Turning skiers and riders away from a resort on a powder day is not what resorts want to do but, in the case of Crystal Mountain, there was not a choice.
As a result of several days that filled parking lots and clogged access routes, the western Washington resort will put a cap on day tickets bought online during weekends and holidays. In essence, Crystal becomes the first U.S. resort to close down ticket windows at the mountain during weekends and holidays.
Crystal Mountain season passes, multi-day passes and Ikon passes will be honored on all days.
Otherwise, motorists will be turned around and encouraged to hop a shuttle for the hour-long ride to the mountain. End-of-the-road Crystal Mountain is two hours' drive from Seattle -- one of the closest to Washington's largest city.
To further mitigate, the resort has ramped up its social media and local messaging efforts to warn skiers and snowboarders when lots are getting full.
This past Sunday (Jan. 12) produced a perfect storm. First and foremost, it was a powder day. Then, the closure of a road to the ski and snowboard mountain was closed, due to weather, but parking lots were full by 7:45 a.m. The resort's social media suggested taking a shuttle from Enumclaw, but they were full a couple of hours later.
“Despite planning several additional measures to communicate and accommodate more skiers and riders, a total park-out still occurred by 9 a.m., and traffic was backed up for miles early in the morning,” said Crystal's Frank DeBerry.
Like most U.S. resorts, Crystal's responses to overcrowding are short-term, Band-Aid solutions to a larger problem. Analysis ranges from the immediacy of social media to the growth of skiers and riders in the Seattle area to Crystal's inclusion in the multi-resort Ikon pass.
Crystal asks its customers to pump up carpooling to four per car, take shuttles or bus service from Seattle and Tacoma, or consider mid-week or afternoon-to-night skiing and riding when fewer folks come up.