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Seattle Post-Intelligencer


Mar 16, 1955 - Donohoe, Mike, "1st Silver Skis Race Proved Wild and Woolly On Rainier"

"This is about the doggondest ski race ever devised and run--the only one of its kind"--the first Silver Skis race in 1934, in which sixty racers ran from Camp Muir to Paradise simultaneously. "The Silver Skis was run many times, always sponsored by the Post-Intelligencer, and attracted national attention--which is why we started the show in the first place. But lack of facilities on the Paradise side of the mountain, especially lack of a chair lift or tram, ultimately made the proper presentation of the event impossible."

"Starter Otto Sanford raised a red flag high over his head and eyed the official watch held in his left hand. Promptly at 1:30 he sent them away--and away they went; every which way, criss-crossing, slamming into each other, bouncing over the rolls and making great geysers of snow as they spilled in wing-dings." The author describes the race between Don Fraser and Carlton Weigel for the lead. Of the 60 starters, 44 finished. Ben Thompson was the only one seriously injured, breaking his jaw in a collision with an unnamed competitor.

In 1935, the rules were changed to conform with standard European practice. "Neither that race nor any of the others could touch the inaugural--not for anything. It was the first and last of its kind."


Mar 13, 1966 - Grant, Bob and James Whittaker, "Stake of the Skiers in Northern Cascades"

The authors feel that current studies of the North Cascades have given little consideration to the future needs of winter sports enthusiasts. "We see a definite need for more and developed mountain recreation areas that are available to the general public, most of whom are not capable of spending the time or physical energy to utilize wilderness lands." They favor a development model more like the Alps, not "total integrated development" as in Europe, but rather "wilderness conservation and a compatible development of recreation land within small localized areas of the Cascades."

As an example, they cite Mt Hinman, located near the edge of the proposed Alpine Lakes Wilderness south of Stevens Pass. "Mt Hinman has the possibility of being developed into one of the finest ski areas in the nation." Several other regions of similar potential are known to exist in the range. If all the proposed wilderness and national park areas are established, any future possibilities for an alpine ski complex will essentially be removed from consideration. The authors urge completion of a feasibility study to determine the best use of this land.


Feb 14, 1971 - Holt, Gordy, "History Repeats Itself On the Avalanche Slopes of the Cascades"

This article describes similarities between the weather in Seattle leading up to the March 1, 1910, Wellington avalanche and during the recent tragedy at the Yodelin ski area. Warm weather and continuous storm caused wholesale flooding in the lowlands and death by avalanche in the mountains. The article includes photographs of the Wellington aftermath and gruesome reports from the scene:
"There was an electrical storm raging at the time... Lightning flashes were vivid and a tearing wind was howling down the canyon. Suddenly there was a dull roar and the sleeping men and women felt the passenger coaches lifted and borne along. When the coaches reached the steep declivity they were rolled nearly a thousand feet and buried under 40 feet of snow. [...]

"The bodies of G.H. Davis and his little girls, of Seattle, were found at the base of a tree, bound around with iron pipe and rods. It appeared from the position of the bodies that the avalanche in its awful sweep had lashed its victims to the tree with cords of iron."

A week after the accident, Seattle coroner James C. Snyder suggested that the Great Northern Railroad may have been negligent for allowing fires to rage unchecked above the Stevens Pass line the previous summer, denuding the slope of trees. Ultimately, the jury decided to find that the cause of more than 100 deaths was "beyond human control."

Dec 2, 1973 - Rose, Gene, "Skiing: Early Days on Cascade Slopes"

This good, though brief, overview says that recreational skiing began in Washington in the early 1900s with Norwegians from Seattle and Tacoma skiing on the lower slopes of Mt Rainier. There are unconfirmed reports of earlier skiing near Spokane. The author mentions outings during World War I by the Mountaineers, the 1922 first winter ascent of Mt Rainier, the 1932 Lake Placid Olympics, the 1935 National Championships on Rainier, the appearance of rope tows in 1937-38, and the development of other ski areas such as Mt Baker, Deer Park, and the Milwaukee Ski Bowl. Leavenworth is described as the birthplace of Northwest ski jumping (but see the Northwest Ski Club and Cle Elum). The article also mentions advancements in ski instruction by Otto Lang and Ken Syverson, the 10th Mountain Division and John Woodward, and Gretchen Kunigh Fraser's gold medal in the 1948 Olympic Games.

The article includes photos of parked cars crowding the highway at Snoqualmie Pass in the 1930s, Gretchen Fraser, a mountain trooper skiing in the Cascades, Otto Lang at Paradise, and an early skier with a single pole at Mt Rainier in 1913.


