Thursday, March 13, 2014

Crystal Mountain Memories: RIP Chair 6/High Campbell Lift

If you're a Northwest skier, you probably already know that a piece of Pacific Northwest skiing history succumbed a few days ago to a massive avalanche at Crystal Mountain.  Beloved Chair 6, that sometimes thrilling and scary old slow double chairlift to the top of High Campbell, is no more.

Although it was apparently scheduled to be replaced this summer anyway with an updated  new lift, part of the charm of Chair 6 was that it was a remnant of days gone by.  How many times do you get to ski up to a lift line and yell "Single!"  anymore? Most ski areas these days have managed lines with roped lanes for singles.  

The lift ride alone was enough to scare some skiers from the steep, black diamond terrain it served. The sign saying Experts Only wasn't joking.

But the terrain, wow!  Not only Powder Bowl on the north side (remember the Enduro?), but Cambell Basin/High Campbell, and with some mellow climbing and traversing, the South Back (backcountry) and access to Avalanche Basin, the King, and Silver Basin.  Local skiers would vouch that terrain served by Chair 6 is the premier lift-served expert skiing experience in the Pacific Northwest.

The area that slid was on this north and east facing slope.
According to Crystal Pro Patroller Kim Kircher, who wrote the following on the Crystal Mountain Ski Patrol blog in 2009:

...Chair 6.  It certainly is an icon here at Crystal.  Anyway, nowadays High Campbell Chair is most likely the reason many people ski and ride at Crystal.  The chair has served us well and indeed will be replaced soon .

Prescient words. (Click on Kim's name above to go to her blog post about setting off the avalanche and photos of the aftermath.) So next season there will be a new lift, which will be roomier at the top so you don't have to check with your lift partner and scramble left or right quickly when you unload. 

Viewing the aftermath, almost two weeks later.

But I'll miss Chair 6, its ramshackle little lift shack at the base, and the old-fashioned single lift line. And some memorable rides up with friends, new friends, and sometimes strange strangers.

Looking down to Chair 6 (you can see the lift line down there) and the path of the slide, slightly to skier's right.

Years ago one of the lifties at the base of Chair 6 used to blast a lot of Jimi Hendrix (another Pacific Northwest icon who was from Seattle). Whenever I hear his rendition of Dylan's All Along the Watchtower, I always think of loading Chair 6 and sunny, fantastic, challenging, thrilling days skiing High Campbell and beyond.

What are some of your Chair 6/High Campbell memories? I'd love to hear in the Comments below.

Thanks for visiting Pacific Northwest Seasons!


Fishman said...

They should replace it with a lift of similar speed and capacity. Anything that puts more people into that area is too much. Imagine what a rat fest at the top that would be with high speed quad. I'm sure Crystal is smart enough not to do that! RIP ol rickety one.

jill said...

Fishman, I did read on Kim's blog post that I excerpted from that indeed their plans as of 2009 were to replace with a lift of similar capacity and speed. Yea, they know the drill.

Anonymous said...

Awesome Chair 6 post! I really liked the Hendrix song lift op story. I've had those same memories of the lift shack at Alpental with reggae, or Nirvana playing.