Mountain Blog

Come play in our Backyard this winter
Brian Lawson - Thursday, September 24, 2015

THE BACKYARD | Coming Winter 2015/16

As you may have already heard, Crystal Mountain will have a total of 58 skiable trails to offer this winter with introduction of The Backyard. Nestled in a draw directly behind the front-facing slopes - hence the name Backyard – will be the new downhill skiing and snowboarding complex open for the upcoming 2015/16 winter season.

Work is already underway on The Backyard’s eight new trails, triple chairlift and snowmaking infrastructure. Crews are putting the finishing touches on the downhill trails and will begin to install towers for the triple chairlift over the next couple of weeks. Crystal has installed nearly a mile of new snowmaking pipe in order to use portable snowmaking units to cover The Backyard in a deep base of snow. New tower-mounted fan guns from Snow Machines Inc. in Midland, Michigan are being installed on the North Face complex.

This new playground invites the beginner and intrigues the more experienced skier and rider. The two trails that flank each side of the Backyard will share space with Last Chance (The Ridge) and Tammy’s Turn (North Face) with variations in pitch and contour to help new skiers and boarders advance skills and build confidence while also offering an experience different than any other location on the mountain that will entice the intermediate and expert. Six (blue-intermediate) trails in the heart of this new area offer an exciting mix of glades and open terrain with rises, banks and rollers to explore. 

Come this winter and play in our Backyard!

The Backyard, Coming Winter 2015/16
Brian Lawson - Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Updated: September 2015

This spring Crystal Mountain will be replacing this shed with a chairlift terminal surrounded by eight new downhill trails. You’ve probably skied or boarded right past it countless times on your way to the North Face.

Based on some of the tracks we’ve found back there, some of you reading this blog have probably already tested this terrain. The Backyard is located straight back from the Crystal Clipper High-speed Quad nestled in a draw between The Ridge and North Face. The new complex will be serviced by a triple chairlift and include a mix of green (beginner) and predominantly blue (intermediate) trails.

The two outside runs will share terrain with Last Chance (The Ridge) and Tammy’s Turn (North Face) before breaking off into new territory. Here’s a look at how it sets up:

As the snow thaws, crews will begin work on the project with trails being shaped and lift towers and terminals installed over the course of the summer. These eight new trails will be ready for next winter (2015/16) bringing Crystal Mountain’s total to 58.

There is much work to be done over the next eight months - including names for the new trails - so stay tuned for updates!

Where Is the Love? Find it at Crystal Mountain!
Abbey Neerken - Thursday, February 12, 2015

Find relaxation, romance and recreation this Valentine’s Day at Crystal Mountain. Spend the day being pampered on site at the award-wining Crystal Spa, or explore the property looking for a prize-redeemable heart in our Where Is the Love scavenger hunt. Finish the day with a tasty entrée from the Thistle Pub and Grille or Wild Tomato dining room, or order out from the Little Betsie Bistro.

Planning to hit the slopes this Valentine’s Day? Look for the hearts and win a prize in our Where is the Love Scavenger Hunt – including a 2015/16 Premier Ski Season Pass!

Hearts of all sizes are hidden throughout the Crystal Mountain property, both outdoors and inside. From the ski slopes to the Clipper Café, from Tickets and Rental to the Burton Riglet Park, hearts are everywhere! Return your heart to the location specified on the heart, and redeem it for prizes ranging from Crystal Mountain swag, resort gift cards and spa vouchers to lift ticket discounts. The smallest heart is redeemable for a 2015/16 Season Pass! Our heart hunt begins at 9am on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2015, and ends when the ski lifts close.

One prize per person, any age can participate. Hearts cannot be redeemed after February 14, 2015 – so be sure to turn yours in on Saturday. Hearts have no cash value and cannot be replaced if lost or stolen.

Visit the Park at Water’s Edge and Explore the Outdoors with your Valentine:

Dog Sledding* from 9am-4pm
Ice Skate, Fat Tire Snow Bike, and Snowshoe rentals at the Park at Water's Edge
Edge Adventure Course, 4pm-10pm
Horse-Drawn Surrey Rides, 6pm-10pm
Moonlight Snowshoe Hike*, 7pm
•Outdoor Laser Tag* 8pm,8:45pm and 9:30pm

Kids can stop by the Park at Water's Edge for FREE face painting and a fun Heart Search for candy!
*Reservations required. Call the Park at Water's Edge, 888.968.7686 ext. 7000.

Celebrate your love with limited time spa services and special – great for you or your valentine!

Tranquil Couples Massage Cost: $178 per couple
Enhance your Couples Massage with our Infinitely Loving Package for only $29 per guest: Your massages will be enhanced with our popular Glove Exfoliation Treatment, including His & Hers exfoliation gloves to take home. Following your massage, enjoy a 20-minute Chinese Jasmine infused private bath for two complete with a glass of champagne & gourmet Belgium chocolate. Available: February 1-13, 2015. Not valid Tuesdays or Saturdays.

