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Methow Valley News

Methow Valley News - Before World War II

I reviewed newspapers from 1934 through 1941 at the Methow Valley News office in Twisp (MVN). I concentrated on the period between mid-December and the end of March. There was little noteworthy material, probably because the newspaper staff was so small in those days. The Wenatchee World had more information about the Methow mountains than this paper. In any case, here's what I noted:
5 Jan 1934
The American Smelting and Refining Company (ASARCO) signed a lease agreement with the Azurite Gold Company headed by Charles Ballard. Later issues report that ASARCO plans to spend $500,000 on roads and development of the Azurite mine.
19 Jan 1934
Charles Ballard commissioned Dick Horn to go into the Azurite mine to inventory the buildings and commissary. Horn got within two miles of Harts Pass on snowshoes, then turned back due to soft, deep snow, hoping to try again later. This suggests that the Azurite mine was not worked in the winter before ASARCO leased it. A later issue reports that mining activity for the year 1934 resumed on June 22.
4 Jan 1935
Charles Ballard dies at age 76. The paper says that the town of Ballard was named after one of his brothers. The 1-11-35 paper says that Charles Ballard began development of the Azurite mines in 1916 with his brother Hazard Ballard and a man named Dick McLean. Later issues report that 1935 was a heavy snow year with several avalanche deaths in the area of the mines.
27 Nov 1936
Huskies are to make regular trips to the Azurite mine, where sixty or more men will work throughout the winter. Two dog teams, capable of hauling 1500 pounds, will serve the mines. George Stonebreaker and Earl Kimball of Idaho are in charge of the dog sled service.
22 Jan 1937
Describes the rescue by dog sled of Fred White, stricken by appendicitis at the Azurite mine. The 1-29-37 issue reports White's death in the Okanogan hospital following surgery. The reporting seems to be based on the Wenatchee World (ww-1937-Jan-19-p1).
12 Feb 1937
Local and personal news: "There were many skiing parties in this vicinity over the weekend. Skiing is the principle pleasure of the school children during play time at school, and they find perfect skiing on the hill above the school house."
9 Feb 1940
Describes the emergency ski trip by Mrs. L.A. Gourlie from her family's cabin near Windy Pass to seek medical care. The reporting seems to be based on the Wenatchee World (ww-1940-Feb-3-p1).
22 Mar 1940
A Washington Water Power Company ad entitled "The Snow Patrol" shows three men on snowshoes carrying a snow survey stick into the mountains. Snow surveys for the company's hydroelectric dams are an annual task in late March. Previous years' papers mentioned these survey trips.
3 Jan 1941
The Methow Valley Ski Club is formed. Walt Anderson of the Okanogan Forest office ("father of skiing in north central Washington") was invited to help construct a ski tow at Patterson Lake. The paper says that skiing in the Methow Valley has been previously enjoyed mostly by school children.

