Crystal Mountain is deceiving in a good way. Ride the Mount Rainier Gondola 2,400 feet up to the summit, and it feels like all 2,600 acres of the biggest resort in Washington spill out in front of you in open bowls and undulating bump runs. But Crystal’s best assets, like the steep Right Angle Trees and the chutes of Snorting Elk Bowl, take some exploring. It’s full of nooks and crannies—try to find a local you can chase around Southback.
But despite its dense glades and sprawling terrain, which can challenge any skier who wants it, Crystal retains a downhome, all-ages feel. Whole families camp out in the famed “B” RV lot, grilling together after the lifts stop turning, the mountain hosts junior freeride competitions, and the terrain on the lower mountain off the Chinook and Forest Queen chairs is mellow and rolling. It scores high among readers for ease, accessibility, and value. Amenities are minimal, but if you come skiing for the skiing, Crystal is a place you can explore for years. – Heather Hansman
COME FOR THE…
SCENERY The views of Mount Rainier from the top of its name-sake gondola are some of the best in the state.
CHALLENGE Traverse out from the top of Chair 6 and take a short hike to the top of the Silver King for long shots in steep bowls.
APRÈS The Snorting Elk, with its cozy fireplace, is one of the best ski bars on the planet. The cookies from the deli in back aren’t bad, either.