Alta Crystal Resort, Crystal Mountain Ski Area

We stepped over beach toys and flip-flops and happily dug out our boxes of ski gear when we heard Crystal Mountain was still open on weekends (until the snow melts).
Crystal Mountain is Washington State’s largest ski area, with a gondola that summits at 6,872 ft.  This time of year it’s all about a rich goggle tan and spring snow like a snow cone, evergreen-flavored, Cascade-Range-flavored.
Olive, Daddy and Uncle Matt
My brother-in-law, Matt, and his sweet, sweet family will soon be further than a short ferry ride away.  They’re moving to The Rocky Mountains to cultivate a serious ski habit, to live within high alpine peaks and work where they play.  So excited we get to visit; so sad to be without family in our tiny corner of the world.  And in the synchronicity of it all, my two best childhood pals live and work in the same town.
Vacationing in Colorado will be just perfect.
Our giant house addition is hanging over our heads, and my husband is working fifty-sixty hour weeks.  So, there’s not a whole lot of spare time around here.  We’re applying to extend our building permit, and realize we need to kick into gear a nonstop funding, hammering out of our master bedroom/garage/patio project.
It’s no secret we believe in adventure, in making memories.  Why sit around all weekend, paying bills covered in sawdust, paint and insulation when you can ski, right?  Exactly.  Besides, we need to have a farewell ski weekend with our soon-to-be Rocky Mountain inhabitants. 
Betty’s best ski buddy tagged along for the adventure.
Our nighttime drive through and beyond Seattle wasn’t too bad, barely hours into darkness and we were within Mt. Baker/Snoqualmie National Forest’s evergreen stillness.
Early the next morning, the daddies went skiing just ten minutes away while the kids enjoyed our brilliant accommodations.
We had so much to do, with a recreaction field beside some of the tallest evergreens I’d ever stood beside.
Volleyball, badminton, croquet, and horseshoes kept the littles engaged for a long time.
I guess in the winter it’s the site for snow forts, snowmen and snowball fights.
Ohh, can’t wait.  We’ll have to come and see.
When I met Vivian, the owner, she had her hands deep in rich soil and we talked about her recent whale watching trip in our neck of the state.
Nice to stay at a place where the owners are honest, nice.
Nice to stay at a place where the forest whispers with an invite, right out door’s front.
We stayed in a Loft Chalet Suite, which was perfect for two families to share, while Olive’s adorable cousin and family stayed in a One Bedroom Suite.
We found out that there’s even pet friendly suites, so next time our Tilly-dog with the heart of gold can accompany us.  According to our daughter, two princess beds and a gigantic bathroom were located up the princess ladder of our Chalet.  It was a great place for the kids to play paper dolls, dogs at the circus and what ever else floated into their brilliant imaginations.
The balcony overlooked the year-round heated pool, hot tub.
The kids had an absolute blast.  Really, what better way to end the school year?!
At a comfortable 90 degrees, we wondered how much better it all could get, and decided mid-winter, mid-snowstorm might just be the ticket.
After a porch-picnic lunch, Betty and her ski buddy Jaxson left to summit Crystal with their daddies.  I stayed behind to navigate naptime’s routines.  Our Loft Chalet was so spacious, so tranquil with sky light views of brilliant blue sky, white clouds like marshmallow doggies I ended up napping for over two hours, snuggling my two youngest ladies.
Relaxing is the true secret to a wonderful vacation, and the Mt. Baker/Snoqualmie National Forest made it all possible.
Once awake, our spring skiers returned and we readied ourselves for a hike, for an adventure.
At the resort’s main office, we got a scavenger hunt map and set off.
Little riddles, trivia and word play lead way to clues and wondering about the forest’s fairy-filled trails.
We came across some elk scat, and then a bit down the trail something else entirely.  Lucy thought it must be troll scat.  Maybe.
Once the main riddle was solved, and Mt. Rainier’s view was soaked in mind’s eye, the main office has a brilliant treasure box for little hikers.
There is a 1920s lodge filled with puzzles, board games and all the space needed for family hot chocolate nights by the fire.  Really, there were so many possibilities.
Really, can’t wait for ski season to come into full swing and come back.
For dinner we enjoyed the outdoor BBQ and especially the bonfire and s’more buffet.
The owners of this family-fun resort really achieved the backyard feel they set out to create and we felt so lucky to be a part of it all.
The next morning, after a hearty breakfast cooked, giggled and cleaned, we left for Crystal.  57 degrees at base had me smiling.  Once parked, Luke suggested I demo some badass alpine gear, leave my telemark ways behind and take a good five hours or so.
Love him.
He stayed behind, dressed all three ladies and geared up Lucy for skiing.  Since only the summit lifts were open, Luke and the girls hiked up to the top of the first chair.   Betty happily pulled Olive on the sled.
They set up a picnic camp, while Lucy took a run and hiked back up.
Later, she told me she loves, Backcountry skiing just like Daddy.
Yup.  Glacial snow, elevation all at four years old isn’t bad at all.
While Daddy was with his little ladies, I was at Crystal’s tall peak.
I was so nervous, with thick alpine skis at nearly 7,000 ft peering out at the Cascade Range.
With each turn, the roots I planted on the east coast mountains of my youth came back.  Something was different, and technology really helps things along.  My, skis have come a long way.  I took my first turns with my sister-in-law.  It’s so great to have family like friends.  Lucky, lucky me.
Something about the way sunlight hits a steep, mogul field with an ultimate ski playlist rocking beneath my helmet had me wondering if I could ever go back to laundry, to bedtime tantrums.  
Yup.  I could just do this each day I though with each turn, each trail adventure. 
I was having fun, but holding back.  And when I skied with my brother-in-law he knew it.  He had no interest while I told him I have three daughters and it’d been about a decade since I skied for hours, since pushing these limits.  
He had me follow him to some horrific double black diamond.  I’m quite certain I would have had to jump twenty feet to make contact with the insanely steep terrain. 
No way.  Sorry, I said.
I took my skis off and began hiking back the way I came.
High altitude, spring weather.  Sweaty.  Swearing.  Out of breath.  Swearing.
Maybe I’ll just ride the gondola down, I mumbled, I threw down my poles.
I’m easily defeated on a mountain, and if this had been Luke he would have been the center of my overreaction.
My brother-in-law and I lived together when I attended graduate school in Portland, and even before that when about fifteen of us did the bare minimum required to have a blast one summer in Red Lodge, Montana all squeezed into one house.  So, he knows me well. 
Here. This, Matt said pointing to some narrow black diamond super-bumpy trail.
I can’t do this.  It’s too steep, I said, hesitant.
Do it,  Matt said directly.
So, I totally psyche myself out, freak out, start crying, begin sliding on my back, skis askew. 
I just wanted to have fun. I’m not having fun anymore, I mumbled.
Get up.  Do this, Matt said with a slight laugh.
I’m not sure what else he said.  Something about attack and you can do it and a few pointers here and there.  I was so angry to be on the trail I just wanted down.  So I attacked, well as best I could. 
When I made it down to the bottom, he had me turn around to see what I’d come through.
He’d believed in me, knew I’d have a blast. 
Sorry I freaked out, I said.  
On one of my runs down the mountain on my hike to the gondola, I saw them:  three ski bunnies and a daddy looking more like a sherpa than anything else.  Wow.  Love them, especially the guy that makes this all happen.
We skied this run again, with Luke.  So fun to be up on the mountain with family, shuffling childcare for runs.
We need to really begin scouring Craigslist for a pickup camper so we can spend winter weekends in the parking lot.  It’ll be good for our little girls to taste the life of a ski bum.  But if that dream doesn’t work out, I’m thankful for the Alta Crystal Resort and it’s home-away-from-home feel, it’s vacation-fabulous feel.  
I was excited to have the opportunity to stay at the Alta Crystal Resort.  In full disclosure, I must say this honest and joyful review is exactly that:  fond memories formed in a wonderful place.
Thanks so much, Alta Crystal Resort for the opportunity to make memories with family fun.  


