Life at Meany Ski Hut

Life at Meany Ski Hut



The site chosen for Meany Ski Hut was adjacent to the NorthernPacific Railroad tracks at the eastern end of Stampede Tunnel at the station known as Martin. Edmond Meany bought the land and gave it to the club. His only stipulation: that the hut be closed on Easter Sundays due to the religious observance. That request is still being honored.

"The ease with which the hut could be reached, its physical comforts and the fine runs almost at its front door attracted many to whom the rigors of the winter sports had formerly seemed too arduous," Robert Hayes noted in the 1929 annual.

Although at slightly lower elevation than Snoqualmie Pass, Meany Hut is on the eastern slopes of the Cascades where the snow is drier and the skiing better. Outings to Stampede Pass had led some early skiers over the pass and into the Meany area, where the favorable terrain and accessibility by train impressed them. These explorers were enthusiastic over the slopes and magnificent open timber of Meany Hill.

Building materials for the hut were shipped to Martin, unloaded by volunteers, and carried to the site-with some help from the railroad section hands "through the skillful cajolery of W. J. Maxwell plus a small cash consideration." Construction started in September 1928, and on November 11 Meany dedicated the building.

Unlike Snoqualmie Lodge, which was built with much artistic flair, Meany was somewhat spartan. But it served nicely, to judge by a remembrance written by Fred Ball in the 1956 annual: "While rough, it was comfortable, with the big hotel range in the kitchen and the pot-bellied coal stove in the main room giving off a cheery glow, on the wire rack overhead wet socks, mittens and other gear dried or nicely browned depending on the owner's alertness. Gasoline lanterns furnished light, but after a day of climbing up and sliding down hills, early to bed was the rule, for tomorrow was another day."

Ball noticed that a "mysterious schism among the skiers developed with the advent of the ski hut. Snoqualmie Lodge was a place of gaiety and entertainment as well as skiing, with its huge fireplace, phonograph, and space enough for dancing. Meany Hut, however, was conceived and approved as strictly a shelter for skiers, with no fireplace or extra space. There was plenty of gaiety and fun, but of a different kind, and apparently this difference caused some to prefer one place to the other. Thus, while there were those who alternated, the skiers in general were identified as either "Lodge hounds" or Meanyites."

By the winter of 1938-39, a rope tow designed by Jack Hossack had been completed at Meany, with grippers attached to the rope to pull the skier along. The tow was so powerful that many a skier was yanked off his or her feet and dragged up the hill, skis flailing behind until the person abandoned all hope and let go.

The original conception of Meany Hut as merely a shelter was finally reconsidered, In 1939 a three-story addition provided a basement with a furnace, drying room, waxing room, washing room, and indoor plumbing. The main floor became a recreation room, including space for dancing. The second floor provided separate dormitories for men and women, wht married couples quartered on the third floor.

Many of the regions first ski races can be traced back to Meany. Cross-country races for men and women for the University Book Store trophies began in 1929. The first Patrol Race, From Snoqualmie Lodge to Meany Ski Hut, also was run in 1930. Slalom and downhill races for men began that same year, with trophies donated by Bob Hayes and Bill Maxwell. Maxwell, with a nickname of "Wild Bill" earned in part by his skiing technique, competed in the first race for the trophy he sponsored-and came in dead last.

Also achieving legendary status at Meany was Nashie Iverson, wife of a NorthernPacific Railroad engineer. In the early years, it was difficult to find a cook for the weekend outings, but in 1935 the hut committee prevailed upon Nashie to take the job. In 1956, when she wrote a piece for the annual, she still reigned as cook and chief matchmaker at the hut

"I remember the first time I came to Meany" she wrote. "Never in my life had I met such a queer lot of people, was my first impression. Their grab surely set them apart as being out of the ordinary."

"It didn't take long to figure out that outdoor sports were not their only interest; they had an interest in everything! After my day's work, it was interesting for me to sit in the shadows and see the romantic intrigue among the bachelors and spinsters for there was plenty of it. No one paid much attention to the fact that they were being spied upon. My favorite vantage point was sitting underneath the dripping socks that hung over the old coal stove...."

A concerned mother once asked Nashie whether her daughter would be safe in the company of the boys at the hut. Nashie assured her that "they're to tired to do anything anyway."

Built at a former railroad camp, Meany Hut was situated to take advantage of the rail line that ran next to it. Train schedules allowed for a full day of skiing, plus time for dinner and cleanup, for members who rode up from Seattle. A special care would be provided for parties of fifteen or more, and then in turn provided all kinds of entertainment on the trip to and from the city.

The coal-burning locomotives were a spectacular sight as they puffed up toward the hut, spewing steam and smoke. The ashes they left behind sometimes littered the slopes, making skiing difficult. And at night "people would swear the trains ran on both sides of the hut instead of on the tracks," Art Winder recalled, "and some declared they passed through the lower floor."

Rail service was discontinued in 1060, and snow cats have been used since then to tow skiers the two and a half miles from the highway. For more then thirty years the snow-cat driver has been A.T "Tom" VanDevanter Jr, running what has been dubbed the world's longest ski tow.

Meany Ski Hut continues to operate its rope tows, and run a busy downhill ski school in January and February. Cross-country sessions and clinics in such techniques as telemarking and snowboarding also are given.