2002 Number 3 Resort in the Midwest: Crystal Mountain, Mich.

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Great things come in small packages. Crystal Mountain is a prime example. Like the Little Engine That Could, Crystal is climbing SKI's Midwest Top 10 List-from No. 10 two years ago to No. 8 last year to No. 3 this year. "The whole is much larger than the sum of the parts," says a reader. A bit short on vertical-375 feet-Crystal makes up for it by providing "an excellent well-rounded family area." From the efficient lift system to the variety of terrain and lodging, it offers more than you would normally find at resorts of a similar size. The resort has methodically developed facilities for what many visitors consider to be one of the finest resorts in the Midwest. In the last four years it has added a high-speed detachable quad, convention facilities, eight new runs and a lift on the backside of the hill. Crystal just announced a $60-million, 10-year expansion plan that will include a new lodge and clubhouse, a pedestrian village, a spa, 10 to 12 new ski runs, more lodging and a third golf course. Readers give the resort high marks for Service, On-Mountain Food and Off-Hill Activities, which include snowshoeing, ice-skating, sleigh rides, bonfires and guided snowshoe hikes. If Crystal had a common knock among readers, it would be the length of the runs. "Short runs and never any bumps," grumbles a reader, but that's why others say, "great place for ski school and young skiers." For families, Crystal shines.

WHAT'S NEW Expanded nightskiing, offering 26 lighted slopes and an improved snowmaking system.

A GOOD DEAL Just For Beginners program rewards students with a free 2001-02 season pass and free midweek rentals for the season when they complete a series of four progressive, learn-to-ski lessons. Call 800-368-7686 or visit www.crystalmtn.com.

HIGH/LOW MIDWEST RANK Service (1), Family Programs (1), On-Mountain Food (2); Weather (12), Terrain (13), Challenge (13).

DON'T MISS A cross-country ski or snowshoe to the 30-acre Legacy Art Park. Donated by Crystal, the park was set aside as a system of forest trails decorated with an eclectic collection of sculptures and carvings from northern Michigan artists. It attracts more than 20,000 visitors annually.

READER REMARKS (+) "Fun to ski, especially at night; extremely friendly staff." (-) "Never any bumps; limited elevation (even by Midwest standards)."