Backcountry Ski/Snowboard - Crystal Mountain Backcountry


Backcountry Ski/Snowboard - Crystal Mountain Backcountry

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

  • M2 Advanced Ski
  • Moderate
  • Mileage: 8.0 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 2,000 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     Last season, I also  found that arriving by 7:30 allowed parking near the top of "B Lot", avoiding "parking lot full" issues.   

We will meet at the NE corner of the "Chapel Building"  at 8:00AM ready to ski.

 Those that don't yet have a "Crystal Backcountry Card" will need to obtain one by visiting Guest Services (The eastern most "ticket window")

Last season while skinning up Crystal's designated uphill routes, a ski patroller did ski over and check that we had "Backcountry Cards"  -- so arriving in time to complete this paperwork is necessary. 

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.   

Last year's trips  were highly popular,  frequently having as many people on the waitlist as on the roster.    In order to distribute places on the roster more equitably than the "first come, first served" sign up model,  I'm trying a "weighted lottery" approach.    I've made the trip "Leader Permission Required" -- so when you request permission please provide the following information, which I will use for assigning "points" in the weighted lottery:

1) You are a current Mountaineer's member that meets the minimum requirements to participate -- 1 point.
2) Whether you will be fully vacinated for COVID-19 by the trip date -- 1 point.
3) If you haven't been on a Mountaineers ski touring trip within the last year. (classes  or courses aren't considered trips for this purpose) -- 2 points.
4) If you have a Wilderness First Badge or other first aid competency (e.g. you are an EMT, MD, LPN, or other medical professional) and are willing to use your skills if  necessary on the trip -- 1 point.

So a first time ski tourer , vaccinated, with a WFA badge would have 5 points.

Folks qualified as ski trip leaders and willing to act in that capacity as a co-leader will be accepted without using the lottery.

I will configure the trip so that everyone that enrolls will go on the waitlist,  after the registration closure date passes,  I will conduct the weighted lottery and transfer the winners from the waitlist to the roster manually.    The final roster size will depend on conditions and the number of qualified ski trip leaders willing to be co-leaders.   

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:

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