EARLY SKIING ON SNOQUALMIE PASS
John W. Lundin’s book, Early Skiing on Snoqualmie Pass, was published by The History Press in October 2017, with a foreword by Washington State Ski & Snowboard Museum (WSSSM) President Dave Moffett. The book discusses the history of skiing (both Nordic and Alpine) on Snoqualmie Pass in particular and in Washington generally, and contains over 110 historic photos. It received the prestigious Skade Award in 2018, from the International Skiing History Association, as outstanding regional ski history book. Proceeds from the book go to support the Ski Museum.
The book can be purchased at the WSSSM Store, at local, independent bookstores in Seattle including Third Place Books, Island Books, Elliott Bay Book Company, the University Book Store, the Nordic Heritage Museum, in Sun Valley at the Chapter One Bookstore and Iconoclast Books, and many others. The book can also be obtained from national bookstores such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. John encourages everyone to support their local independent book stores.
Relive the exciting early days of skiing when Washington was called “the Switzerland of America,” Washington and the Pacific Northwest “concededly [have] the greatest skiing in North America,” and Snoqualmie Pass was the epicenter of the sport “where modern skiing was born and raised.”
The book traces several themes of Washington skiing history. First, how Norwegian immigrants made ski jumping the most popular winter sport in the 1920s and 1930s. Second, the role of newspapers in promoting early skiing. Third, how railroads, including the Northern Pacific, Great Northern and Milwaukee Road, supported the early ski industry. Fourth, how Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal Programs, including the CCC, WPA and Forest Service, played important roles in the development of ski areas and skiing.
The book describes the ski jumping tournaments that attracted world-class competitors and thousands of spectators to Cle Elum, Beaver Lake on Snoqualmie Summit, Leavenworth, and the Milwaukee Ski Bowl. A number of National Ski Jumping championships were held in Washington, distance records were set there, and the 1948 U.S. Olympic Jumping team was selected at the Ski Bowl. The Mountaineers’ twenty-mile race from Snoqualmie to Stampede Pass, dubbed “the world’s longest and hardest race,” was a pinnacle of cross-country skiing. Alpine skiing began in private ski clubs, and expanded in 1934, when the Seattle Park Department opened the country’s first municipal ski area on Snoqualmie Pass, the Seattle Municipal Ski Park. Alpine skiing grew in popularity as a result of several events in the mid- 1930s: the Silver Skis Race on Mt. Rainier (from Camp Muir to Paradise) that began in 1934, sponsored by the Seattle P.I.; the 1935 National Downhill and Slalom Championships and Olympic tryouts held on Mt. Rainier where five Washington skiers were selected to go to Europe for the 1936 U.S. Olympic Games; the 1936 Winter Olympic Games in Germany, the first where Alpine skiing was allowed; and the opening of the lavish $1.5 million Sun Valley Ski Resort in December 1936, by the Union Pacific Railroad, the country’s first destination ski area, called the American San Moritz, that transformed skiing in America.
The sport reached a high point in Washington when the Milwaukee Ski Bowl at Hyak opened in 1938, influenced by Union Pacific’s Sun Valley Resort. With train access from Seattle in two hours, a modern ski lodge, an overhead cable lift, lights for night skiing and free ski lessons for high school students provided by the Seattle Times, the Ski Bowl was the state’s first modern ski area that revolutionized local skiing and brought thousands into the sport. The Northern Pacific Railroad considered opening a major new ski area at Martin, near Stampede Pass, in the late 1930s, and operated the Martin Ski Dome, a small facility, until WW II.
Army Mountain Troops trained on Mt. Rainier at the beginning of WW II, before moving to Camp Hale, Colorado. Skiing exploded in popularity after the war, and ski areas were expanded and new ones opened to meet the demand. When the Milwaukee Ski Bowl Lodge and train depot burned down, and the area was not reopened after 1950, Alpine skiing in Washington was set back by at least a decade. WSSSM Board Member, lawyer and local ski historian John W. Lundin follows the sport’s historic tracks and the evolution of Washington skiing.
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