Closures & Pass Pulling

I got asked to write a thing explaining why we Patrollers pull lift passes when people ski past our “closed”  signs and leave the open areas—areas that are currently quite limited due to early season low snow conditions.   Here goes:


With all the steep, multiple-path avalanche terrain we have a Crystal Mountain, we need to avoid creating any kind of double-standard when it comes to our signage.  A ropeline or “closed” signs means an area is CLOSED.  It may be because we’re blasting with explosives in the middle of the day.  It may be because natural landslides/rockfall/icefall/avalanches are imminent in that  area .  It may be because we know we won’t be able to get help to someone who gets injured in time to prevent a tragic outcome.

In any case, we don’t want our guests to get in the habit of second-guessing us.  So we choose to be VERY CONSISTENT.  If you violate a closure you lose skiing privileges, and possibly get a $1,000 fine.  It’s that simple.  And in big, steep terrain that’s how it’s gotta be.

Currently, all we’re offering is skiing in parts of Green Valley and Snorting Elk, with downloading the Gondola required to return to base.    If you try going past our “closed” markings to ski/hike to base, then you’ll be in closed areas and will lose skiing privileges here, and possibly at other Northwest ski areas.

So then a few people ask “Why can’t I ski Silver Basin?”, the answer is:  You can!  (Woo-hoo!)  If you hike up from your car, you’re not acting as a customer of the company that owns/runs/maintains the ski lifts.  You’re ascending under your own power (getting what I’m guessing might be a much-needed bit of exercise in the process–am I right?) and fully responsible for your own safety and route-finding.  If someone in your party gets lost or injured we’ll likely try to come help  if we can.  And if we don’t have the resources (for instance, because we’re in limited operations and have a smaller staff, like now) then the Sheriff’s Office & Tacoma Search and Rescue will probably help out, though it may be the following day.  (Being out all night?   That’ll suck!  Just remember to keep those cell phones charged!)


Then there are a few people who say “Well I want to get the goods, but I don’t want to have to work so hard for it”.  (Or buy the right gear for it, or whatever.)  Essentially they’re saying:  “I want your business to offer me services that it currently doesn’t offer, and I don’t want to have to pay anything additional for it!”

Here’s the best analogy I can think of:

There’s this restaurant.  You like the location because it has a pretty view and it’s 1/2-way between your house and your school or work.  Every August, most of the staff goes on a yoga retreat for a week, so the skeleton crew that’s left cooks a limited, vegetarian menu.  But you want a burger.  You could eat at home.  You could walk a couple blocks down to a place that has burgers.  Or you could order the Hummus and pita.  But dangit! you want a burger and you want it at THAT restaurant, even though they aren’t selling any that week.  So you want to be able to go into that restaurant and light your own little campfire right there at your table, and grill yourself up  a tasty burger.   But OF COURSE the restaurant can’t allow that!  There are fire codes and air-quality standards.  There are safety concerns and food handling permits.  There are all sorts of businessy details that you never have to think about when you’re bitin’ down on a  juicy burger.

So for that short period of time–until the regular staff gets back all loosey-goosey from their yoga retreat–you may just have to be happy with the Hummus & pita.   And recognize that taking it upon yourself to start that campfire is only going to make things way worse for your favorite restaurant–which in the long run will probably make things way worse for you!  Make sense?


I should mention:  those of us who work at, live at, and love Crystal Mountain are pretty sure our Hummus is still way better than most other places ‘Royale with Cheese’ (for meat eaters) so please don’t screw things up!   Thanks!

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