Crystal Mountain gondola a welcome addition

Preparations for the new gondola at Crystal Mountain began April 26, with the demolition of the Market and Bumps Espresso stand, the site where the bottom terminal will be located.

The gondola will travel up Exterminator and finish at the top of the Rainier Express chairlift after passing through 13 lift towers. Construction is expected to be completed in November or December.

Crystal Mountain will be the only ski area in Washington and Oregon to have a gondola.

“The addition of the gondola is a big step towards becoming a year-round resort and recreation area,” said Crystal spokeswoman Tiana Enger. “It will also take a little pressure off the winter months and create year-round jobs for employees.”

Foot passengers will be able to access the Mount Rainier vista and Summit House dining during the winter, as well as the summer months. Crystal executives hope the gondola will become a big attraction for those traveling to Mount Rainier National Park during the summer.

“This is going to really change the way we position ourselves here in the Northwest,” Enger said.

Crystal also plans to expand its summer special events like weddings, meetings, retreats and other gatherings. Crystal has a full-service catering department that can accommodate groups up to 500.

The gondola will allow Crystal to open earlier and stay open longer, expanding the winter season. Once the lifts shut down for the day during the winter, the gondola will provide access to the mountaintop restaurant. Crystal plans to expand the Summit House restaurant during 2012, including a bar, additional seating and possibly a private meeting space.

The gondola will include 18 eight-passenger cabins, with the option of adding an additional 18 cabins at a later time. The initial cabins will bring 450 people per hour to the summit in less than 10 minutes. The maximum uphill capacity once the additional cabins are added will be 900 people per hour.

The price tag for the Dopplemayr gondola is $5.3 million, not including construction and labor costs. Construction is under way and will provide summer work for nearly 20 employees.

To learn more and see a map of the Gondola location visit the website

Crystal Mountain is operated by Boyne Resorts, overseen by the Kircher family since 1947.

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