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Crystal vs Stevens Pass - Driving distance from Seattle

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
I am going to be relocating to Seattle, was wondering about driving distance to Stevens Pass and Crystal Mountain. They seem similar distances from downtown.

Do folks from Seattle do these as day trips, or is there lodging near one or the other that makes a weekend worthwhile? Is there anything like season rentals for lodging available at either?

Any info appreciated.

post #2 of 13
Crystal and Stevens are both about the same driving distance from downtown Seattle. Both are around 1.5 hours from the center of town, give or take. Crystal has a limited amount of lodging at the ski area, Stevens has none. By far most skiers from the Seattle area make day trips to both hills.

There is off hill lodging available about 15 minutes away for both areas if you search a bit...various cabins or condos that rent for the weekend. There is a small motel in Skykomish near Stevens but I'm not sure if there is one near Crystal since I've not been there in many years because It's the same distance for me to go to Whistler.

For either area, try your hardest to avoid weekends from Christmas through February. It's a complete zoo.
post #3 of 13
IPO, some factors for you to consider in your Stevens vs. Crystal commute decision. I've done both resorts and have chosen a Crystal season pass for the last two years. I do like Stevens though, and I'm sure there are valid reasons others can cite that it is superior to Crystal.

My reasons for chosing Crystal?
1) The drive to Crystal tends to be safer. Highway 2 to Stevens Pass is cited as the most dangerous in Washington. It seems to specialize in the cross-over lane head-on collision. 2) Crystal offers much more terrain (2300 acres), particularly steeper terrain than Stevens (1124 acres).

Posaune summarized the lodging situation well, most Seattle people make a day trip. If you have an RV, you can camp at either resort in their parking lots. Check Crystal's website for their lodging options. Dining there is limited to one restaurant. Driving to either Crystal or Stevens two days in a row from Seattle would be tiring, so a Saturday night stay would be a good consideration.

Another transportation option for Crystal is their skier bus, which has gotten fairly expensive as fuel costs rise. I used to take the Crystal ski bus, but dropped it after experiencing two break-downs on the way back to Seattle. I'd rather drive solo than sit on a broken-down ski bus for hours.

Check turnsallyear.com for west Cascade slope ride share partners to Crystal and Stevens. While this site is geared towards tele and A/T backcountry skiers, downhill skiers also read the posts.

Good luck with your 2008-2009 season in the Cascades.
post #4 of 13
I much prefer the drive to Stevens from Seattle. I’ve never heard it called our most dangerous highway (wouldn't that be Hwys 18 or 522?), and I can’t see what makes it any hairier than any of our other mountain pass roads (besides I-90/Snoqualmie Pass, which is a lower elevation 8 lane interstate). It’s also faster to Stevens—it’s probably the same (1.5 hours) to the Crystal turnoff, but the last 6 miles, if they are icy and people ignored the chain up sign (which happens) can be VERY slow since it is a narrow 2 lane road, not a highway. Also, much of the parking is too far to walk to the base, so you have to wait for a shuttle, which slows you down. Although it does depend on where in Seattle you end up. It's a long, narrow N/S city, so the south end is closer to Crystal, north to Stevens.

Like others said, we all do day trips. There is some lodging at Crystal, but there isn't much to do there after the lifts shut down (no night skiing). I think there's a bar and restaurant and that's it. Literally the only things at Stevens are the lodges and lifts. If you're hankering for a skiing weekend with lodging remember Whistler is only 4.5 hours...Baker is another place that Seattlites would end up staying the night (lots of options not at the base, but along Hwy 542).
post #5 of 13
It has been my experience that the drive time to Crystal is quicker. 410 tends to move fairly well, whereas hwy 2 can be a mess. However, if you are deciding between getting a pass at one or the other, I'd go with Crystal. Better terrain, IMO, and they also have a pass deal with Snoqualmie. And if you can't deal with the shuttle from the Crystal parking lot to the base, well, you probably should move to Deer Valley.
post #6 of 13
Originally Posted by Toadman View Post
It has been my experience that the drive time to Crystal is quicker.
As Christy said, it all depends on where you're coming from. From my house in Ballard (North side of the city for those not familiar) it's pretty much always quicker to get to Stevens. Only by about 10-15 minutes, but still quicker.
post #7 of 13
The drive up the mountains is probably pretty much a wash. But getting down on a weekend, Crystal can have horrifically bad traffic. I think the night skiing at Stevens disperses peoples' departure times somewhat. At Crystal, everyone is getting off the mountain on a windy two lane road at the same time.
post #8 of 13
Thread Starter 
I appreciate all of the advice... any opinions as far as weekend crowds, lift lines, etc? Crystal is larger - does that mean that crowds are dispersed?

post #9 of 13
I can't speak for Crystal since I don't ski there, however I've heard that it's pretty crowded. Someone else can give you more information.

