Rainier Express

Washington’s first detachable chairlift, “REX” has been briskly bringing skiers to great glades, groomers, and steeps since 1988.  It accesses a variety of advanced and expert terrain, as well as a few fast intermediate groomers.

Click on the above pictures to enlarge.

Traverses:

Lucky Shot Traverse | Quality: 4/10 | A set of traverses that all end at Lucky Shot from the top of the Gondola and REX. The first can be accessed by skiing all the way down to the top of the Green Valley chair and making a sharp left two traverse behind the summit of Crystal Mountain. This route requires the least snow to be open and is slightly easier than the other two routes.

On the other hand, there are two traverses across the front side of the summit that lead to Lucky Shot. The first, lower, traverse is accessed by turning right after the first face off the gondola and following the cat track all the way instead of turning off onto Upper Ferk’s. This route in a face that is notorious for being icy and rocky, so only take this route when the conditions are good and you want to get to Lucky Shot fast. You can also go straight at the end of the first switchback to access a second route ends up slightly higher up on the face. By using the frontside traverse, you will also be able to access The Doors.

Considerations: Intermediate, Crowded, Traverse, Groomed.

Upper Ferk’s (Iceberg Ridge) | Quality: 7/10 | A fun traverse from the summit to Middle Ferk’s. It can often be the most enjoyable way down Green Valley due to its fast nature. Accesses Sunnyside, Memorial Forest, Middle Ferk’s, Bull Run, Melby’s, and other runs in the Green Valley and Exterminator Areas.

Considerations: Intermediate, Groomed, Traverse.

Little Shot | Quality: 5/10 |Little Shot (Chicken Shot, to the ski patrol), provides a much flatter cat track alternative to Lucky Shot from the top of the second face to the bottom of the run. Some fun lines through the trees between switchbacks can be fun when there’s good coverage.

Considerations: Intermediate, Groomed, Traverse.

Sunnyside Road | Quality: 2/10 | From the top of Middle Ferk’s, take the cat track heading in the direction of Sunnyside. This traverse travels across Memorial Forest and Sunnyside, ending on the first switchback of Little Shot. Possibly the easiest way down REX, if you aren’t scared of the difficult terrain that the run cuts across.

Considerations: Intermediate, Groomed, Traverse, Scary (for a beginner/intermediate skiers).

On The Map:

Lucky Shot | Quality: 8/10 | Lucky Shot is possibly the best intermediate run at Crystal. Accessed by taking any rendition of Lucky Shot Traverse, this crowded groomer is often my choice for a first run on a normal day. The run consists of three faces, two of which are pretty steep. The right side of these faces tends to be mogully while the right side is groomed. There are three endings to the run: continuing straight, Gandy’s Run, and Upper Skid Road. Any of these are good on your average day, but on low snow years, don’t continue straight.

Considerations: Intermediate, Crowded, Groomed.

Gandy’s Run | Quality: 6/10 | One of three endings to Lucky Shot, this one accessible by going right at the bottom of the third face. Fun, but also easily forgotten. It is often thought of by the locals as “that run that Bear Pits exits into,” so be careful not to get hit by crazed skiers on a powder high coming out of the woods.

Considerations: Intermediate, Groomed.

Upper Skid Road (Upper Arwine’s) | Quality: 7/10 | Accessed by turning left after the third  face of Lucky Shot, this is the option that lets you get going the fastest, as it is the most well-covered and wide. However, be wary of ski patrol lurking in the area, searching for speeding, out of control skiers/snowboarders.

Considerations: Intermediate, Crowded, Groomed.

Middle Ferk’s (Iceberg) | Quality: 8/10 | Possibly the best groomed run on the mountain, Middle Ferk’s or Iceberg, as the locals call it, offers a long, steep, and varied run from the bottom of Upper Ferk’s all the way down to REX. However, this run can get skied out fast, making it less enjoyable. So hit it early in the day if possible.

Considerations: Advanced, Groomed, Steep, Crowded, Moguls (later in day).

