Ground breaking for Crystal Mountain's new $5.5 million gondola began as soon as the ski season ended last winter. Since then, work has progressed fast and furious to erect the new lift that will connect the base area with the summit, a distance previously requiring a two-chairlift ride.

August saw trucks hauling in parts such as bullwheels, beams, and terminal masts, while crews dug 5,000 feet of communication line by hand. Top and bottom terminals should be installed by mid-September with 13 towers flown into place in mid-October.

The Dopplemayr lift tops out at 6,856 feet in elevation. The ride will take 9 minutes to climb 2,456 vertical feet. The resort plans to run the gondola starting with 18 cabins that can transport 450 passengers per hour uphill, although the lift can add another 18 cabins to double capacity.

The new gondola garnered the name "Mt. Rainier Gondola" due to the stunning views of the dormant glaciated volcano from the top. The gondola will extend the hours of skiing in Green Valley, provide summit access for non-skiers, allow winter happy hour and summit dinner access, and be a backup when high winds preclude operation of the Rainier Express.

Season passholders can include or add the option to ride the new gondola on to passes. Gold passes, which are valid anytime, include unlimited access to the gondola. Silver passes, which are valid Mondays through Fridays, and Bronze Quad passes, which must be purchased with four adults, can include access to the gondola for $89 for adults. Adult pass rates run $499-799. The resort also introduced a new Peak to Summit Pass that is valid anytime at Crystal or The Summit at Snoqualmie; the adult pass costs $899. Season passes, which can be purchased online, are on sale through Sept. 15.

More information. Or call 360-663-3050.