Jun 8, 1980 - Jacobi, Wayne, "Skiing Down Mt. Rainier"

Chris Landry of Aspen, Colorado, skied Mt Rainier's Liberty Ridge on May 12, 1980. He was accompanied by Doug Robinson of Bishop, California, who descended the route on foot and took photos. The two left the White River road on May 3, dragging a sled of gear including an extra pair of skis for Landry, which they cached near St Elmo Pass. After three days and two nights of storm and whiteout conditions, they climbed to Camp Schurman.

On May 6, in fine weather, they climbed to the summit and skied the Emmons Glacier. Landry described the snow conditions as "super hard" and "survival skiing." Landry completed the descent on alpine skis, while Robinson used nordic skis with pin bindings. This may have been the first descent of Mt Rainier on cross-country ski gear. Robinson said, "The combination of severely wind-scoured, very hard snow and the 35-degree pitch of portions of the Emmons made it some of the most demanding cross-country skiing I've ever done." The article includes descriptions by Landry of Robinson's descent.

The Emmons climb and descent took longer than expected and the pair was low on food. Fortunately, a party of Spokane climbers who were discouraged by the bad weather decided to go home and gave Landry and Robinson their food. The pair moved their camp to Curtis Ridge, where they were storm-bound for several more days. After the weather broke, they waited another day for avalanche hazard to diminish. Then they moved camp to the toe of Liberty Ridge. At 1:30 am on May 12 they began climbing the ridge carrying 40-pound packs and Landry with his skis on his back. They reached Liberty Cap around 10 am and spent an hour sightseeing before starting back down.

The crux of the descent was a snow finger leading through the summit ice cliffs to the upper slopes of Liberty Ridge. Landry recalled, "It was exposed ice, hard as nails and about a 50-degree slope. That was the one place I was kind of spooked." He dropped down this pitch "with no control to speak of" and found more manageable conditions on the ridge below. "From then on there were no surprises," he said. The pair completed the descent and headed out the following day, completing eleven days on the mountain.

Landry said of the route, "It's a classic, definitely the finest descent I've ever done and well worth the two years of preparation." He chose Liberty Ridge after talking to Bil Dunaway, former operator of the Rainier guide service and currently editor of the Aspen Times. He said he expects the route to become "a classic ski descent like some of the best snow and ice routes on Mont Blanc" as "extreme skiing" becomes more popular.

The article includes photos of Landry climbing Liberty Ridge with skis on his back and skiing back down near the summit ice cliffs.

Jan 22, 1987 - Johnston, Greg, "Ranger on the Ridge"

At the time of this article, Jack Hughes was 53 and had been an Olympic National Park ranger for 21 years, longer than any other current ranger. Hughes began his career as a Park Service ranger at Mesa Verde in Colorado, then did a stint at Yellowstone. The author describes several rescues that Hughes has been involved in, including "the first classic, well-publicized case in the Northwest of hypothermia" in 1967 and a search for missing hikers in Seven Lakes Basin during which the helicopter Hughes was riding in crashed (date not specified). He broke four vertebrae and doctors performed bone grafts and inserted steel rods in his back to patch him up.

Hughes has worked every winter for the past 21 years at Hurricane Ridge, which features limited downhill skiing, miles of cross country trails, a lodge, and a weather station. His passion is cross-country skiing, and his job is to patrol the ridge on skis on busy weekends. "I used used to do it competitively," Hughes says. "I make it a point to ski 1,000 miles a year. I log my mileage on every trip. One year I did 2,000 miles."


Apr 18, 1994 - Johnston, Greg, "Silver Mettle"

For this retrospective, the P-I gathered four veterans of the inaugural Silver Skis race in 1934--Wolf Bauer, 82, Wendell Trosper, 82, Ken Comfort, 80, and Bud Brady, 78--and a few members of the Ancient Skiers organization. Each offers recollections of the race.

The idea of the Silver Skis race is credited to Hans-Otto Giese, "who suggested the race to [Royal] Brougham as a way to boost the region and the infant sport of downhill racing. Brougham, an old-school sports editor who rarely made the distinction between covering and making the news, took the idea and skied with it." Otto Lang, 87, said, "There's only one race that compares with it, and that is the Parsenn in Switzerland. But it's an 18-kilometer race on a very well-groomed course."

According to this article, the race was started at the sound of a shotgun. Brougham's original story said there were 60 racers; other accounts said their were 55 or 64. This article says the race at Mt Rainier ran from 1934-42 and 1946-49. The Silver Skis race was revived at Crystal Mountain from 1964 through 1968.

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