Reserve your spa appointment today by calling (844) 260-3673. Infinitely Loving Package is not available as a stand-alone service. It is only available when booked for 2 guests in combination with a Couples Massage. A 16% adjustable gratuity and 2% service charge will be added to all spa services. Advance reservations required. Subject to availability. Not valid in combination with any other discounts.

Valentine's Gift Certificate Special

Now through Valentine's Day (Feb 14, 2015), purchase a Crystal Spa Gift Certificate for a 50-minute Tranquil Massage, Espresso Mud Body Scrub or Pure Results Facial for only $99. Or, purchase an 80-minute Gift Certificate for a Tranquil Massage or Pure Results Facial for only $139. Includes gratuity. Gift Certificate is valid for one year from date of purchase. Gift certificate includes 16% gratuity and 2% service charge. Excludes: 12/25/15 – 1/2/16. Advance reservations required. Subject to availability. Not valid in combination with any other discounts.

Enjoy a tasty Valentine’s meal when you order off the Special Valentine’s Day Menu at Thistle Pub & Grill! Menu is available Saturday, February 14 – Sunday, February 15.


Prince Edward Island Mussels | sautéed with shallots, tomatoes, and garlic, finished with sherry and fresh basil, garlic butter crostini
Korean Tacos | crisp bao bun, slow-roasted pork, cucumber cilantro slaw, aioli


Grilled Beef Tenderloin* | marbled mashed potatoes, whipped Gorgonzola butter, haystack onion
Duck Breast* | seared with crispy skin, truffled forbidden rice, apricot cilantro jam
Market Fish | locally raised barramundi baked with fresh herbs and preserved lemon, bulgur salad


Chocolate Fondue | creamy dark chocolate flambéed tableside with fresh strawberries, caramel coffee cake bites, and brownies
Dual Sorbet | house-made strawberry ginger and fresh kiwi

Last Call
Nancy Story - Sunday, February 01, 2015


It was just a quiet send-off.  After 40 years, Michael Call put in his final day at Crystal Mountain last month. He slipped out the side door of the outdoor maintenance shop - that small, unremarkable brown pole building tucked behind some evergreens at the edge of the day skier parking lot. Most people don’t notice it, nor do they have any idea of what happens there. But it’s really a remarkable place.

It’s where the nuts and bolts of this place are put together and greased to make anything and everything outdoors operates. Wipe out that building and that crew, and there would be no mountain - but no one knows that. These are not the front liners, these snowmakers and lift mechanics and groomers and utilities overseers. They are not the ones you see greeting guests, going to meetings, making appointments. They wear Carhartts, not dress shirts, and will likely never be seen by our guests.

As the now former vice-president of mountain operations, Michael was the lynchpin of outdoor maintenance. You might say he went from setting up snow guns to becoming top gun. From moving snow to moving dirt, Michael’s been overseer on most of the physical changes that have taken place at Crystal over the last four decades.

Yet forty years at Crystal wasn’t Michael’s original plan. After graduating from the University of Michigan and returning home to Benzie County, where his folks had a fruit orchard, his plan was to work at the local ski area for just one winter.  He applied to be a snowmaker.

Local entrepreneur George Petritz,  he of the frozen fruit pie fame, had taken over the reins of Crystal in the late 60s – ostensibly, just to help put the local ski hill back on financial track, and then sell the place. “But I grew to like it,” Petritz once said. “So I stuck around”.  He hired Michael to make snow for the winter of 1974-75 – and Michael, like George, grew to like the place. So he too, stuck around. When a gal named Nancy Mullen joined the Crystal Mountain staff as the first member of the area’s inaugural marketing department, Michael took note. And then he took interest.  Two years later, the couple married, thus beginning the saga of the Calls, who together helped craft the foundation for what is today Crystal Mountain.

The decades don’t reflect the untold hours Michael spent shaping the place. Building lifts, expanding snowmaking, cutting new trails,  upgrading everything underground and over ground all moved from ideas into action by Michael and his crew.  Call’s four children – two boys and twin girls – grew up on the mountain, with both parents working here. Nancy moved from marketing into Crystal’s real estate office, the Call kids moved off to college and life beyond school, and Michael continued to toil at Crystal…..until now.

A quiet send-off.  No marching bands or dancing girls. Fifteen people were on hand in the outdoor maintenance shop to bid an unofficial farewell. Of those 15, each had an average of 26 years of Crystal Mountain experience, meaning there was over 400 years of service to Crystal Mountain milling around the shop that day.  The guy with the most mileage on these hills, though, is moving on from grounds to grapes, from winters to wines. Yep, he’s started a vineyard on the same acreage where his family’s orchards once grew. It’s an appropriate transition of sorts, aging together with fine wine.

