Tickets to Ride

The Ikon Pass Goes Big at Crystal Mountain

Washington’s biggest resort raised prices and began charging for parking. But can Crystal hang in the big leagues?

By Allison Williams November 22, 2021 Published in the Winter 2021 issue of Seattle Met

Crystal Mountain spreads over more than 2,600 acres near Mount Rainier.

Image: Mitch Pittman

The most terrain. The only gondola. The highest restaurant. Unbeatable views of Mount Rainier next door. Crystal Mountain sits securely among the most popular Washington ski destinations, with plenty to brag about. But with high status comes big crowds, and this year the resort may find out just how much Washington locals think it’s worth.

The Ikon Pass, offered by Crystal’s owner, Alterra Mountain Company, operates on two tiers; for the last few seasons, the lower-priced Ikon Base version was good for any day at Crystal (plus days at 44 other resorts, though limited at blockbuster spots like Aspen). In 2021, Alterra shifted full any-day privileges to the more expensive Ikon, capping Base customers to only five visits. Crystal communications manager Vivika Stamolis calls it a response to “the overwhelming demand we saw last season.” The higher price point, combined with their competitor’s price drop, means that a full pass to Crystal has hovered around $1,000 this season, drastically more than comparable access at Stevens Pass that started at $599 for early buyers.

In September, Crystal also announced a plan to charge for parking, something no other Washington mountain does. Ikon pass holders will be exempt from the charge, but the change puts it more in line with Whistler Blackcomb. Fees will fund a free shuttle from Enumclaw, the closest sizable town, a move the resort touts as a push for sustainability.

Crystal is ready with reasons to pay a premium: four new food stalls welcome skiers at the base with waffles and rice bowls. Plus it can point to a stellar season last year, a whopping 170 open days and one of the latest close dates in the country, even
as staffing shortages plagued other mountains. Extended night skiing hours this season hope to entice families who avoid the morning rush.

Stamolis makes sure to highlight the resort’s contribution to the Share Winter Foundation and programs that bring marginalized groups into snow sports. But this year’s price hikes—with lift tickets priced well over $100 for a la carte visitors—are unmistakable. Crystal has officially reached champagne status; skiers will decide whether it’s earned the top-shelf price.

Ikon Road Trip

Bend, Oregon

Drive Time: 6 hours

Besides volcano skiing, Mount Bachelor includes ski alternatives like dog sledding.

We don’t need to tell you that Central Oregon is famous for beer and the kind of mountain-bike-and-kayak lifestyle that belongs in advertisements for REI (or certain prescription medicines). So total is Bend’s outdoor mindset that nearly every inch of Mount Bachelor, a volcano just outside town, can be carved by ski or snowboard. An Ikon Pass works for seven days on the mountain, which is also the number of times the Dump City Dumplings food truck at the base is worth visiting for the
baseball-sized snacks.

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