The man in charge of the Crystal Mountain operation shared a little bit about the local resort’s past, more about it’s present and some interesting tidbits about the future – all during a briefing in front of the Enumclaw City Council.
Frank DeBerry introduced himself as “the steward of Crystal since October of 2018,” when the international Alterra Mountain Company bought the mountaintop resort from John Kircher. Kircher had come to Crystal as part of Boyne USA, which purchased Crystal in 1997 from the original ownership group.
DeBerry, whose title is president and chief operating officer, said he spent his first season at Crystal learning all he could. What he found was, “we have a true destination-quality mountain, not necessarily destination-quality amenities.”
Initial steps were taken to make the Crystal experience better for users, he said, noting things like ticket kiosks in the parking lot (“so you don’t have to wait in line twice”) and improving bus service from nearby cities to relieve congestion on the mountain.
Congestion issues came to a head on Jan. 11, DeBerry said, when demand peaked. Bus drivers told him traffic was often of the stop-and-go variety between Auburn and the resort.
“We took some pretty immediate measures,” he told the council, the most dramatic being a halt to selling passes at on-site ticket windows; everything was done online.
“It’s a weird move to make as a ski area operator because that’s the most profitable ticket you sell,” DeBerry said. “When the snow’s right, you count on that window visit to really drive your extra profit.”
When the fallout from overcrowding finally subsided, he added, nature tossed another curveball Crystal’s way. Everyone awoke the morning of Feb. 6 only to learn of a mudslide blocking state Route 410 just east of Greenwater; then came two more slides, followed by an even larger slide west of Greenwater.
“The volume of debris that came down over the highway was amazing,” DeBerry said.
The state’s Department of Transportation was “amazing,” he said, when it came to clearing the mud, rocks and trees that cascaded down the hill and onto SR 410 – the access road allowing guest to visit Crystal Mountain.
DeBerry transitioned into a discussion of what the future holds for the largest ski resort in Washington. The Alterra-owned property boasts 2,600 total acres, sits at a base elevation of 4,400 feet and averages 486 inches of annual snowfall.
Steps will be taken to reduce highway congestion, he said, admitting that’s sometimes tough: “it’s a hard battle to fight, nobody wants to abandon their car.” But there will be a continued effort to increase bus service up and down the mountain.
The most exciting development, DeBerry said, will be the construction of a new facility near the base that will provide 20,000 square feet for food-and-beverage space. Construction will start in March on the project that carries a price tag of somewhere between $9 and $10 million and will take a full year to complete.
An effort also will be made, he said, to enhance Crystal’s year-round experience and boost the number of visitors.
“We have a tremendous opportunity to bring more people to the mountain in the summertime,” he said, hinting at future plans to replace the Summit House.