Is the Washington mountain’s $1,699 season pass a harbinger or an anomaly?
I've been skiing Crystal since before the Alterra purchase and have been a big fan of the access and parking changes. I was just skiing there Sunday morning, with "dust on crust" conditions, but was able to find some fresh snow in the trees at the bottom of the Campbell Basin off of Chair 6. They just removed parking reservations, but it's mid-March, so I was able to get a good spot in B lot, and the only lines were at typical pinch points like Forest Queen after 10 AM. Prior to parking reservations, though, I'm not sure whether this would have even been possible (I left my house in Seattle at 6 AM... far too late to get a spot in past seasons).
I am supportive of the Ikon access changes they're making for next year, though like many, I have reservations around the price of the full season pass (to be fair, Frank points out that the market for this pass is a small fraction of the overall Ikon passholder base). We did put in 13 days at Crystal last season (2020-2021) on the Ikon Base Pass, so anecdotally I understand where the policy changes are coming from.
Stuart, I would love to see some of the smaller (independent) areas further away (but still day-trippable) like Mission Ridge, White Pass, and Mt. Baker get some love in these articles about the ongoing demand crunch for PNW skiing. I know White Pass was a top 10 destination for Indy Pass holders, so it's got a following, but I've had some of my best "local days" skiing a little further away from my home in NE Seattle. Tickets are affordable, lines are short, and in many cases, the snow is just as good or even better.
What gets me about the Crystal pass changes is that Frank admits in your interview how few days a year crowding is an issue - weekends (mostly only those with fresh snow) from January to early March. The parking system this season has worked. I was there the Saturday in 2020 when they parked out and backed up for hours. I haven't had an issue since. Weekdays and early/late season weekends are going to be an absolute ghost town next year as I expect most will stick with the Ikon pass, but will save their 7 days to use on all the same peak weekends anyway.
Stuart - wonder your thoughts on the statement that 75% of their clientel only goes seven times. I simply fail to see how these changes will alieviate crowds. 25% isn't going to make a significant impact imho. But it would allow Crystal to start selling day tickets on the weekend again at $180 a pop and make even more money.
It used to be that we could have "cheap" day tickets and reasonable season passes for people who went more than 10-12 times a year. Now we have extremely expensive season passes and ridiculous day prices. Seasons passes still conveniently priced at 10-12 day tickets.
From the coversations I've had with lifties this year - Alterra management really doesn't understand Crystal. Yes, parking was an issue. But the lines were almost solely due to not being able to keep the whole mountain open. Especially Forest Queen - that thing would shut down due to power failures all the time. Typical pattern was for it to periodically shut down in the morning and finally get the diesel generator going in the afternoon.
Who this really hurts are families and getting younger skiers hooked. If it was just me and my wife - $1600 each is a lot but not terrible. But not with kids as well - plus IKON plus when they eventually do charge for parking.
I'd say the lawyer in Enumclaw is obviously an outlier. I make good money - but I didn't get to where I'm at by being frivolous with my disposable income. And I suspect that's where a lot of people are at. Can most technically afford $1600 for a ticket? Yes - but there's no way I'm going to spend that amount of money when I know what tickets used to cost and knowing it's just going to fund a hotel that I don't care about.
I am not familiar with the particulars of the situation at Crystal (though the increase does seem a bit much) but I give Ikon credit for trying to deal with the crowding issue. It would seem, on the East Coast at least, that Ikon not discounting prices like Epic paid off in fewer crowding issues. I applaud them with at least trying to be creative to assure the skier experience is not ruined by crowds.
Thank you for writing this article. Crystal's been really good at controlling the narrative with the media, even if it's sort of an "emperor has no clothes" thing...
-I really take issue with Crystal constantly talking to the media about how bewildered they are about the increase in visits to the mountain. We never had traffic or parking issues before Alterra bought Crystal in 2018. Then they put us under the IKON pass and we also became part of the Alterra marketing machine. Both Alterra and Crystal are marketing Crystal day and night - ads, partnerships, sponsorships, pro athlete ambassadors, etc. I've heard the ads, and I've seen the partnership and sponsorship programs, and I've seen the ambassadors. All that has resulted in Crystal's parking and traffic woes, starting well before the pandemic. It's not a mystery why we are having capacity issues.
-As someone else pointed out, the $1200 pass price cited in the article is inaccurate. Per the Tacoma News Tribune, in 2017-2018, right before the Alterra purchase, if you bought in spring a pass was only $695. Tickets were never $1200 prior to Alterra.
-Crystal is becoming a mountain that is catering to the wealthy, the 5%. That's their new clientele. Putting in more retail and dining both at the bottom and top of the mountain, and a 100 room hotel, is insane - no local skier will use ANY of the $100 million "improvements." There is no love for skiing in any of it. And of course it will only bring more traffic to the mountain! So Crystal is well on it's way to becoming the next Aspen, and that's their intent. They aren't raising prices to thin out the crowds, they're raising prices to exclude local skiers and make way for their new target audience.
-Crystal is busing in local skiers and requiring reservations to free up parking for their new wealthy clientele. Period.
*Just one example of a partnership that is bringing Chase customers to Crystal this season. We've seen the Crystal social posts about it: https://shop-eat-surf.com/2022/03/alterra-mountain-company-and-chase-sapphire-team-up/
“cost-of-a-pack-of-smokes passes that had nearly broken Colorado, backing Interstate 70 up to Kansas and stuffing the Summit County ski areas like refugee camps”. Phenomenal, just phenomenal.
Stuart, you mentioned that it’s more likely that Putin gets the presidential medal of freedom than it is for Washington to make a new ski resort? Is that just because of environmental regulations and stuff? Or all the good land for resorts is already taken? Fascinates me that we more resorts aren’t being opened.
It's very silly to count all full Ikon Passholders who live in Washington State as full Crystal passholders, and it's evidence Alterra doesn't fully understand the PNW ski market.
While Crystal was the only unlimited resort in Washington on the full Ikon Pass, Red B.C. and Schweitzer ID are both 7-day partners. The largest population center which serves *both* of those resorts is Spokane, which is located in Washington State. I live in Spokane, I'm an Ikon Passholder, and I ski mostly at Schweitzer. I haven't been to Crystal at all this season. I don't think I'm alone. 14 days at Red and Schweitzer, plus a trip or two, is enough value for many people.
Accounting for pass holders in this way is very, very silly. They should at least break it out by east or west of the Cascades. Historically those have been seen as very different ski markets.
I hope someone, somewhere, is pursuing criminal charges against Liftopia.
"Pre-Ikon, Crystal’s Pass floated in the $1,200 range" this is misinformation from Crystal Mountain marketing. Pre-Ikon season passes were ALWAYS offered in the Spring for $600-$850 in the prior 10-15 years. $1200 was the highest fall season rate. The vast majority of passholders purchased during the Spring time at a price never over $850 since at least 2007 or so.
This is great news! Just last week, out of nowhere my 11 year old daughter told me that: "next year I want to ski at Crystal Mountain." Paying $4000 for the family to get IKON passes simply to take my daughter to Crystal Mountain is not an option. Now, I might be able to hold my breath while waiting for the resort to issue reasonably priced mid-week tickets to fly out there for a short week. There is always hope!