Many of you have already met her, but allow me the pleasure of formally introducing Park Ranger Monica Morin to the community of Crystal skiers & boarders.  Monica is what’s called a seasonal winter Wilderness Ranger, stationed out of the east side of Mount Rainier National Park.

Monica first came to Crystal during the winter of 2005-2006, and returned for the winter seasons of 2007-2008 and 2009-2010.  Two other seasonal rangers (Gavin and Abby, if you’re keeping track at home) split the position in 2008-2009. (Hmmm…apparently wilderness rangers can only take our constant radio yackety-yakking 1 year at a time.)


So why is Monica here, what is she doing, and why do I get the feeling I’ve been  “tallied” whenever I ski by her out along the boundary?


As a Wilderness Ranger, Monica’s job is to monitor wilderness conditions, assist visitors, and act as a representative of the National Park Service. The major emphasis of her position is to work along the boundary between Mount Rainier National Park (MNRP) and the U.S. Forest Service Crystal Mountain  Special Use Permit area, documenting winter use activities inside the Park. Equally important, she is there to provide information on current avalanche conditions, general avalanche safety, answer visitor questions, and assist with emergencies (Monica is an Emergency Medical Technician and is trained in search and rescue). Her wilderness monitoring duties include surveying vegetation, wildlife, visitor use, soundscapes, etc. This is a standard way to gather and trend data to measure changes over time.

OK…full disclosure….I didn’t write that last paragraph. I poached it from Monica and her bosses because I didn’t want to screw-up the details. Wonder what a “soundscape” is?  It turns out that among the many things scientists measure, “sound” can impact an environment and make it less wildernessy, just like litter and automobile traffic!  Something to think about next time you feel the urge to yodel in the Enchantments! (Pacific Northwest “insider” reference.)

As Crystal Mountain implements its Master Development Plan, the Park is interested in monitoring any resulting changes within its boundary.  Remember, the parkland just west of Crystal’s boundary (from Three Way Peak to the north boundary of Morning Glory Bowl on the ridge) is all within the aforementioned designated Wilderness of MRNP.  In fact, the Southback access trail, starting from the false summit of the Throne to Three Way Peak, is entirely within the Park.

In case it seems like I’m throwing around the term “wilderness” willy-nilly, let me explain what I mean.

In 1988, the United States Congress designated 228,480 acres (97%) of Mt. Rainier National Park as “Wilderness”. This special designation requires by law (meaning The Wilderness Act of 1964), that these lands are managed to be left unimpaired for future use and enjoyment as wilderness. For more information about what and where Wilderness is, visit


A common question that Monica and Ski Patrol get asked: 

Q:     Can we ski into the park?

A:     The Park has an open boundary policy with Crystal Mountain. The rope line from the back of Lucky Shot north to Morning Glory and from the top of Silver Queen to the false summit of the Throne is the ONLY rope line you’re permitted to duck at Crystal.  That means you may freely ski into the park, with the exception of the Kemper’s special area closure.  HOWEVER, leave the ski area only if you have the proper avalanche skills and knowledge, know the avalanche danger, know the terrain and snowpack history, and carry the proper equipment (beacon, probe, shovel, partner, emergency gear). The avalanche slopes in the Park are completely different from slopes in-bounds at Crystal. They are not controlled by ski-cutting or explosives and receive little to no skier compaction. They are a completely different aspect with different snow-loading patterns. The slide paths that exist are there because of past avalanches. This means they can and have slid nearly 4,000 feet down to Highway 410.  Remember, if you get into trouble back there, rescue may be slow, expensive to you, and difficult at best. The terrain in the park is very dangerous with cliffs and thick vegetation. There are no signs marking any hazards as it is wilderness and you are completely on your own. If you are in the park you must adhere to park regulations. (Please see “fine print” below). Please respect that you are in a wilderness area.


Monica usually works the boundary 4-5 days a week. If you have any questions or concerns look for the short girl in the green jacket on the boundary. And don’t be surprised if you see her touring around very near her "office", on her days off with my patrol homie  Mike, too.  If you are nice, she might even tell you where the best pow stashes are! 


This sign indicates you’re leaving Crystal Mountain and entering Mount Rainier National Park–return, if possible, will be arduous at best!  (My apologies to Monica for the cheesy pose suggestion!)