Methow Valley News - 100 Year Commemorative Issue

On July 9, 2003, the paper ran a special supplement commemorating 100 years of publication. The following dates are noteworthy:
1936
The Loup Loup Road is completed, connecting the Methow and Okanogan Valleys.
3 Jun 1948
"Greatest Flood in History Spreads Destruction Thru Out the Methow Valley!" Includes a tally of the damage.
6 Nov 1967
The Loup Loup ski area is being developed.
9 May 1968
Sun Mountain Lodge opens.
2 Aug 1973
A downhill ski area is proposed at Sandy Butte, spawning nearly three decades of debate.
3 Feb 1977
Editor Mae Darwood announces a new policy: "Because of the frequency of Letters-to-the-Editor concerning a possible major destination ski resort in the area, the Methow Valley News will no longer accept such letters either pro or con, unless an individual letter contains facts not previously brought out."
3 Apr 1980
The Methow Ski Touring Association is formed to promote cross-country skiing.
22 Jan 1983
The Methow Valley Citizens Council (MVCC) organizes to oppose the Sandy Butte ski area.
Feb 1983
Mazama Neighbors is founded to support the Sandy Butte ski area.
16 Aug 1984
The Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) released by the U.S. Forest Service approves 8,200 skiers for a downhill ski resort at Sandy Butte.
31 Dec 1987
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reverses the Early Winters decision, saying the Forest Service EIS didn't adequately address several issues, including wildlife, air quality in the Pasayten Wilderness, and alternate-site analysis.
1 May 1989
The U.S. Supreme Court reverses the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision on Early Winters, remanding the case to the lower court, accepting parts of the original EIS, but ordering the Forest Service to discuss mitigation measures. Both sides claim to be "satisfied" with the mixed decision.
14 Aug 1992
The Early Winters property, 1,700 acres at the base of Sandy Butte, is sold at a public foreclosure auction to R.D. Merrill for $830,000.
12 Jan 1995
Plans for a downhill ski resort in the Methow Valley are officially abandoned.
7 Dec 1999
R.D. Merrill Co. announces that they are withdrawing plans for Arrowleaf, citing delays by the Department of Ecology regarding water rights. Proposals for the development project, the latest incarnation of the Sandy Butte/Early Winters ski area, have spanned almost 30 years, been the subject of numerous lawsuits and cost tens of millions of dollars.
29 Dec 2000
Arrowleaf sells 1,100 acres to the Trust for Public Land for more than $15 million, ending the prospects for commercial development of the land once destined for a downhill ski resort.

Methow Valley News - Other References

Mar 12, 2003 - "20 years ago - March 10, 1983 - Mazama heli-skiing is off the ground"

Accompanying a photograph of a helicopter and skiers is this caption: "Air-Lifted Downhillers: From left to right, Don Portman, Eric Sanford, Barb Pricer, Jim Steepleton and (kneeling) David Moe, editor of Powder Magazine, pose before take-off in the AStar helicopter based at the Mazama Country Inn for heli-skiing. At the helicopter controls is Bob Jorgensen, pilot for American Helicopters out of Seattle."

2003-04, Winter Supplement, p. 10 - Butler, Paul, "Heli-skiing the North Cascades"

Heli-skiing in the Methow began in 1983, the same time that cross-country skiing was becoming popular in the valley and the proposed Early Winters downhill skiing resort dominated the headlines. Liberty Bell Alpine Tours, headed by Eric Sanford, had nearly 300 customers between January and April of that year, according to a September 29, 1983 article in the Methow Valley News. Before Sanford began operation, the Forest Service had issued a one-year permit to Wasatch Powderbird Guides of Utah, but the permit went unused. Sanford's guides included Eric Burr, Jay Lucus and Don Portman, who still reside in the valley.

In 1988, after a season without any trips for various reasons, Randy and Kathy Sackett took over the heli-skiing business and permit and started North Cascade Heli-Skiing. Randy Sackett had worked for both Sanford and Wasatch Powderbird Guides before becoming part owner. In 1992, NCHS didn't operate due to a lack of bookings. The following year, Ken Brooks became a partner, bringing with him a pair of snow cats that provided a backup in times of poor flying conditions. The company, going into its 16th year, offers the only heli-skiing in Washington state, with one-day and three-day programs, Nordic tours, overnight trips to the company's yurt near Harts Pass, "flight seeing trips," introductory powder skiing clinics, and custom packages.

2005-06, Winter Supplement, p. 12 - Stamper, Marcy, "The building of a dream on Little Buck Mountain"

According to this history of the Loup Loup ski area, Ralph Parks was a 10th Mountain Division veteran. The ski area was located on the south side of the Loup Loup highway in 1946, then moved to Little Buck Mountain, north of the road, in 1958. The author describes improvements over the years, with recollections of long-time skiers Duey Hadfield, Ann Henry, and Bruce Zahn, as well as present-day manager Ron Mackie.

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Copyright © 2002 Lowell Skoog. All Rights Reserved.
Last Updated: Wed Dec 30 16:52:33 PST 2009