At Stevens they run out of parking and turn people away at times. It's amazing what happens when the calendar turns to March, though. All of those folks begin to disappear fast.

The best thing to do, if you can, is to ski weekdays as much as possible from the weekend before Christmas until March 1. If you can only do weekends get there well before the lifts open (they have a good breakfast in the Granite Peaks lodge), ski through lunch, maybe even taking the later morning off say from 10:30 - 11:45 so you can go for it later. If it gets crowded in the afternoon (it will) take another break, and then go night skiing after people begin to leave.

There are no crowds during night skiing. One advantage that Stevens has over Crystal is the lights. The whole front side of the mountain is lit up except for 7th Heaven and the crowds melt away after 3:00.

As far as crowd dispersal, it depends on your skiing level, but once you get off of the blues at Stevens there are few people on the slopes. If you like skiing the groomers you'll have crowds to fight with, but there is plenty of off piste room should you choose that. The biggest problem is the lift lines. Only 7th Heaven won't be crowded on a weekend in Jan./Feb. and you have to ride Skyline first to get there from almost everywhere.

People will tell you that Crystal is a superior hill and they're correct, it is. However, Stevens has a lot to offer and you should make sure you get there and check it out. There is a lot more advanced skiing there than people give it credit for because it's not right under their noses and it has to be searched out. Stevens gets more snow than Crystal and it can be better snow than most anywhere in the Cascades except for Mission Ridge because of the base elevation and the cold air that slips through the pass from the east. This cold air flow makes for fog when it meets up with the warm, moist air from the west, but not the majority of the time. I don't know if it's more fog than Crystal gets. I've skied there only a handful of times and I remember some pretty dense fog on more than one occasion.
post #10 of 13
A couple of other things about Stevens--parking is notoriously difficult there. Not only are the lots difficult to get around in, they fill up fast. If you are going to ski Stevens, make sure you get there early.

I'd say both drives are fairly equal. Both involve lots of two-lane highway, both can be treacherous, and both will be have high traffic on both directions. If you ski Crystal, learn the Enumclaw cut-off.

Also, snow in Washington is wet and tends to be very slippery. You cannot safely drive at freeway speeds when there is snow on the road, so this can significantly increase the drive times (as well as the chances of getting hung up due to a blocking accident).

Crowding is an issue at every resort on the West slope from the first weekend in January through about the second week in March due to ski school. They are all equally bad. Crystal is best at dealing with crowds at all levels, but it ends up being more crowded, so its a wash. Be at the resort when lifts start turning to catch that golden first hour before the ski schoolers show up.

You might want to check out Mission Ridge. IMO its the best kept secret in Washington. The snow is dry and the sun is usually shining and the mountain skis empty even when it is packed. It doesn't have the same level of terrain as Stevens or Crystal, but if you know where to go, there are some good stashes. You can get a cheap lodging/lift ticket deal in Wenatchee.

Downsides: it can get cold and windy and the mountain is east of the crest so snowfall is less reliable. They don't report a base for a reason, but once they get coverage it is a fun hill. Its a nice break when the forecast is for fog and rain on the west side.
post #11 of 13
Originally Posted by jaobrien6 View Post
As Christy said, it all depends on where you're coming from. From my house in Ballard (North side of the city for those not familiar) it's pretty much always quicker to get to Stevens. Only by about 10-15 minutes, but still quicker.
Mileage wise it's only about 1 mile more from my place to Stevens but it always takes me about 15 miuntes longer to get there than Crystal. The ride home can take 30 minutes more just from all the traffic speed restrictions in Gold Bar & Monroe. I personally will ski either resort based on snow coverage. Stevens tends to get a few more inches than Crystal. Must be that big mountain next to Crystal that sucks up so much snow.

As for crowds, they are both crazy on weekends. This past year was particularly brutal with all the good snow we had. Even one weekend day they were turning away skiers at Crystal. Over 30 minute waits for REX and Silver Queen are not unusual. But come Monday-Friday (non-holidays) both areas are basically ski on to the lift or maybe a minute wait.

And don't forget you've got Alpental for great steeps and BC skiing experience too.
post #12 of 13
I run into terrible traffic on Hwy 2 on summer weekends, coming back from hiking, but I don't in winter when skiing. We are always there early, and hardly anyone's on the road at that hour.

If you get a late start and are worried about parking at Stevens, look on their site for info about their shuttle from Skykomish.
post #13 of 13
Thread Starter 
Thanks for all of the thoughtful input. Clearly, I'll have to try them both, and perhaps lobby for working weekends and having weekdays off
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