Crystal Mountain Resort changed the face of skiing in Washington this winter with its new gondola. The Mount Rainier Gondola is now changing activities for spring, summer, and autumn, by extending the ski season and adding new summer mountaintop dining options.

"We typically have closed skiing down the third week in April," spokesperson Tiana Enger told us. "But the gondola now gives us a base to summit connection and allows us to lengthen the season."

That gondola connection, plus a big year of snow, is allowing the resort to extend its ski and snowboard season into early summer. "We had enormous snowfall this year," said Enger, noting that the resort saw 100 inches above its average snowfall by mid-March.

The Mount Rainier Gondola will be open for snowboarders and skiers through April 17 and then weekends and select weekdays until June 12. Tickets will be on a sliding scale for skiers and snowboarders, with prices changing with how many lifts are open. A spring pass for April 1- June 12 is available for $149. The resort plans to run as many lifts as possible with the gondola and Green Valley Chair being the main lifts for skiing into June.

Sightseers can ride the gondola anytime it is operating this spring through June 12 and then daily June 17 through September 11, followed again on weekends only through Oct. 2. Gondola tickets for sightseers cost $8-17, depending on age, until April 17, and then $8-20 through Oct. 2.

The Summit House restaurant, located at the top of the gondola with big views of Mt. Rainier, serves lunch every day that the gondola operates. The new summertime dinners will be served Friday and Saturday evenings starting July 1. Fridays have one seating, and Saturdays have two seatings--one for alpenglow and one for sunset. Times for the two seatings vary according to when sunset is scheduled. The restaurant also serves Sunday brunches starting June 19.

Summer visitors can hike from the top of the gondola. Options include ridgeline, forest, and lake trails as well as the Crystal Trail that connects with the Pacific Crest Trail.

More information. Or call 888-754-6199 or 360-663-2265.

Crystal Mountain WA hiking

Hikers enjoy the views of Mt. Rainier from the top of the gondola at Crystal Mountain. Photo: Jason Anglin.