I arrived at Crystal Mountain for a guided snowshoe tour as skiers and boarders were exiting the mountain en masse, for the Seahawk’s kickoff. “Would there be anyone there for the trip?” I wondered as I slipped into a rare and coveted, close-to-the lodge parking space.
A short jaunt across the village found me at the rental desk, where a signed release and payment were collected. I was then sent left, to be fitted for shoes and poles and to congregate with other participants for the start of the tour. Ankle-supporting boots, goggles, gloves, a winter hat, coat and snow pants are recommended. They also suggest a backpack with water, a headlamp and gaiters on big powder days. All participants’ gear is subject to the guides’ judgment. Snacks are allowed, and shoer’s are free to grab a beverage from the Market located next door before a hike.
After a few adjustments outside the rental shop, we geared up and made the short hike to the Gold Basin chair. The lift carried us up and over an abandoned mine on the western slope, and deposited us amongst seasonal residents’ cabins.
Our charismatic guides, Dan, Jeff, and Wendy entertained us with stories of wildlife sightings, Sasquatch inquiries and avalanches. They were well versed in mountain culture and worked to ensure everyone had a safe, comfortable hike as Dan led us to a waterfall, not usually seen in summer or winter months. A low snow year and warm weather runoff afforded us a picturesque journey to the base of the waterfall. There, guests took photos, asked questions about snowpack and partook in food and drink.
Afterward, we made our way down the mountain and through the alpine wilderness, along trails and cat tracks. We were passed by snowmobilers and sledders on faster modes of transportation.
As we neared the bottom, we were invited to try a seated glissade between trails, which Jeff gamely demonstrated by dropping into an existing trench, lifting his feet, and gliding down the hill. The ride became faster as each participant descended. Jeff waited at the bottom to keep errant participants from skidding off into the Doug firs, then we made the short trek back to the lodge. The hike was easy to moderate, and though we did not get much above 5,300 feet, the guides reported that some past participants had experienced trouble related to altitude.
Once at the lodge we were treated to dinner. Lodge staff took drink orders and served dessert, consisting of an enormous serving of huckleberry cobbler a la mode. The warm atmosphere allowed guests a chance to visit with one another and the guides, as well as check the score of the Seahawks game in the adjacent section. It made for a comfortable and fitting end to the tour. As dinner wrapped up, Wendy reminded visitors to watch for elk on the trip home.
Though our tour took us westward, due to weather, other 2 ½ hour tours can include a trip to an abandoned mine, or up the Quicksilver to Lower and Upper Henskin Lakes.
To find out more about snowshoe tours, or to make a reservation, call Crystal Mountain Rentals at (360) 663-3040 or stop by the Rental Shop during our normal hours of operation. The minimum age is 11 and guests under 16 years old must be accompanied by an adult. All tours are weather permitting and subject to cancellation. A minimum of eight participants is needed for the tour to run, and special tours can be arranged by reservation for groups of 10 or more, with some availability mid-week.