Snowy winter a boon for Crystal

  • By Sharon Wootton
  • Saturday, October 22, 2011 12:01am
  • Life

It might be too much to ask for a snowy winter like the last one that, on many deeply packed slopes, allowed for skiing and snowboarding into spring, and in some places, summer.

Crystal Mountain Resort didn’t close its ski area until July 16, and the unexpected influx of money has been put to

good use.

Less than a year after it opened an $8 million gondola, the resort has added a new rental fleet, snowmaking equipment, a PistenBully winch cat for this winter, and five new gondola cabins that should arrive next spring.

Those cabins cost $200,000, and give Crystal a total of 27. The cable can carry 36 cabins for the already popular Mount Rainier Gondola, which carried almost 50,000 sightseers to the summit between mid-June and early October.

The resort, near Enumclaw and Mount Rainier, also will open the RDL Test Center with cutting-edge ski technology.

For more information on Crystal Mountain Resort, go to www.crystalmountainresort.com, or call the information line at 888-754-6199.

Coming in for a landing: About 80,000 snow geese are winging their way to Western Washington, most of them spending the winter in the Skagit Valley.

Some may have already touched down by the time you read this. Large congregations are both a visual delight and an auditory event.

When the majority has landed in the valley, a good place to watch them is at the Fir Island Farms Reserve Unit of the Washington Department Fish and Wildlife’s Wildlife Area.

For more information about the reserve, go to DFW website, www.wdfw.wa.gov/lands/wildlife_areas/Skagit. The site includes directions.

In a rut: It’s a good thing. The annual autumn Roosevelt elk rut is under way on the Olympic Peninsula, a great time to hear the bugling, testosterone-driven elk.

It’s a sound that issues a challenge to competing bull elks, and one that is studiously ignored — at least at first — by the harems.

The vocal “these-cows-are-mine” warning can be followed by antler-clashing with a challenger for reproductive rights.

The antlers, unlike the comparatively small spiky horns of male deer, are not to be ignored. They average 4 feet in length, although racks up to 6 feet long and weighing 35 to 40 pounds have been found.

After fending off competitors and spending almost every other moment herding the harem (the females tend to go their own way), it’s time for the tango between male (average 875 pounds) and female (average 700 pounds).

A great place to hear bugles and antlers is the Quinault River valley upstream from Lake Quinault. The elk are most active during the early morning and evening hours this month.

Enjoy watching and listening but don’t forget you are not in Disneyland. The males are testy and hyper-territorial, they take rutting seriously, and anyone who gets too near potentially dangerous males might be viewed as a challenger, albeit a puny one.

An elk can hit 45 mph during short bursts of speed. What’s your top speed?

Hunting time: The territories of birders, hikers and hunters often overlap in the fall. It wouldn’t hurt nonhunters to wear orange, an orange hat, an orange windbreaker, something that would certainly clash with your sartorial color scheme but make you appear less like a deer or a bear to hunters.

New leader: Karen Daubert has been hired as the new executive director for the Washington Trails Association. Daubert was founding director of the Seattle Parks Foundation. WTA can be reached through its website, www.wta.org, or at 206-625-1367.

Columnist Sharon Wootton can be reached at 360-468-3964 or www.songandword.com.

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