The new Mt. Rainier Gondola at Crystal Mountain Resort is set to blast off Wednesday, Dec. 22, if all goes as planned. The $5.5 million gondola, the first and only ski gondola in Washington state, will allow the resort to add après, dinner, and breakfast service at their Summit House Restaurant.

Crystal Mountain has scheduled the load test for the gondola Dec. 20. Buckets full of concrete, simulating the weight of people, will be carried in the eight-passenger cabins during the load test. That's the last hurdle before firing it into operation for the season. The lift will start with 17 cabins, which cost $40,000 a piece, and install another five more in January.

The gondola not only will change how skiers and snowboarders access the slopes, but increase services the resort can offer, including transporting foot passengers up to the Summit House for viewing Mt. Rainier and dining. "It's opening up a lot of new doors for us," spokesperson Tiana Enger told OnTheSnow. "Everyone I spoke with is crazy about it."

The gondola will allow for more dining options in the Summit House. Sunset dinners on Friday and Saturday nights will begin immediately. Reservations are required for the one dinner seating at 6:30 p.m. Apres is also served 3:30 p.m. to 5:45 p.m. Fridays through Sundays.

The First Tracks Breakfast will start up in January Saturday and Sunday mornings. Participants load the gondola around 7 a.m. for watching the sunrise, eating breakfast in the Summit House Restaurant, and getting first tracks in Green Valley.

The gondola also will extend Crystal Mountain's season. "We've historically closed the third weekend in April," said Enger. "But the gondola will allow us to ski well into spring in Green Valley. We plan to offer cheap spring passes and spring lift tickets."

More information. Or call 360-663-3085.