Crystal Mountain to cut walk-up ticket sales on weekends after traffic jams, no parking

Crystal Mountain ski resort is making changes after weekends of traffic jams, full parking lots and angry patrons taking to social media to complain.

An email sent to patrons Monday evening from the resort’s COO and president Frank DeBerry, titled “Major Changes To Avoid Traffic And Park Outs,” addressed what should be a good problem to have ... too many customers.

“We want to acknowledge that the last three weekends have not felt the same as before,” DeBerry wrote. “Crystal Mountain Boulevard was a mess, and we ran out of parking spots earlier and earlier each day. We are especially regretful to those who attempted to ski or ride with us and were turned around or were severely delayed. It is not what we want our guests or our community to feel. We’ve heard your frustration through a steady stream of emails, phone calls, and social media posts.”

After taking time to “deconstruct the last several weekends of this overcrowding,” DeBerry wrote, the resort will “discontinue selling walk-up tickets at the ticket booths on weekends and holidays in order to hold skier visits to what our roads and parking infrastructure is designed to handle.“

Also, the resort “will offer a finite amount of advance tickets online for weekends and holidays. But we will limit the available quantities of these day tickets based on a consideration of variables such as the snow forecast, mountain conditions, traffic, road conditions, and any other factors that contribute to people making their decision to ski on that day.”

The full letter was posted on Crystal’s website.

Frustration has been mounting from patrons in recent days as skiers have flocked to the mountain, notably on the weekends.

A Jan. 11 posting on Facebook from the resort gained nearly 200 responses. Among them:

“Perfect example of what the mega season pass is doing to the ski industry.”

“5 hours on a bus from Seattle. Never again!”

“Crystal is my home mountain where I learned to ski as a kid. It makes me so sad that it is so overpopulated and expensive, too many changes too fast.”

“... a lot of people that have been going to Crystal for years are horrified by what Ikon has brought to the mountain.”

The Ikon Pass, which offers access to 41 destinations worldwide for the cost of one pass, has raised the ire of some local patrons who contend overselling has led to crowding.

When asked about its effects on local resorts and how many passes had in fact been sold, Kristin Rust, media representative for the Ikon Pass, told The News Tribune on Tuesday, “We do not release any stats or details regarding Ikon Pass sales.”

Tiana Anderson, marketing director for Crystal Mountain, told The News Tribune via email that while Crystal itself does not sell the Ikon Pass and did not have those figures, “I do know we’ve sold more than last year but less of our multi-day tickets, so people have migrated to the pass because of the great perks and access.”

DeBerry’s letter also stated, “On weekends and holidays, we will continue to honor all Ikon Pass holders, purchasers of any advanced ticket product such as 5-pack vouchers, advance single days tickets, and other such products.”

DeBerry wrote that while the pass “has played a significant role, there’s a larger context.”

DeBerry and Anderson point to other factors creating a perfect storm leading to the recent crowding at Crystal.

“The biggest reason for the increased demand is the delayed start to the season, phenomenal snow conditions, steady population growth in Seattle and limited access to the other areas due to pass closures,” Anderson wrote via email. “That being said, we are trying to preserve the Crystal experience by limiting the amount of traffic on the road and cars in our parking lots — we’ve had to turn cars away the past three weekends.”

DeBerry made similar points in his public letter.

“Part of the charm and allure of Crystal Mountain is its relative isolation and untrammeled feel. We are literally at the end of the road. No matter what initiative we put in place to help mitigate congestion on such days, Highway 410 is still two lanes, as is Crystal Mountain Boulevard. Too much love for Crystal is a complicated problem with no easy fix.”

In the meantime, the resort offers updates via text and on its Facebook page to help travelers know when the lots are full or tickets are sold out.

DeBerry also noted in his letter, “We will continue investing large sums in providing bus service to Crystal.”

“We are working to expand parking this summer and we’ve started our own public transit program with luxury coach routes running from Seattle, Tacoma and Enumclaw. The Enumclaw buses have been free of charge on days where our parking lots are full.”

Crystal also encourages carpooling.

“And in the coming weeks,” DeBerry added in closing, “we will be announcing new and more rewarding incentives to our customers who visit on weekdays.”

Meanwhile, Crystal still has plenty of fans.

“We got up super early. But it was worth it. You guys did great considering all the things outside of your control,” another customer wrote in response on its Facebook page.