Three days after announcing the return of lift reservations as a proactive measure against anticipated January crowds, Crystal Mountain Resort changed course on Monday and scrapped the on-mountain reservation system in favor of a new parking reservation system.

It’s the latest example of Western Washington ski resorts adjusting on the fly to a winter sports landscape still shaped by heightened demand.

Starting Saturday, Jan. 15, parking reservations will be required on Saturdays, Sundays and holiday Mondays (specifically Martin Luther King Jr. Day Jan. 17 and Presidents Day Feb. 21). Crystal anticipates the parking reservation system to go live by Tuesday, Jan. 11.

2021-22 SKI SEASON

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“Our team has been working to address our most in-demand amenity, parking,” wrote Crystal president and COO Frank DeBerry in a Jan. 3 letter to customers. “In doing so, we have decided to implement a reservations system for parking, instead of on lifts. As a result, we have been able to maximize opportunities and capacity for our guests.”

The parking reservation system will apply to all visitors, from season passholders to snowshoers and backcountry users. Parking at the ski area will cost $20 on Fridays and Sundays and $30 on Saturdays and holidays, except for season passholders and car pools of four or more.

In the wake of the new parking management system, Crystal expanded its free shuttle bus service from the Enumclaw Expo & Event Center fairgrounds on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and holiday Mondays. Shuttle bus reservations are recommended to guarantee a seat but will no longer be tied to specific departure times as buses will operate on a load-and-go basis. Buses will run to the mountain from 6:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. with return trips from 2-6 p.m. Walk-on shuttle service without reservations will be available Jan. 8-9.

Crystal faced heat on social media from customers who spent $999 on an Ikon Pass from the resort’s owner, Alterra Mountain Company, for unlimited access this season with the expectation that the reservation system was a relic of the 2020-2021 season. The Dec. 31 announcement of a renewed reservation system came after the Dec. 9 deadline by which date Ikon Pass customers could defer their purchase to the 2022-2023 season. Crystal is currently the only one of Alterra’s 15 North American resorts with a reservation system.