Mountain Blog

A Prolific Powder Year
Nancy Story - Wednesday, January 29, 2014


 It’s definitely a prolific powder year.

According to our daily snow reports, about 58 inches have fallen on the slopes this January alone. In December, we recorded 78 inches at the mountain.   We don’t keep slope-specific snowfall stats other than our daily snow report, but the Benzie County Road Commission keeps official tabs on the flake depths.  Their records reveal that as of Jan. 28, approximately 156.25 inches have fallen in Benzie County.  Neighboring Manistee County has shared in the windfall of snowfall, tallying up 163” so far this season.

Since the road commission’s official snowfall depth recordkeeping began in 1966/67, the most snowfall recorded in Benzie County piled up in the winter of 1996-97. That’s when 231 inches blanketed Benzie. During the winter of 2008/09, total snowfall hovered just below 200 inches. That same year (2008/09) marked Manistee County’s biggest snowfall ever, with 191 inches.

With all this fluff, eager skiers are always seeking out a fresh powder stash worth a few turns in untracked snow - not just deep enough, but steep enough to create a white wake off the ski tails while flying down the fall line.  Naturally, the glades are filled with possibilities after every snowfall – and what a perfect year to have opened up two new glade areas off Gorge and Buck!  We even have tree wells forming in those woods, which is usually a winter hazard of the mountains, not the Midwest.  Some of the deepest steeps can be found underneath the power line off of Thor, on the bottom stretches of Nose Dive and Cut Off. On the North Face, the far edge of By George often serves as a snowy sanctuary.   Sure, there are other places - but I’m not going to tell you.  Come out and find them for yourself.

Scientists tell us that one septillion snow crystals drop down from the skies during an average winter.  No telling if we’ve hurdled that septillion mark already in this above- average epic season.  Embrace it and ski it!

Meet the Boot Guru and his Machine
Nancy Story - Monday, January 20, 2014


 There’s a new member of the Mountain Sports staff. It sits in the back of the shop and never speaks, but it’s eager to meet your feet. So we checked with Jim Riley, our Ski Shop Hero (yep, he won that award in 2012 from Skiing Business magazine) on Mountain Sports’ new Fisher Vacuum Fit Station, which incorporates a  three-step process to help boot techs achieve the perfect fit for a skier’s boots.  Here’s how this nifty machine works:

Step 1: The boot’s shell is heated for 12-15 minutes.                                                                                 Step 2: A liner and footbed is inserted into the still warm and pliable shell.                                                 Step 3: Using special pads that wrap the enter shell and compressed air, boot techs adjust the entire boot to the anatomy of the foot.

“It’s a pretty cool tool and a lot of fun to use,” Jim noted of the new addition. And he ought to know. Crystal is fortunate to have THE expert footbed guru on premise to help skiers and riders with the most important equipment purchase they’ll make - their boots. Take heed of these boot-fit tips from Jim:

What’s the most common mistake people make when purchasing boots?

“By far the biggest mistake we see in the shop is people buying boots too big. I can’t say it enough: it’s easy to buy a boot that's too big, but very difficult to have one fitted too small. Never buy a ski/snowboard boot based on your shoe size.  Seven out of ten boot problems I run into stem from boots that are too big. Boots are not shoes or slippers, and should not fit like them.  Boots will be tight and snug at first, and hopefully, will stay snug. The last thing you want is a foot that can move inside the ski boot, since the boots will break in a lot as you wear them.  In our shop, we tell people to have at least 14 hours on new boots for the best fit to form”.

If you’ve purchased skis in the past two years, but are still skiing on 10+ year old boots, how does that affect your skiing?

“Ski and snowboard boots are just like any other footwear; they’ll pack out and break down from use.  The plastics and materials used to make today’s boots have evolved  to   become stronger, lighter and warmer. So if you’re still on older boots, even with newer skis, you’re working harder than you would be with boots designed for the current generation of skis. The life of a boot is said to be between 90-120 days of skiing. That could be a year for some, and as many as 10 years for others. After 10 years, I would be   worried about the strength of the plastic, and at least have the shop take a look at them”.

What are the best socks to wear with ski boots, and why?

“Our shop recommends the Smartwool PhD® Ski Graduated Compression Ultra Light Sock. I have a thing about socks when fitting boots, since the right sock makes a difference in how a boot fits. Thorlo also makes a great ski sock. It’s not about how thick or how many socks you have on – it’s about the material of the socks and how they fit. Feet have a lot of sweat glands - around 250,000 each - and in an average day, feet can produce more than a pint of sweat. A sock’s job is to move that sweat off your foot, because the longer that sweat lingers, the faster a foot gets cold. Most new boots rely on their own liner for warmth, so any thin sock made with some kind of wicking material is a good choice. Cotton is not a choice; it will hold sweat on the feet and freeze toes”.

What’s the most popular boot brand sold at Mountain Sports? What makes it the number one choice?

“Right now the Lange SX series is flying off the shelves. It starts at around $299 and fits a wide assortment of feet. Lange built this boot in a unique way, called the “Natural Ski Stance”.  It allows the skier to stand straighter for better efficiency and less leg fatigue.   On the snowboarding side, Burton is still king of boots in our shop. But that being said - all the boots we carry have a reason for being in the shop. We have a boot for any type of foot. Super wide foot? Got it. Narrow heel? No problem. Most of the boots we have were picked by our staff from real-world testing on the slopes”.

Bring a Friend in January
Nancy Story - Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Every month has its monikers and January in the snow biz is known as “Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month”. (It’s also Safety Awareness Month, but more on that later). 

If you’ve never skied or snowboarded, lesson deals abound at Crystal. The most popular lesson for newbies is our Learn To Turn session, covering all the basics to get you started – check out the details on our website. If you’re already a skier or snowboarder, then take advantage of the opportunities offered by this month’s “Bring a Friend” campaign. The title bears out its purpose: to have friends introduce friends to snowsports.

Of skiers and riders polled by the Snowsports Industries of America, only twenty percent   were introduced to their sport by a parent (and it was mostly Dad, not Mom).  The vast majority of them trotted out to the slopes for the first time with a friend who had skied before. Trouble is, it’s not always best for the friendship to try and teach your buddy how to conquer the mountain. At Crystal, we’re making it easy for both of you by offering a two-hour semi-private lesson for two people for the price of one private lesson. Both of you get individual attention – you for honing your skills and brushing up on your turning talents, thus impressing your friend, while said friend will get the proper instruction for a positive start-up experience. It’s a win-win situation.

Plus, once your friends are friendly with the boards underfoot, they’ll want to return to the slopes.  So this January at Crystal, you can purchase one adult open-to-close lift ticket every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and receive one open-to-close lift ticket FREE for your friend. (not valid, obviously with other specials or discounts). Certainly this will make them indebted to you for life.  There’s also a way for you to win prizes in January’s “Bring a Friend” affair by getting credit for introducing newcomers to Snowsports.  Go to for all the details.  See you and your friends on the slopes!