When Crystal Mountain, Washington, finally opened the new Northway lift this past December, it evoked mixed feelings from Crystal's diehard backcountry skiers. The new lift makes it easy for any weekend warrior to brave the bowls, chutes, and cliffs of the 1,000-acre North Country. "It's definitely going to cut down on the backcountry feel of that area, says Seattle-based photographer Ian Coble, who shoots almost exclusively in the North Country when at Crystal. "I'll miss taking powder laps at three o'clock in the afternoon.
But the $3.5 million lift also enables skiers to squeeze in more runs in Paradise, Morning Glory, and Snorting Elk bowls. In the past, the odyssey back to the summit included a long, bumpy traverse or a 30- to 45-minute wait for a shuttle back to the base area (or an optional four-mile walk), and then two chairlift rides. The new fixed-grip double chair—which limits the number of skiers in the North Country—means more laps. "It used to take one hour to make one run full-circle, says Crystal Mountain spokeswoman Tiana Enger. "Now skiers are back up top in nine minutes.