Sunday marked the end of a dreadful ski season in the Northwest as Crystal Mountain Resort and Mt. Baker Ski Area closed until next winter.
On Saturday, Eddie Pereira was ready to kiss the lousy ski season goodbye.
The 52-year-old construction worker from South Everett is an avid skier. But in a winter full of warm temperatures and little snowfall, Pereira was only able to get a paltry nine days of skiing in this season. Sunday was his last chance to hit the slopes.
“I was on the fence on whether I’d come or not,” Pereira said, riding the gondola up to the top of Crystal Mountain Resort for what would be his 10th ski day this season. “I got up at 4:30 this morning, and I couldn’t not do it.”
Ski bummer at Crystal
This season’s light snowfall, following a weak season a year ago, spelled bad news for skiers and the business.
Snowfall in inches last season
Snowfall in inches this season
Days open last season
Days open this season
Skier visits last season, as of March 1
Skier visits this season, as of March 1
Crystal Mountain resort, Pacific Northwest Ski Areas Association
As bad as the ski season was, plenty of die-hards such as Pereira couldn’t resist one last day on the slopes, which was more a goofy party than a somber wake. Cloudless skies and warm temperatures brought about 900 skiers and snowboarders to Crystal on Sunday.
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And then, Crystal, along with Mt. Baker Ski Area, shut down the ski lifts and bid farewell to one of the worst ski seasons in decades.
“I’m kind of glad it’s the last day, just to put this season behind us,” said Tiana Anderson, Crystal’s director of sales and marketing.
How bad was it? Only 234 inches of snow fell at Crystal this season, about 40 percent less than last year, which wasn’t a particularly good season either. That meant that Crystal opened for 122 days, 25 fewer days than the previous year. One day, the conditions were so bad the mountain had only 11 visitors.
“You’ve got to roll with the punches,” Anderson said. “Sometimes, it takes the bad to appreciate how good we’ve had it.”
All told, the lack of snow cut Crystal’s visitor tally nearly in half from the previous year. Only the 2004-2005 season and the 1991-1992 season were worse in terms of snowfall and visits.
“Mother Nature has been stingy,” Anderson said. “New snow is what gets people to come up to ski.”
Without it, Crystal was forced to cut back operations. In February, most of the snow at the base of the mountain, where the beginner slopes are, melted away. That meant the resort couldn’t run many of the ski and snowboard lessons. Will McMahon, who manages the snow-sports program, was among those laid off. He found work in construction to fill the gap.
“It was definitely a bummer,” McMahon, 50, said as he was putting on gear for his final day on the slopes for the season.
With little snow left, Crystal opened only the gondola, to get skiers and snowboarders to the top of the mountain, and the Green Valley chairlift, to access a handful of runs. Rather than grumble about the season, skiers and snowboarders celebrated one last day on the mountain with the sort of upbeat goofiness that often marks the end of the season. Some showed up in shorts and tank tops. One wore a tutu. Another sported a seersucker business suit.
Robert Copeland rode in more traditional ski parka and pants. The 56-year-old chief financial officer of Auction Edge, which develops technology for the auto auction industry, owns a cabin about 20 miles north of Crystal. Most winters, he’s there each weekend. This year it was every other week, or even every third week.
“Some years you get a great deal. Some years not so much,” Copeland said about his season pass to ski Crystal. “But I’m in it for the long haul.”
As bad as the season had been, closing day was a party. Parents with kids, beer-drinking revelers and Crystal’s longtime customers found soft snow that made for easy turns, but got heavier as the day wore on.
“It’s the last day. It’s the last opportunity,” said Mark Nagle, 48, of Seattle, who made the pilgrimage with his daughter, his son and a friend. “We’re going to stay here until the snow gets thick.”