  • Tracey says:

    I am so ready to pack my suitcase right now and head your way! What a truly fantastic place. From your writing and the pictures I almost felt like I was part of it too. Thanks.

  • MJ says:

    Um WOW. I can't believe you skied in June!!! And I can't believe you went down that mountain!! Good for you!! That brought back memories of my last time on skis. I butt slid it down all the way. And it was blue/green. Pathetic. That's when I switched to snowboard. Haven't looked back since :).
    That's terrific about your BIL moving to Colorado. What do you think, would you trade where you live for Colorado? Tough one maybe?
    Anyway, what a wonderful time you had :). So much joy and fun. The s'more stash made me hungry. The pics are gorgeous. And now I miss the mountains too :), in a good way.

  • Mental Chew says:

    What a wonderful spot and you captured it beautifully. Skiing. Ya, it's been awhile. Hopefully next winter we can find our way to Whistler. Ok, and now I am thinking about s'mores.

  • AMAZING SHOTS! WOW, next time can you pack me too?

  • Oooh looks great – just waiting for the snow to fall here ( very warm Autumn and ski season not yet started, usually we are in full swing by now). Fantastic when your kids get excited about it too.

  • anushka says:

    wow, great story. i love your honesty. you must be a writer be trade. good for you for going down the mountain – i'm just glad nothing bad happened. i know how much fear has held me back since having had my son. there is so much more to lose. hard to find the balance sometimes.

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