*Mount Rainier National Park winter regulations: a free permit is required for camping, which is permitted on two or more feet of snow 100 feet from water and 300 feet from plowed roads and buildings from October 1st-June 14th. You may obtain permits about 100 feet past the closure gate on Highway 410 at the information kiosk. Please fill out the permit, keep one copy with you and leave the other in the box. Sledding and tubing are allowed only in the Paradise Snowplay area on the West side of the park, pack your trash out, and pets and destruction of natural features are not permitted.






  1. Mary

    What business does she have interrogating us as to what avalanche gear we are carrying? As far as I know the Feds don’t regulate beacon use within the Park. Not yet anyhow. Is that in her job description?
    Corey Responds:
    I’m not sure where you were questioned, but when you hike into Southback, you’re hiking in Mt. Rainier National Park and it doesn’t surprise me if the Park wants to get a sense of how prepared people there are for the slides that will inevitably occur. (Remember the signs–“Avalanche Prone Area”?) And yes, she told me that conducting surveys is in her job description. I kinda said that in my article there, didn’t I?
    We at Crystal like having a sense of skiers’ & boarders’ behavior too–It can help us be prepared to know how many of our ticketed skiers are following the safety recommendations on our signs. On Saturday, thanks to Monica standing out there for hours, we learned that more people than we expected were carrying transceivers but less than we hoped also had the partners, probes and shovels that would likely be needed to rescue somebody!
    On a side note: Seriously?, “interrogating”?? Wouldn’t “surveying” or “interviewing” worked as well? I just say that because Monica has never struck me as the CIA waterboarding type. But I’m sorry if it seemed too intrusive!
    UPDATE: OK, Here’s my response from Monica:
    Hey Corey,
    It’s 946 total-from 1220-1600 (i was late due to lift lines i think it opened maybe 45 min earlier)
    30% beacons/probes/shovels
    20% beacons only
    50% nothing, or just probes or shovels
    My boss called me last night to tell me about the thread on TAY. No one asked me to do the survey- I thought it was a good day to do it (high avi danger), and I thought it was a good way for me to be able to count in the open on a busy day without offending people. People get really offended when they’re just being counted and I figured doing a survey would help appease the masses. Apparently you can’t make everyone happy. Let me just say that I was told repeatedly that they were glad I was doing the survey and that it should be done more often. Others turned their beacons on right next to me, and some skied down the throne. When people asked what I was doing, I just said it’s only a survey- b/p/s are recomended but not required- but on a day like today it’s a good idea.
    BTW, I’m sorry if I’ve made people mad- I didn’t have intentions to do that. -Monica


  2. Rob M

    I would not mind for one moment answering the same question if asked by patrol or if it was used as the basis of a tighter gate policy – as at Baker: Beacon/ Shovel/Probe/Partner?knowledge or even a BC permit although it’d need to be significantly more intelligently drawn up than the one at Alpy.
    It does worry me that her surveilling of south back hikers will ultimately be used to limit, cut off or become the basis of a commercial use permit within the park.
    Thank you to all of Patrol for their hard work over the past week. In particular Lisa P was doing an amazing solo job of crowd control at Northway on Saturday morning.


  3. JimH

    Thanks for posting the results.
    One question – how did Ranger Monica count those who refused to answer? Did she only count folks who gave a verbal response? I know there were a couple of people who didn’t/wouldn’t respond.
    Having some data is a good thing, even if we might have questions about why its needed or how it was collected. Thanks again for sharing and for all the work you do keep things safe.


  4. Monica

    To answer your question JimH,
    There were only two that I remember that didn’t answer. I’m sure there could have been more, but there were so many people I know I missed some anyways. The ones I missed were not counted. The two that didn’t answer I counted as having nothing. That is neglibable anyways because of the margin of error. I probably missed up to five people. So I’d give it a +/- of 5 in all categories, and with 946 people that’s a small percentage. If there were more people that didn’t answer I would have had a “no answer” category and then probably would have shortened my survey since I was offending people. Since almost everyone was receptive to my presence (complete with smiles, praise, and quality questions!) I stayed until close. I wish I had more time to answer questions, but there were so many people it was difficult. My apologies.
    I was counting the people that were heading to the Southback. I know this area is controlled and where you ski because I’ve been skiing it for 3 years. This was an unnoficial survey and isn’t going any further than patrol and my own reports. I had no clue that people would actually be offended.
    If you guys have anymore questions please come find me in the Southback or ask where I am or how to contact me. I probably have most of the answers to your questions-that is part of my job. If I don’t see you happy Spring!! Thanks!


  5. JH

    Keep up the good work Monica!!
    Corey responds:
    Monica’s moved on to bigger & better things, but I’ll tell her you said so next time I see her.


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