’s enclosure was changed slightly again. Two Competitions were installed (the original Green Mountain Express at Sugarbush, VT and Beaver Run at Breck). Both were mechanically and structurally the same as Eagle (same masts, fixed drive, tension at return), and both had Competition chairs. The Green Mountain Express was also the fastest in the world when it opened with a design speed of 1100fpm. The big change were the very first Challenger terminals, which were much more compact, got rid of the chain contour, and were dually tensioned.
          One was the Zephyr Exp. at Winter Park, and the other is Mystic at Mt. Norquay, AB. These terminals were very small and only allowed for a line speed of 800fpm. Both had Competition chairs.

          Poma’s only detachable in 1991 was a conversion of the High Lonesome fixed-grip quad at Winter Park. That lift also received very short early Challenger terminals capable of 800 fpm.

          The first real year for the Challengers was 1992.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Raj Thorp February 26, 2020 / 10:09 pm

    I think Poma definitely should have continued making these. They are much quieter, and more reliable than the old chain driven CLD 260’s that Doppelmayr was making at the time

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joe Blake May 10, 2021 / 9:22 pm

      It’s funny you say “reliable”. The mechanics (one in particular, no longer at CM) at the time said they were so scared of full speed that they kept burning motors up running slower than design speed. Not enough torque at 3.5-4 metres compared to 5, apparently. This is why we can’t have nice things.

      Liked by 1 person

      • themav May 11, 2021 / 8:33 am

        It’s funny you mention that. On the one day this year I skied at Crystal Mountain (23 Mar), they had this lift running on diesel power at about 2.5 m/s. I asked the liftie why and was told there was an “electrical fault”, which could mean almost anything.


        • pbropetech May 11, 2021 / 1:23 pm

          The first year we had that lift they blew up the electric motor and ran diesel most of the season. If the liftie said ‘electrical fault’ and the lift was on diesel, it could be the motor or the drive, but the rest of the electrical system is fully functional.

          Liked by 1 person

    • Aaron W March 2, 2022 / 10:08 am

      This is possibly the loudest lift i have ever been around


      • Somebodyelse May 27, 2022 / 2:34 pm

        You ever hear the old Hogs Back lift (Riblet triple) at Stevens? It was a loud whiner on electric. You could hear it all over the front side. And, if it went on diesel, it was a deafening screamer and that’s all you heard on the front side. So glad when it was replaced.


  5. Donald Reif January 26, 2021 / 8:44 am


  6. themav October 23, 2021 / 3:41 pm

    Loved listening to the podcast with Frank.

    I’m not surprised to hear about their plans to increase the gondola’s capacity and replace this chair. When I was here last April, REX was down with an electrical issue (later they had it running on diesel power at about 2.5 m/s) and green valley was also having some mechanical issues. This meant that the gondola was slammed with a bunch of people trying to get up to the top. Luckily, it wasn’t a Saturday!

    Increasing gondola capacity so you have a straight shot to the top without having to wait a long time will be awesome, and, if it’s time after 33 years of service for a new high speed quad, that’s great too!

    With how popular Crystal is with the local Seattle market, it’s really interesting to see how Stevens Pass and Crystal have taken almost opposite approaches. Skiing in the PNW is an awesomely unique experience and it’s great that it’s getting some love.


  7. Raj Thorp December 20, 2021 / 11:11 pm

    There was a Jerry of the Day story with 5 skiers on a single chair


  8. Raj T February 28, 2022 / 9:41 pm

    This lift is struggling, especially this season with significantly increased crowds. They are consistently operating at 650-700 fpm. Upper mountain was closed today because of strong wind, but they were doing testing and the people said there was a motor burn out at 750 fpm. Every time I’m there REX’s motor sounds like a dying horse. Like the pitch keeps on changing and you can tell it’s struggling hard. New lift here soon before something catastrophic happens. Other places can get away with running detachables this old because they maintain them well, but not this lift at all!


    • pbropetech March 1, 2022 / 8:09 am

      Sounds like less of a maintenance issue and more of an electrical issue. There’s very little a ski area electrician can do to fix a motor; they need to be sent into a motor shop for major repairs. On the drive side, if the drive needs tuning to help the motor out that’s also typically an outside contractor, whether directly from Poma or from a specialty contractor.


      • Raj T March 1, 2022 / 6:20 pm

        Still the lift sounds like its gonna fall apart. Something major needs to happen soon


        • pbropetech March 1, 2022 / 7:32 pm

          You’ve been there more recently and have heard more than I have. Still, unless you’ve heard direct information from CM’s maintenance staff I’d hold off on statements like ‘it’s gonna fall apart’. If it was, my counterparts would definitely shut the lift down until they can rectify the situation. What they’re testing is all of the various inputs and outputs that control the motor speed and torque, as well as the motor itself. They’re trying to nail down what the actual issue is, so that they can better identify how to fix it. I’d cut them some slack.