Little Portillo | Quality: 6/10 | From the end of the Lucky Shot traverse, go straight and down the steep and sometimes groomed Little Portillo. Get going fast so that you will clear the hill you have to ski back up at the end of the run. The run ends by rejoining the top of the second face of Lucky Shot. A fun mid-run adrenaline boost. Only try in good conditions.

Considerations: Advanced, Speed Required, Groomed (occasionally), moguls (later in day).

Sunnyside | Quality: 8/10 | As you ski down Upper Ferk’s, go through one of the many gates to your right (actually, all but the last gate. It leads to slightly more difficult terrain called Memorial Forest). The first of these gates, located right as you turn off the front side Lucky Shot traverse, goes directly below REX and most of the time has the worst conditions. So don’t go on it unless you want to show off under the chair. The rest of the gates consist of decently steep and powdery faces divided by trees. Highly recommended on a powder day.

Considerations: Advanced, Steep, Powder, Glades.

Bear Pits (Lucky Shot Entrance) | Quality: 8/10 | The Lucky Shot version of Bear Pits is accessed by traversing past the top of Little Portillo towards the skier’s right side of Powder Bowl. This run offers more cliffs, trees, and freeriding features. However, if you aren’t interested in finding the raddest way down the hill, there are many obvious routes for you as well.

Considerations: Expert, Cliffs, Glades, Powder, Steep, Narrow, Difficult Access (traversing required).

Bull Run | Quality: 7/10 | Accessed by taking the traverse on the skier’s left from the top of Middle Ferk’s then diving into the first obvious cut run. The first time I skied Bull Run, I was crying by the end. Its a hard run, and in no conditions will it ever by a breeze. Because of this, a lot of people don’t like Bull Run, saying it always has terrible conditions, but I have to disagree. It’s a very enjoyable run, especially when skied fast, and possibly the most difficult marked run on the main mountain.

Considerations: Expert, Powder, Chopped Up, Steep, Difficult Access (traversing required).

Off The Map:

Rightberg | Quality: 8/10 (when groomed) | After the gondola was built in 2010, Crystal was able to groom a new face on the right side of Iceberg, due to a new gondola pole that the snow cats could attach themselves to. This steeper, but more enjoyable variation of Iceberg can be a great first run any day. Later in the day however, it will lose all signs of being groomed and return to its normal, bumpy state.

Considerations: Advanced, Groomed, Steep, Crowded.

The Doors | Quality: 7/10 | An awesome run on a powder day, but a generally uninspiring one any other time. Accessed by skiing along the lower front side Lucky Shot Traverse (that’s a long name) and entering through one of the many gates, or doors (hence the name), to your left. Probably the best glades on the main mountain, in good conditions. You will exit back onto Lucky Shot or Little Shot (depending on where you enter) at the end of the run.

Considerations: Advanced, Gladed, Powder.

Memorial Forest | Quality: 9/10 | A slightly more difficult version of Sunnyside. Accessed by skiing through the last gate to your right on Upper Ferk’s before the run reaches Middle Ferk’s, this steep, sparsely gladed face is the favorite run of many locals. The run ends in a giant natural jump that warrants a trip on its own.

Considerations: Expert, Gladed, Steep, Powder.

Lucky Shot Chutes | Quality: 7/10 | This offshoot of Bear Pits provides a lesser known way down the run that generally requires less snow to be skiable and is slightly easier than the main run. Accessed by heading into the trees at the bottom of Little Portillo. You will find yourself at the top of some awkward to navigate tree chutes, but these quickly dissipate into a more open set of chutes that you can easily navigate between.

Considerations: Expert, Gladed, Narrow, Powder.

Melby’s | Quality: 5/10 | Accessed by traversing to the skier’s left when you are halfway down Middle Ferk’s, this is one of the runs on the mountain that everyone knows about, but no one actually ever skis. Basically an easier version of bull run that needs more snow to be skiable. In 2011, a local skier, Melby, disappeared on a powder day and no one could find him. At the end of the ski season, he was found dead in a tree well on this run. No one was surprised because, once again, everyone knows about this run but nobody skis it.

Considerations: Advanced, Low Coverage, Powder.

 

Statistics: Runs: 17 | On Map: 65% | Off Map: 35%

0% Beginner | 41% Intermediate | 35% Advanced | 24% Expert

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