Ever notice those humongous yellow signs that say SPEED CONTROL at Crystal on weekends and holidays? Ever wonder why there’s often pedestrians in yellow coats loitering next to them? Ever think the yellow-shading on your Trail Map was a printing error?  

For most people, going "fast" is part of the fun of skiing & boarding.  But Washington law says you gotta avoid colliding with objects and other people, and controlling your speed is a big part of that.   Speed-of-travel expectations for skiers & boarders at Crystal Mountain can vary by location.  Read on–some of what follows may surprise you! 




Safety Patrollers are the “YellowJackets” standing by the SPEED CONTROL banner to let people know if they’re going too fast. They also help provide safety information in the parking lots, in lift lines, talking to kids and ski school classes, and other places that need arises. Different ski areas organize their programs in different ways, but at Crystal, safety patrollers are select members of the volunteer patrol, with their numbers complimented by Pro Patrollers as needed.  Ski Patrollers (in red jackets with white crosses like in the photos at the top of the page) also do speed control and make safety stops at various places on the slopes.

People ask: “How do I know if I’m going to fast? Well that’s why the Safety Patrol is there—to tell you!  Some ski areas have used radar guns to tell skiers/riders how fast they’re going, but that kind of misses the point. “Appropriate speed” can vary as snow conditions, crowd conditions, visibility and skier/boarder ability can vary. Safety patrollers are looking uphill as everyone else is heading down, giving you living, breathing feedback to help inform your judgement about how fast to go.

If they make a little “pat-pat” hand signal for you to slow down, it means you look like your’re going a little too fast, taking into account the current conditions.  Consider:

  • Slowing down a little,
  • Going to another part of the mountain that’s not a designated SLOW area or that isn’t so crowded,
  • Taking a lesson to develop the skills & form that will demonstrate you’re in as good of control as you think you are.

If they give you a BIG hand signal to slow WAY down, it means that in their judgement you’re going WAY too fast for conditions. If they wave you toward them, it means they want to tell you something. It may be to warn you that there’s an accident or a cluster of children just ahead, or it may be to explain that your buddy’s speed looks appropriate for his ability, but that you look like you should slow down a little because you appear a tad out of control.

Keep in mind that speed isn’t just a hazard if you ski/ride into another person. You also have to take into account what will happen if you fall and SLIDE into another person or object. You may think you’re in control, but trust me–Safety Patrollers have WAAAY more experience looking uphill, watching people fall and seeing how far they slide before they stop.

If they motion for you to STOP, they’re indicating you’re going much too fast for conditions and they need to talk to you and explain Crystal’s safety program–and how you can avoid violating it.  If you don’t want to get flagged down, you’re encouraged to:

  • take it easy and make more turns,
  • give maximum room to other people and objects (trees, towers, signs, etc.) as you pass ’em,
  • stick to less-crowded parts of the ski area where there aren’t usually SPEED CONTROL zones.

“Easier” Trails: Queen’s Run, Broadway, Tinkerbell, etc.
Queen’s Run is a designated SLOW area–top to bottom, wall-to-wall! It’s a place for beginners to get comfy on their equipment, for elders to enjoy a leisurly cruise, and a place for Mom & Dad to take the li’l chillun’s with minimal worry they’ll see their progeny flattened by Speed Racer.  So if you’re skiing in a tuck or boarding in crouch, you’re probably in the wrong place. If you’re an intermediate skier/boarder whizzing by everyone else, you’re probably in the wrong place. If everyone you fly by is yelling—(or you’re wearing headphones and everyone you fly by is looking at you gape-mouth like a guppy)–you’re probably in the wrong place.

Confidential to Joe Pro Skier Wannabe: if you’re really all that, what the heck you are doing on “Queen’s” Run & “Tinkerbell” on a crowded weekend anyway? I mean, seriously, don’t the trail names tip you off that scaring little kids as you scream by kinda harshes your gangsta cred’?   We love having you here, we just want you on trails appropriate to your ability!  For example…

“More Difficult” Trails: Lucky Shot/Green Valley, etc.
Lucky Shot is a whole different deal—sort of. It’s an intermediate trail, and it’s NOT designated as a SLOW area except on the Little Shot road and at constrictions.  Again, you have to exercise judgment about what’s “appropriate speed”—based on snow, visibility and crowd conditions, combined with your ability.  And again, lucky for you the Safety Patrol is there to help!  When conditions warrant, they stand at the SPEED CONTROL banner giving the same feedback as on Queen’s Run. The difference is, Lucky Shot and Green Valley are not “beginner” runs and the flow of traffic may be somewhat faster. Keep in mind, though, others can fall abruptly in front of you at any time. When it’s icy or crowded, going SLOW like on Queen’s Run may be the safe way to negotiate More Difficult slopes.


In terms of ENFORCEMENT, we already know–JEEZ do we know–that some people think THEIR judgment about what’s too fast should trump the Safety Patrol’s judgment about what’s too fast.  However, at the business known as Crystal Mountain, the Safety Patrollers are the ones authorized to make those judgments and everybody else ISN’T!  Our landlord, the US Forest Service, gives Crystal Mountain authority to refuse service to patrons deemed disruptive to business.  So if you’re asked to stop, failure to comply could result in loss of your lift ticket or season’s pass.  A better idea is to listen to what the Safety Patrol has to say, follow the Responsibility Code and stick to terrain appropriate to your ability.  We don’t want you getting hurt and we don’t want you hurting anybody else! 

 Watch out for these guys!!!

2 thoughts on “WHAT’S THE 411 ON “SPEED CONTROL”?

  1. Jennifer Irwin

    Mowed over by a snowboarder who knocked me unconscious Sunday near the bottom of Queen and didn’t even stop. Trip to ER and CAT scan = concussion (brand new helmet + grace saved me). 40 years of skiing hard and never had an accident.


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