        • Somebodyelse May 27, 2022 / 2:20 pm

          Was on REX a few weeks ago and it sounded fine under a normal load. Work may have occurred between then and now.


      • Raj T March 1, 2022 / 8:03 pm

        It’s also a capacity thing too though. The lines for this lift get crazy long and often span up the hill. With the lift running as slow as it is too, they need to do something. Send me a message on Instagram @trail_reviews and I will send you a video of the lifts drive terminal sound if you’d like.


        • pbropetech March 21, 2022 / 8:15 am

          The lines for this lift have been crazy long since day one, as were the ones on its predecessor. I remember skiing down lower Lucky Shot/upper Gandy’s Run and running smack into the line before the end of the run. This has always been one of the most popular lifts in the state of Washington.


      • Raj T March 1, 2022 / 8:04 pm

        My friend who grooms up there told me this info btw


        • AvocadoAndy March 1, 2022 / 10:29 pm

          That’s a bit of a nebulous statement. It’s no mystery that Crystal wants to replace this lift at some point in the near future, but to be honest, it doesn’t sound like the issues it’s having right now warrant such an urgent replacement. They’re smart enough to not run it if there is some urgent pressing issue.


  9. pbropetech April 18, 2022 / 8:29 pm

    Nice to see this back in its original white. Curious if they painted over the ‘Poma Blue’ inside. So many lifts, especially detaches, were blue inside from the late 70s throught the early 90s.


  10. Somebodyelse May 27, 2022 / 2:26 pm

    And now there are 2. White Peaks Express at Waterville Valley has been scrapped. This leaves just 2 POMA pre-Competition model lifts with this style terminals. I know everyone wants REX replaced, but instead of scrapping it, how about it be moved to the Quicksilver alignment or over to East Peak at HYAK (Summit East) where there are other POMA detachable lifts nearby.


    • pbropetech May 31, 2022 / 12:19 pm

      It won’t be worth it to move it. It’ll have to be upgraded to the current ANSI standard and reengineered at a minimum. As more lifts of this vintage are replaced, it will be more difficult to get parts as Poma won’t have as much reason to keep them in stock. With this lift being a winter/summer lift for most of its life, it also has super-high hours. While I like this generation of lifts after working on or around them most of my career, they’re just getting old and new technology is making them obsolete.


  11. kevin May 31, 2022 / 11:21 am

    REX replaced Iceberg Ridge.


  12. Joe Blake December 29, 2022 / 10:16 am

    Small correction that you may not care to worry about, Peter: the “View down Sunnyside” in the third to last photo is more correctly the view down Breakover. Sunnyside is the old Chair 2 liftline a handful of turns skiers’ left of Breakover. The current map is kinda vague, which is annoying cos they’re definitely two distinct and diverging lines. Breakover is a double fall line that pulls you skiers’ right toward the Rex liftline and then on past and toward the lower section of The Doors, whereas Sunnyside is a little more direct and pulls skiers’ left toward Lower Memorial Forest and the top of Old 1/bottom of Old 2. Obviously things change, so maybe in the years I’ve been in the desert they’ve just moved names, I don’t know. I hate change. Get off my lawn.


    • Rich V January 23, 2023 / 9:49 am

      Lift maintenance says that Rainier Express will be updated next summer. It will continue as a 4 person chair.


        • pbropetech January 27, 2023 / 8:54 pm

          That’s what I heard last fall as well, from lift maintenance as it happens.


        • Somebodyelse February 23, 2023 / 1:54 pm

          It’s on the 2024 new lifts list.


        • wjmerriman February 23, 2023 / 2:28 pm

          Why are they replacing with a 4 and not 6? Seems like a 6 at 2800 PPH would be better for the windy conditions that closes REX sometimes.


        • Joe Blake February 23, 2023 / 11:31 pm

          WJM – The winds that close Mountaintop regularly exceed a 6 pack’s operating window as well. The heavier chairs might move less, but 60+ will close any chair, and that happens quite a bit. More than most folks seem to know. 90 to 100 mph winds are recorded once or twice nearly every winter, some winters many times. 6 packs made sense (still do) for 9 and 11 for capacity and for all those marginal days when Upper Mountain is closed for wind. They are protected enough that 60+ almost never happens. I’m betting keeping the status quo on Rex won’t hurt, though. Very few days are in the magic window where a 6p can spin when a quad can’t. I still think East Peak especially, and maybe even a Kelly’s Gap chair, would do more for Crystal than simply replacing Rex, but I am not their target market and never was. Not even the old Stockholders’ collective.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s