A few weeks ago, my mom and her husband had planned a trip to Seattle but had to cancel last-minute due to the crazy snow and ice storm they got in Portland – fortunately, they were able to reschedule their trip to this weekend. And I’m really glad they did, because the Cascades received 7 to 10 feet of new snow (depending on which source you read) last week – crazy! So for obvious reasons, the four of us (my mom, Jim, Drew and I) packed up our bags, got up bright and early on Saturday morning, and headed to Crystal Mountain Resort.
We left our apartment around 6:45 a.m. on Saturday morning, big coffees in hand (I brewed my new sun-dried Ethiopia reserve blend from Starbucks – yum!) and rolled in to Crystal right around 9 (opening hour). The weather report the previous day had promised that we’d see clear skies in the am and snow in the pm, but by the time we arrived the snow had already begun to fall. Oh well, no bother, because we were all so excited to ride the fresh powder! We threw on our gear, hiked from the parking lot to the lodge, and caught the first chair we could to the top (My mom, Jim and I parted ways with Drew halfway up the hill so that he could ride the easier runs).
On our way up to the top (we were on Rainier Express, which we later learned the locals call “Rex”), the three of us were joined by a single skiier who just seemed to give off an aura of knowing the mountain. So we asked him if he was a regular at Crystal (while clearly denouncing that we were “first timers”). He proceeded to tell us that last year he rode at Crystal every single day it was open, but this year he hadn’t been much because he traveled to 27 resorts before Christmas (??? Is that like a resort a day??? Hi, can I have your life please???) However, despite all his travels (destinations which included places like the alps – no big deal) Crystal was his home mountain and by far his favorite. Wow, that was a pretty bold statement; however, despite not even have taken one run yet, we were already loving Crystal. We ended our conversation by asking him where the best place to ride was and he said, “Norway; however its just opening and they won’t let you past the gate without a beacon, shovel and probe before noon.” (Later, we collectively decided that the old hoot was just trying to save all the good pow for himself…)
We took a few runs down the bowls around the “Rex” and Green Valley lifts (the snow was great, but the visibility was pretty terrible), then we met a few of my friends who also happened to be up at Crystal at the top of Green Valley for a few runs before lunch. One of the girls we met up with had been riding Crystal for years, so she knew what was up. She took us on some fun runs that were somewhat off the beaten path (and thus less chopped up) and before we knew it, it was time for us to head to the lodge to meet Drew for lunch.
We ate some excellent food at the Asian BBQ grill outside the lodge (my mom and I had chilli, while Jim had some awesome looking Korean beef) and rested our legs just long enough to prepare for our day, part two.
After lunch, we took a few runs with Drew (it was “his lift” so he proceeded to show us how the rules of the line worked), then we headed up to ski the bowls under the High Campbell lift. These bowls were pretty steep, and under any other conditions I might not have enjoyed them, but because there was so much powder I thought they were a blast – this was my favorite part of the mountain so far. However, after taking one run down High Campbell, we were faced with a choice – take a few more runs over here, or attempt “Norway,” which we had heard so much about. Jim and I opted for the latter, while my mom opted out. So we headed back across the mountain to attempt Norway.
To get there, we went down to the bottom, headed up Chinook then Rainier, and took the cat track over to Norway. Once there, there are a few different gates where you can drop in, but since we arrived just before closing, they had already taken the gate markers out. We wanted to try gate 7, but since there were no markers, we just guessed. Anyway, to make a long story short, Norway was epic (we kind of kicked ourselves afterward for not heading over sooner!) We thoroughly enjoyed our run down Norway, then our run from the top of the Norway lift back down to the bottom, and of course we made sure to tell my mom how much she missed out. I think I can honestly say that it was one of the best runs I’ve taken in the past several years – and I’ve taken a LOT of runs!
Overall, we had a ton of fun at Crystal, however I also feel like I didn’t really get to experience its true potential because the visibility was seriously lacking. Hopefully one of these days I’ll head up again (and be able to post a FULL resort review report for you all!)
We needed a pretty good ending to top our day – there’s this pizza place across the street that Drew loves, and while I’m trying really hard to focus on eating healthy, I lost the dinner battle three versus one, so I caved. We ordered in a pizza. Drew has always just ordered their “personal”-sized pizzas in the past, which he swore was the size of a large pizza you’d find anywhere else, so we all decided to share a large mushroom and sausage, hoping that it would be enough to fill our ravenous appetites (at one point we considered ordering two larges, but decided on a salad instead of the additional pizza). I’m really glad we did only order one, because this thing was literally the biggest pizza I’ve ever seen in my entire life (okay, so I’ve been known to exaggerate in the past a bit, but this is no exaggeration!) And if my explanation didn’t do it justice, hopefully the photo speaks for itself. After only eating half the pizza between the four of us, we rolled ourselves into bed, full, sore and sleepy. What a day. I can’t believe it’s almost Monday!