I’ve been having major FOMO over skiing lately. Washington got a bunch of snow in April, and so local ski resorts have been extending their closing dates. The ski resort I usually go to, Crystal Mountain, for example, is going to be open until Memorial Day on Fridays and weekends. However, I had my goal 10K race 3 weeks ago, our vacation to Oregon, another goal race this weekend, my first day of work Monday, and my daughters’ First Communion next weekend along with a visit from their godmother, a friend of mine from grad school. All in all, there hasn’t been time for skiing. That hasn’t stopped me from *watching* skiing on Peacock. I subscribed to Peacock for the Olympics. After being wildly disappointed with my subscription for the summer Olympics (which I canceled immediately afterwards), I’ve been really impressed since the winter Olympics. Apparently NBC responded to criticism. My $5 / month subscription gives me access to all of the World Cup skiing from ’21-’22 . . . and lots of other stuff, including, for example, most major professional cycling races. It’s great. I’ve been enjoying it so much, I don’t think we’ve turned on Netflix in ages.
Crystal hasn’t opened *all* their lifts. They’ve opened most of them but left closed the lift that serves the most advanced green runs as well as the easier blue runs I’d been working on. They recently added a new 3D trail map along with descriptions of the runs. The interface is rather user-hostile, but hopefully they’ll improve it. In any case, I think the trail descriptions are super useful! When you’re moving up from greens to blues, or I’m guessing blues to blacks, you kind of want to know what you’re getting yourself into.
The first blue run I did at Crystal is called Downhill. It is pretty easy except for one very steep section. At least, I think it’s steep. It’s wide, no trees, and everyone says it’s the first “easy” blue you should do. I don’t find it easy, however. Description:
This wide trail offers excellent terrain for carving on a groomer. The upper half of the run is a great place for beginners wanting to try out a blue. Avoid the steep section towards the bottom known as The Burn by taking the cat track to the right under the Forest Queen Chair. For those wanting a little more challenge, look for softer snow along the edges of The Burn. This steep section can become scraped down to firm snow and sometimes ice later in the day. Below, the terrain mellows again for what is locally known as the Afterburn before returning to the bottom of the chair. This run is best in the morning when the snow is freshly groomed. Starting below the top of the Forest Queen Chair, this trail is easy to find. Flanked by tall trees and a steep slope on the left, this picturesque trail rolls through varied terrain, making for a fun and fast run.
OK, so at least they acknowledge that there is a steep section. And yes, calling it “the burn” is apt. After getting comfortable-ish on Downhill, I finally ventured onto another blue run. An employee told me all the blue runs off this particular lift were pretty easy, so I tried Rolling Knolls. I’d describe it as comparable in difficulty to Downhill, maybe a little more tricky in some ways because it’s narrower and if you don’t avoid the fall line, it is steep. But you can avoid the steepest route down, so it’s not bad.
This challenging blue starts as a sidehill traverse from the Downhill run. Once you can see the steep dropoff, you are committed to the trail, so take caution. For skiers and riders wanting to avoid going all the way to the bottom of the ski area to transition to the Mountain Top side of Crystal, Rolling Knolls offers a fun, steep and sometimes powdery shortcut. The run drops sharply twice, making a slight right turn to end at the bottom of Rainier Express. The best snow can be found on the far right side of the lower drop, where the terrain is much steeper. This run is steep enough that it requires a winch for grooming. Stay in the groomed section for less challenge. The trees on either side of the run offer fun glades. The glade on the right side is often quite deep and steep. Watch for avalanches and tree wells.
Watch for avalanches? Really? OK.
In any case, since my favorite lift is closed, I’d need to ski either “Little Shot” or “Green Valley” if I were to go skiing again. (We do seem to have one free weekend between now and the end of May.)
A long cat track, Little Shot is the easiest route on Rainier Express. Start at the top of Green Valley Express, taking the Back Traverse to Powder Pass. From here, ski/ride down the first face of Lucky Shot. At the top of the second face, find the cat track on skier’s left. Follow this until it ends under the chair below the bottom of the third face of Lucky Shot. Either veer left here and take Upper Arwines or stay under the Rainier Express to the bottom.
This sounds very manageable to me, though I have very little experience with cat tracks. I feel like I’m pretty comfortable with steeps at this point, but I am not comfortable with narrow runs. I have basically done no narrow runs whatsoever. I guess there’s only one way to rectify that! The other option is Green Valley:
A long, snaking groomer with some steeper sections, this main run on Green Valley Express is also known as Greenback. Green Valley begins at the top of Green Valley Chair. Look for the groomed swath on the skier’s left of the vast Green Valley Bowl. There are many routes here, but this is the most obvious and popular. As far as blue runs go, this is a challenging one. It is steepest at the top. The second headwall is shallower than the first and the third headwall, if it can even be called that, is shallower still.
I feel like I should be able to handle this, but I’d hate to realize I was wrong at the top with no other way down the mountain. If only I wasn’t such a wimp!