Crystal Mountain Ski Area


Backcountry Ski/Snowboard - Crystal Mountain Backcountry

Easy going ski tour that includes a beacon search practice session.

  • M1-M2 Intermediate-Advanced Ski
  • For Beginners (Getting Started Series)
  • Mileage: 7.0 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 2,500 ft
  • High Point Elevation: 6,400 ft
  • Pace: Moderate


It takes about a half-hour to walk/take the shuttle up from B-Lot to Crystal's main lodge and visit the restroom.     Plan on arriving in the parking area around 7:30AM    

We will meet outside the Crystal Ski Patrol area on the west side of the main lodge at 8:00AM.    If there is a  mob of skiers clustered around the gondola loading station blocking the route around the North side of the lodge, you make also get there by going around the south side of the building.   There is a door from the basement "brown bag" area of the lodge to the west side of the building -- sometimes this is blocked and also you aren't supposed to bring skis and poles into the lodge. 

 Those that don't yet have a "Crystal Backcountry Card" will need to register with the  Crystal Ski Patrol, sign their waiver and obtain a card.    Once everyone has completely the neccesary paper work we will head uphill as a group.

At this time due to COVID-19, I'm discouraging carpooling with non-household members.   The trip plans and guidance may change at anytime due to changing pandemic conditions, this includes last minute cancellation.

Trip intended for folks new to backcountry  skiing to gain experience using skins and touring in a relaxed and low commitment setting.    Experienced ski tourer's will likely find the pacing a bit slow.    If the trip develops a waitlist,  I will review the experience profile of people on the roster and cancel folks with more experience  in favor of less experienced ski tourers.

This trip will include a beacon search practice session.   We will likely do this in the meadows near Hen Sken Lake.    Please bring an extra stuff sack and some padding to wrap your beacon in.  Padding could be an extra sweater,  foam sit pad, bubble wrap, etc.   A tupperware or ziplock box to place your beacon in is also a good idea.   We will pair off and one person will bury their beacon and their partner will practice their search skills.   
The steepness of the terrain is modest -- I reccommend that your "Lift skiing skills" be that you are at least a confident "Blue Run" skier and are able to descend easier "Black runs" without undue fear.   We will be skiing through the trees some.  We will ski the more challenging sections with care.  Remember that a "stem turn" is a powerful backcounty ski skill.    We will travel as a group to ensure that no one become separated.

Example GPX track from a prior trip, we won't follow this exactly -- but this will give you a general idea of the area where we will tour.

In my prior trips to this area -- there is bench partway up that provides good stopping place and skiing down from there minimizes exposure to avalanche hazard and is  more of a "Blue Run" level of difficulty.    Depending on conditions this might be the high point for the day.      There is also an option for climbing a little higher onto some more "Black Run" level slopes whether we do with will depend on snow stability analysis and group interest and energy. 

In prior trips we have done 1 or 2 extra laps of roughly 500vft in this upper area.

The ski/ride out from the basin @ 5800 ft involves a small amout of "rolling terrain"  Splitboards are advised to have their poles at the ready through this section so that they can double pole instead of having to unstrap.

Note:  A Winter Storm Warning, Extreme Avalanche Forecast from NWAC, Freezing Rain or "Chains Required" on the highway will cancel the trip.    If NWAC forecast is for a High avalanche hazard -- inbounds lift skiing  will be a fallback option considered.

Additional Info:

My Touring Tips

My day touring ski pack contents:

Link to a blank copy of IFMGA Mountain Guide Mike Smiley's  "So what's your skiing ability?" calculator.    Please make a copy of this and fill it out for yourself  and let me know your "belt color" 

My Driving Tips:

My Carpooling Tips:


Crystal Mountain Ski Area

  • USGS White River Park

    Green Trails Bumping Lake No. 271

    USGS Norse Peak

    Green Trails Mt Rainier East No. 270

    Green Trails Mount Rainier Wonderland No. 269SX
  • See full route/place details.
Required Equipment

Required Equipment

  • The Ten Essentials
  • Boots, skis/snowboard, poles
  • Climbing skins
  • Avalanche shovel (metal blade)
  • Avalanche beacon (3 antenna digital beacon)
  • Avalanche probe
  • COVID-19 face covering
  • Extra stuff stack and padding for burying beacon for search practice.
Trip Reports