The Magic of Crystal Mountain: Tips From a Snowboard Instructor

I hopped off Chair 6 and started traversing towards Southback. The resort was to my left and all 14,411 feet of Mount Rainier was staring at me on the right. I was starting to feel a little choked up and short of breath. I wasn’t tired or scared. I’ve done this plenty of times. I was feeling the thrill of adventure. All around me were the Cascade Mountains. Now, I’m sliding on snow at nearly 7,000 feet of elevation. I’m on the ridge of a mountain in search of some fresh pow. Can you believe I’m still in bounds? I love this place!

crystal mountain gondola view
crystal mountain in the snow
riding crystal mountain gondola

Discovering Crystal Mountain

My fourth season of snowboarding in Washington is right around the corner. It’s been an incredible experience. Tall, lush, green trees covered in snow. Finding powder and getting lost in the trees is my favorite. 

When my wife and I moved to Seattle in 2017, I knew I wanted to be in the mountains. Flying in, it’s hard not to notice all these snow-covered rocks sticking out of the ground called volcanoes. I have a history of making my hobbies a job. So, I wasted no time in trying to become a part-time snowboard instructor at a local mountain. Anything I could do to increase my days of riding, I am all about it. The more we asked around, the more people said Crystal is the place to be. It’s the largest resort in the state and everyone says, “you can’t beat the views of Rainier.” After several emails following up, I was able to land a job as a snowboarding instructor at Crystal Mountain Resort

Teaching snowboarding lessons has been a great fit for me. My job is to spread the stoke and teach people how to have fun on the snow. On top of that, I get to work with all the other crazy cool people that love the mountains. Another great part of teaching lessons is that most customers are already where they want to be. They want to be playing in the mountains. I know I’m exactly where I want to be. Lessons usually work out pretty well!

Teaching Points From an Instructor

First Timers: Start from the beginning. Learn to skate/walk with one foot strapped in. If you can, take 5-10 extra minutes to become comfortable walking around and sliding with a board attached to your foot. You will increase your chances of getting on the lift and progressing downhill with more confidence. This will lead to you having more fun. 

chairlift at crystal mountain
snowboarder at crystal mountain
crystal mountain winter snow

Intermediate/Advanced:  Friends stick together. This one might sound pretty obvious. I assure you it’s worth mentioning. The mountains in the Pacific Northwest are no joke. Just look up “tree wells”. That wasn’t a term that existed where I grew up in New Jersey. The point is, you don’t have to be on a double black diamond to get hurt, lost, or in some serious trouble. If you are looking for people to ride with, I highly recommend joining the Facebook group Crystal Mountain Snowboarders. This has been a great resource for me. Members of the group are pretty friendly. You can usually find someone who is willing to take some turns with you.   

Bonus Tip: Loose fingers and smile! 

crystal mountain snowboarding

Exploring Crystal Mountain Resort

Crystal Mountain Resort does an excellent job of having something for everyone — from discovering your new passion for sliding on the snow to sending it down steep pitches where they host international freeride competitions. You don’t even need to snowboard or ski. The drive alone is out of this world. After 33 miles of giant mossy green trees hanging over the road, you make a left turn right before the entrance of one of the most beautiful national parks in the country (Mount Rainier National Park).

At Crystal, they have a 6-8 person gondola that takes you to arguably the best view you can find of Mount Rainier. At the top of the scenic gondola ride is a restaurant called the Summit House. A sunset at the Summit is not something you can easily forget. 

rainier from crystal mountain ski resort

Snowboarding has definitely become my hobby of choice in the last few years. Washington state makes it easy to fall in love with snowsports. If you get the chance, make the trip to Crystal. That’s where I’ll be this season!

Steven Ciaccio

Steven Ciaccio

Steven is a 32-year-old hobbyist who loves to compete and explore the outdoors. He is a full-time flight attendant and teaches snowboarding lessons part time in the winter. His podcast, Casually Qualified is his latest passion project. "We empower others to pursue and craft the life they want!" Follow along on his adventures on Instagram: @CaptureCoolness @CasuallyQualified

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