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Crystal Mountain ski resort offers limited opening this weekend

Season pass holders and ski school students will have early access to the slopes.

Get those skis and snowboards waxed and ready. After more than a week of delay, one of Washington's ski resorts is preparing for limited opening this weekend.

Crystal Mountain resort near Mt. Rainier is welcoming season pass holders and youth attending ski and snowboarding lessons on Dec. 4 and 5.

The resort's Ski & Ride School lessons will be open Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Season pass holders will have access to certain slopes starting 2 p.m. They will also have access on Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The limited access comes as colder temperatures have allowed for manmade snow. Typically, the resort opens around Thanksgiving.

"We're planning for the distinct possibility that later starts are going to continue to happen," said Crystal Mountain President and CEO, Frank DeBerry.

DeBerry attributed the delay on warmer-than-usual temperatures this fall brought on by "atmospheric rivers" that hit the Pacific Northwest last month.

"We're snow farmers, right? So just like anyone else who relies on the weather, climate change has a huge huge impact on the business," DeBerry said.

DeBerry said delays could have some impact on sales as well.

"It's nothing that we think we can't overcome at this point in the season," DeBerry said.

The resort is staffed with roughly 600 employees and COVID-related workforce shortages were not an issue, according to DeBerry, who said recruiting efforts and offering higher pay and improved ski benefits attracted enough workers.

"The folks that come and work here, they do it because we all love being in the mountains," DeBerry said.

Employees like Jake Doepker, a lead lift operator at Crystal Mountain, echoed the desire to get back on the slopes.

"This whole season's going to be great. I just know it. I think it's going to be great. This La Nina that's coming in, is going to really help us out and looking forward to some deep powder days coming up," Doepker said.

The resort will close on Monday and will release a reopening date depending on snow forecasts.