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Washington’s winter paradise

Crystal Mountain, a family-friendly ski resort, is just a short drive away

It’s time to grab your skis and head to the mountains! Photo credit:

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Joint Base Lewis-McChord is an adventurous person's dream duty station. It's a short distance to the Puget Sound and Pacific Ocean for the water lovers, and close to the beautiful Cascade Mountains for hiking, snowshoeing and skiing. Unfortunately, skiing can be a costly sport, especially for a big family without the proper equipment. Luckily, one of the best ski resorts in the state, Crystal Mountain, is just over an hour away from base, and offers great deals for military families.

Crystal Mountain Resort, located 75 miles east of JBLM, reaches 6,998 feet high in elevation and has over 2,600 acres of groomed ski trails. Open from Thanksgiving to mid-April, the mountain receives an average of 486 inches of snow per year. From snowshoeing and scenic gondola rides to free-style terrain and back bowls, the assortment of winter activities will appeal to non-skiers, beginners, and advanced thrill-seekers.

The trail map includes a family slow zone with seven trails designated as easiest, or "green circles".  The next level of difficulty, or "blue square" trails, expand off the family slow zone, but are also found leading off of the Mt. Rainier Gondola lift, which drops off at the Summit House Restaurant. This restaurant is a great place to stop midday for lunch, as it's the highest in elevation for dining in Washington. For the more experienced skiers, Northway Peak leads to multiple black diamond and double black diamond trails, with side and backcountry trails. The resort has many food and drink options including full service dining, cafeterias, cafés and bars.    

Like many of us, frequent moves make it difficult to hold on to sporting equipment like skis, boots and poles. Luckily, there are many rental options and packages available. At Crystal Mountain, ski and snowboard package rentals range from $27/ a day for kids up to $47/ a day for adults. Or reserve your equipment through the Northwest Adventure Center on North Fort for packages starting at $15 for kids and up to $35 for adults. They will even let you pick up the day before your ski trip, and drop off the day after, saving you tons of ski time at the mountain. If you or your kids are beginners and want to take a class, Crystal Mountain offers entry-level classes beginning at 4 years old. Your kiddos can enjoy an entire day of skiing with lunch provided for $178, and full-day adult programs are $168.

Crystal Mountain does offer a military discount of $10 off per lift ticket, bringing the peak time adult ticket down to $89. However, if you buy online in advance, you can save up to 30 percent off. Otherwise, you can receive your military discount the day you arrive at the kiosk. You can also save by skiing earlier or later in the season, or taking advantage of their military appreciation weekends (check out their website for more details). Better yet, if you're skiing with kids, every adult ticket receives up to two free child tickets (ages 0-10). If you plan to ski all winter, consider purchasing their season pass, now offering multiple locations worldwide.

Crystal Mountain is considered one of the premier skiing resorts in the state, and highly reviewed for being family-friendly. Its close proximity to the South Sound and JBLM makes it an easy day trip, which can help offset the expense of lift tickets and rental gear. Exploring different rental options and being flexible with when you can go can also control the costs, making it more attainable for bigger families to enjoy the ski season.

Crystal Mountain, 33914 Crystal Mountain Blvd., Enumclaw, 360.663.3050, 

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