Last year (2014-2015) in particular was a pathetic ski season due to the criminally low amount of snow. Navigating the slopes of Crystal was frequently a challenge, as one would constantly encounter bare patches or trees that should have been covered.
Due to our frequent skiing in such extremely subpar conditions, we’ve developed an effective working knowledge of where exactly to go when there’s not enough snow.
First of all, just avoid the base area. Don’t even think for a second that it’ll be good–if snow is sparse, everything lower than the top of Chinook Express will be quite bad. Though if you’re interested in waterskiing, puddles normally accumulate at the bottom of Discovery on warm days
Second, never ski glades or gulches. If snow is bad on normal runs, it will be doubly bad under the trees.
There’s a reason why natural half pipes exist: they were carved by creeks. In low snow years or warm periods, they never get covered properly and are still creeks. For example, last year, Grady was skiing with a group that decided to ski Gunbarrel. Once the group realized that the run had almost no snow and was a creek, it was too late. They had to sidestep out through trees and bare patches–not an ideal situation.
The best parts of the mountain in these conditions will be Forest Queen and Green Valley because they generally have sufficient snow and minimal bare patches popping out of the run. Runs off Rainier Express can also be good, but take your runs there in the morning as heavy skier traffic can expose lots of rocks by the end of the day, by virtue of the slopes’ exposure. Also, stay on groomers and moguls; anything off the beaten path will probably be awful.
The Sasquatch Jib Park can also be fun. Even if you aren’t the type of person who enjoys chilling in the terrain park all day, it can be fun to learn some terrain-park-related skiing skills on a day where nothing else is good. The terrain park will have enough snow (apart from a small lake that sometimes shows itself near the bottom of the first hill), so take advantage of it.
Finally, make your goal in skiing having fun, not finding the most epic routes down the mountain. Not every run has to be a convoluted series of traverses through cliffs and trees–Downhill, a straightforward groomer, is one of the best runs on the mountain. During bad snow years, you learn that even in terrible conditions, any run can be fun if you decide to make it so.