Crystal Mountain Resort will be the first ski area in the Washington Cascades to spin chairlifts this season when they open to the public Nov. 21. Significant early-season snowfall will be sufficient to run three chairlifts on the lower mountain, Crystal announced Friday, making for the mountain’s earliest opening day since 2017.
Season pass holders will have an even earlier crack at the slopes, starting Friday, Nov. 18. On Nov. 19 and 20, only Crystal Legend Passes and Ikon Passes will be honored — two of the season pass products that saw steep price increases from last season. A small number of lift tickets will be available for purchase at crystalmountainresort.com, with opening day adult tickets currently for sale at $79 plus tax.
Upward of 30 inches of snow fell in some locations in the Cascades through the first weekend of November, followed by sustained cold temperatures that are preserving the early-season snowpack. Here’s a roundup of what this exceptional snowfall means for our region’s other winter destinations.
Other opening dates
Stevens Pass Ski Area set an opening day of Dec. 2 back in August but has not yet updated based on the new snow, though snow-making is underway, the ski area tweeted Thursday. Mission Ridge is likewise making snow, citing the best early-season conditions in nearly a decade, and on Saturday, Nov. 12, announced a Nov. 19 opening on Twitter. Mount Baker Ski Area is projected to open to passholders Thursday, Nov. 17, and to the public Nov. 18, per a weekend snow report. White Pass Ski Area has not yet set a date. Less snow fell at Snoqualmie Pass, where opening day at Summit at Snoqualmie will require additional snowfall. Further afield in the Pacific Northwest, Schweitzer, Idaho, opens Nov. 19, and both Whistler Blackcomb, in B.C., and Big Sky, Montana, open Nov. 24.
Methow Trails had its earliest-ever season opening Thursday with groomed trails for cross-country skiing and fat biking, as well as snowshoe trails. Plain Valley Ski Trails opened some of its trail system Nov. 8 for both classic and skate skiing, but not yet snowshoeing, while 49º North Mountain Resort near Spokane and Timberline on Mount Hood, Oregon, both opened Friday.
Mount Rainier National Park transitioned into winter mode, closing all entrances except for the Nisqually entrance in Ashford, according to the park’s road status webpage at nps.gov. After closing for several days during the early November snowstorm, the park opened the road from Longmire to Paradise on Tuesday. Backcountry skiing and snowshoeing are now in full swing, although the park’s snow play and sledding area is not yet open. Vehicles are required to carry chains beyond Longmire. Hurricane Ridge at Olympic National Park has not yet begun winter operations, but there is a foot and a half of snow on the ground.
Since there is enough snow in some parts of the mountains for backcountry skiing, the Northwest Avalanche Center will begin making general avalanche statements and mountain weather forecasts Wednesday. Anyone venturing into the mountains should be prepared to safely navigate avalanche terrain and treat closed ski areas as backcountry terrain.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect opening dates at Mount Baker and Mission Ridge ski areas that were announced after this story’s publication.