Thank you for forty years, Mr. Call.     


How to Make a Quick(er) Buck
Keirsun Scott - Thursday, July 25, 2013

Following our last update, construction continues on our new Buck Quad chairlift, which will be operational for the 2013/14 winter season.

This week Team Elmer's was busy pouring the concrete for both our lower and upper lift terminals. Here's the team working at the top of the mountain.

Buck Construction
Buck Construction
Buck Construction

The majority of Buck slope's re-sculpting has been completed. Looking down the lift line, it's easy to see how much the slope has been widened. Buck is about to become my favorite northern Michigan black diamond run all over again.

Buck Construction
Buck Construction
Buck Construction

Team Elmer's used their Pump Truck to deliver concrete to the pre-built, lift terminal forms.

Buck Construction
Buck Construction
Buck Construction
Buck Construction

The concrete has now set up and the forms have been removed to reveal the foundations for the lift terminals.

Buck Construction
Buck Construction

The Buck Glades have been cut skier's right of the expanded slope. The new gladed run will drop skiers and riders onto Hoot Owl slope, which leads to the base of Buck slope.

Buck Construction
Buck Construction
Buck Construction

Next on our to-do list: pouring concrete for the foundations of our new snow guns that will be placed beneath each lift tower.

Buck Construction

Winter's Cure for the Curse of the New Guy
Keirsun Scott - Wednesday, May 08, 2013

"I'm NOT cursed!"

These were the first words out of my mouth when waking up to another foot of fresh snow on a February morning this past winter. Let me explain the source of my defunct despair.

I started working at Crystal Mountain in the fall of 2011 and the winter of 2011/12 was my first winter at the resort. As you may remember, that winter was SNOW-STARVED. Benzie County, Michigan officially recorded 69 inches of snow in 2011/12, the lowest recorded snowfall since the winter of 1973/74 when we saw a meager 33.5 inches.*

Needless to say, that first winter I developed a case of new-guy-with-no-snow syndrome. People would joke that I shouldn't worry about the weather; that it's really not my fault. But every now and then I would catch a colleague throwing a low glare my way. I imagined they were about to suddenly point at me and shout out, "He brought this plague upon us!"

Snow is a precious commodity at a ski resort. Needless to say, my timing was not good.

But the winter of 2012/13 turned the short trend on edge. More than 150 inches of snow blanketed our mountain! Skiers and riders celebrated with waist-deep powder turns. Cross-country skinny-skiers shared tales of "perfect" trail conditions. Dog sleds careened through overgrown jungles of white. Kids cooped up in their parents mini-vans for the drive north, sprinted from their seats to race up the seemingly sky-high piles built by our road plows while battling blizzards. Snow lovers of all sizes rejoiced.

While looking at our snowfall totals for the last 20 years, it was only an average winter. Regardless, 12+ feet of natural snow is the kind of winter that puts perma-smiles on the lips of Midwestern powder hounds.

Part of my occupation here at Crystal is to take photos of what's happening at the resort. With the following photos, which were all posted to our Crystal Mountain Facebook page this past winter, I intend to put an end to the Curse of the New Guy.

December 10, 2012 - Great snow making temps for a solid week. sunrise snowmaking

December 21 - Winter Storm Draco dumps 14 inches. Winter Storm Draco
Winter Storm Draco

January 3, 2013 - Snowmobiling on excellent trail conditions with our partner Crystal Adventures. Michigan Snowmobiling

January 10 - Skiing with 102-year-old Lou Batori, the oldest NASTAR racer ever, was the experience of a lifetime. Lou is my hero and a true inspiration. Lou Batori
Lou Batori

January 24 - 9+ inches of lake effect powder. Snowboarding in Michigan Powder

February 1 - Snow circles are unbreakable. Snowboarding Circle

February 19 - Whiteout. Michigan Snow Whiteout

February 20 - Falling for another foot of freshies. Snowy Wipeout

February 27 - Night skiing after a week of constant snowfall. Loki Quad

March 1 - Snow was piled as high as our trail map near the lift ticket windows. Crystal Mountain Snow

March 13 - Snow madness marches on. Michigan Skier

March 19 - 18+ inches of cold smoke. This Tuesday in March dropped on us the greatest conditions of the entire winter and the first face shots I've ever experienced in Michigan. What a day! Michigan Powder Skiing
Michigan Powder Skiing

April 5 - Even the fishermen couldn't resist the slopes this winter. Skiing Fisherman

April 7 - Closing day. The best part is, winter will be here again before we know it! Michigan Snowboarder

*Source: Benzie County Road Commission

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