The Development of Skiing in the Mountaineers

The Development of Skiing in the Mountaineers



It was at the beginning of the present decade that skis were first introduced at Snoqualmie Lodge. Their use was confined at the outset chiefly to those who had obtained their experience in other sections of the country and the rank and file were content to make the shorter trips that the safer and more dependable snowshoe afforded. By 1922, however, the sport had increased in favor to such a degree that a trophy was offered for competition among the women. In 1923 the Harper cup was added for novice skiers among the men and women, and the rivalry for these two cups was keen. As a result of these contest and because the sport manifestly offered so much more in the way of enjoyment and delightful thrills, the more venturesome became attracted and the ski gradually supplanted the more humble snowshoe. The latter became as rare at the lodge as had been the ski but a few years before. The contests for the Women's Trophy and the Harper cup for novices became the climax of the season's winter sport activities.

The winter of 1927 saw the sport attain such popularity that the lodge for the first time in its history was filled to overflowing many week-ends through the height of the skiing season. Not only had the art acquired many followers, but experts had been among us, men who performed on the long sticks in such a way as to give us a whole new understanding of the possibilities of the sport. For the first time proper technique commenced to be appreciated and sought after, and with this came an understanding of what the art of ski mountaineering opened up. Regions hitherto inaccessible while the winter snows held sway now became not only easy of access but the most delightful of playgrounds. Old acquaintanceships of summer days, peaks and mountain parks, could now be renewed in winter months on skis.

The board of trustees, taking official cognizance of the rapidly growing interest in the sport, formed a committee to assist in the development of skiing and this committee, under the leadership of Ernest N. Harris, began to function during the season of 1927-28. this committee supervised the cup races of the season and arranged for instruction to be given at the lodge. The major consideration of this committee , however, was the increasing of facilities for skiing to take care of the greater number of people now addicted to the pastime. After considerable investigation a site was chosen on the NorthernPacific Railway at the eastern end of Stampede Tunnel, at the station known as Martin. Our president, Professor Edmond S. Meany, graciously purchased the land and presented it to the club. On November 11 1928, the hut now known as the Meany Ski Hut was completed and dedicated before a throng of enthusiastic members. Great credit is due to Mr. Harris and his colleagues for the untiring effort and the careful planning and forethought exercised in the construction of the hut.

The immediate popularity of the new structure at once justified the money and effort expended. Week after week, under the capable direction of Herman Wunderling and W.J. Maxwell, every available reservation was taken. The case with which the hut could be reached, it physical comforts and the fun runs almost at its front door attracted many to whom the rigors of the winter sports had formerly seemed too arduous. The lodge, too, in this season of 1928, had many visitors, despite the fact that it labored under an adverse train schedule. It offers greater possibilities for early season skiing in the upper basins of Silver Peak, and similarly good runs may often be obtained in late spring when the snow has vanished from the lower elevations.

Both the expert and the novice will find runs to suit their taste in the vicinity of the lodge. To one who has acquired a degree of proficiency in the gentle art, an ascent of Silver Peak on skis is a trip of never-failing interest; the fine views of the whole lodge country on a clear winter's day, the intricate and devious routes to be selected for one's line of ascent and then the climax, the descent. One's feet have become shed with wings, wings which struggle to snatch their wearer from the gleaming white slopes that are flashing by. The steep slopes, the sudden rises and depressions, the twisting, bewildering runs through the timber, call for all the skill and technique acquired in many hours spent on the practice slope. An occasional fall merely adds zest to the runner's delight. To one who has enjoyed such a day the fascination of the sport becomes thrice apparent. Forgotten are all his early struggles with the refractory sticks, the spills with their strains and bruises, the wild threshing in many a snow bank, the times when half the drift slipped down his neck. Today, in his flying course down the mountainside, stemming, swinging, swerving now to the left, then to the right in well controlled turns to avoid obstacles half concealed by the snow, there is added to the skier's pleasure that keenest delight of all-the thrill of master, the satisfaction of achievement.

With the added impetus created by the opening of the Meany Ski Hut a less apparent but significant development was also taking place. Within the larger group of skiers a smaller nucleus was forming to whom the proper technique and correct equipment was of paramount importance. Books were read and criticized point by point. The finest skis both Norwegian and American were tried out. Almost every article of equipment and apparel listed in the foreign catalogues was tested and discussed as to it adaptability to our own conditions. Several of the progressive stores in the city have kept pace with this group and have been keenly interested in the results of their experiments. The consequences are that the beginner of today has a tremendous advantage over the novitiate of two or three years ago. Almost every article found at these stores has been tested under our own conditions and such purchases can be made with confidence that the articles are correct and the type best suited to the kind of skiing afforded in thePacific Northwest.

This group has been of value also in that through them the general standard of skiing has been raised. The beginner is no longer content merely to be able to negotiate a straight run and remain standing. The various turns, the art of braking, sudden stops, and all the other complex maneuvers have acquired a degree of importance not heretofore considered

It is the aim of the ski committee this year to keep the Club in the present position of prominence it now occupies among skiing organization of the Northwest. Instruction will be offered this coming season. A series of tests has been worked out and will be submitted to the ski enthusiasts for their consideration. These tests which have served as the foundation of the advancement of the standard of ability in nearly all European ski organization have been carefully adapted to suit our own particular conditions and problems. The classification of skiers by means of these tests will enable the ski committee more efficiently to work out the complex problem of systematic instruction. It will enable the members of the committee to advise the individual as to what trips are within the scope of his ability in the vicinity of our two skiing bases. It will assist in segregating members for the various competitions. Such classification should also stimulate each individual to improve the standard of his skiing so that he may move into the division next ahead

Because of the excellent location of its two cabins, by reason of its large membership with its enthusiastic attitude toward the sport, and because of the foresight and the progressive attitude on the part of those in whom we have entrusted the destinies of our organization it is safe to predict that the Club will continue to maintain the lead it has already established in our Northwest in that finest of winter sports--skiing.