Updated Uphill Travel Policy

Crystal Mountain is implementing an updated uphill travel policy. Uphill traffic has increased, and while we do not wish to restrict all access, we are concerned for the safety off all users at Crystal.


  1. DANGER! No uphill travel when light is flashing.
  2. When the lights are not flashing, all uphill travelers within the ski area boundary must check in with patrol. No exceptions. 360-663-3061. Those traveling outside of the ski area boundary may check with patrol for conditions updates, but it is not required.
  3. When the ski area is open, all uphill travel into Southback is prohibited.
  4. Uphill travel within “closed” terrain is not permitted. This includes areas marked with “No Hiking Above This Point” signs. Avalanche control work—including explosives use—may occur at any time.
  5. Uphill traffic must keep to the side of ski trails and well out of the way of downhill skier traffic.
  6. When traveling uphill after hours, use extreme caution with unmarked hazards and heavy equipment including but not limited to snowmobiles, snowmaking, winch cats and cables.
  7. For more information contact Ski Patrol during operating hours: 360-663-3061.
  8. Anyone found in violation of these rules will be subject to prosecution under Washington State Law RCW 79A.45.070

Why the Change?

While doing Avalanche Control (AC) in Southback this season, I came across a guy skinning alone. My route partner and I had just detonated our last explosive in Threeway Exit Chute, when we noticed the lone skier skinning right up into the runout. I asked the gentleman if he knew that Southback was closed and that we were doing AC. He responded that he “heard the bombs,” but he didn’t think there was a problem. He honestly did not realize that he was in any danger.

Photo by Christy Pelland

Needless to say, I quickly turned him towards the Party Knoll and away from Southback. I took a few turns and saw another group headed up into Southback. Again, the same story. Heard the explosions; didn’t think it was a problem. I asked if they’d checked in with patrol or had seen the flashing lights and read the signs. They explained that they thought that even during AC, they thought Southback was always open. Partway across the “airstrip,” I ran into another group. Same story. Heard the bombs, didn’t check in with patrol, thought Southback was always open. As I continued down, I spoke to nearly thirty tourers. To be fair, one group had checked with patrol. Another group said they planned to check in with patrol when they got to the top of “old 4.” Another explained that they left the parking lot in the dark, and did not see any lights or signs. Several of them were under the impression that it was fine to skin into Southback whether it was open, closed or we were doing active avalanche control. All of these groups should have checked in with patrol and would have been told to stay away from Southback.

A few years ago only a handful of people would skin up into Southback. We might see a skin track or two every once in a while. Now, it’s become like a highway.

In 2014  we implemented an Uphill Travel Policy. The flashing lights–both in the plaza and at the bottom of Chinook–are intended to catch the attention of uphill travelers and alert them not to go anywhere near our Avalanche Control points. Now, we need to be a little more specific, hence the update to our Uphill Travel Policy.

Photo by Christy Pelland

What Has Changed?

In the interest of everyone’s safety, we have implemented a revised Uphill Travel Policy, with three major changes from the previous iteration. 1) Uphill travel in Southback is prohibited at any time during the regular ski season. 2) When we are doing AC, uphill travel is not permitted anywhere within the ski area boundary. 3) When traveling uphill within our boundary, you must check in with patrol.

The Ski Area Boundary

Crystal Mountain’s Special Use Permit extends from Goat Chutes in the far North all the way around to Norse Peak on the other side of the valley. Crystal sits on Forest Service land, and our mandate allows us to control access within our Special Use Permit area. However, we do not want to restrict access within the entire Special Use Permit. We only wish to control access within our ski area boundary. The ski area boundary is mainly marked by a ropeline that extends around our perimeter (except for a few open portions along the Southback Traverse). Further, the ski area boundary includes everywhere we do Avalanche Control. Below is a screenshot from FATMAP of Silver Basin. The red arrow is the top of Threeway Exit Chute. Everything to the right of the red line is Southback. The red star indicates the last point of uphill travel into Southback. Here, you will need to veer left if traveling uphill.


Southback vs. Silver Basin

Southback sits within Silver Basin, but does not take up the entire basin. It is still okay to skin up into the section of Silver Basin that is not within our ski area boundary. Before getting to the “airstrip”–the long flat section at the base of Southback–turn left as you travel uphill (marked above with the red star), and skin along the climber’s left flank of the airstrip, heading towards the base of Chicken Head and Triple F. Joe’s Badass Shoulder and the climber’s left flank of Threeway are outside of our ski area boundary. It’s still okay to tour into these areas.

How You Can Help

Help us spread the word by discussing the new Uphill Travel Policy with your friends and in your socials. Check in with patrol any time you’re touring within our ski area boundary. Understand that the true backcountry near Crystal offers a much better experience than skinning into Southback. For more information, check the Crystal Mountain Uphill Policy.


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