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Author Topic: March 22, 2009, Turns All Century On Mt Rainier  (Read 4923 times)
Lowell_Skoog
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March 22, 2009, Turns All Century On Mt Rainier
« on: 03/23/09, 01:22 PM »



Centennial skiers at Longmire, March 22, 2009.  Back row, L-R: Alison Kilroy, Jeff Spann, Steph Subak, Scott Stugelmeyer, Jorie Wackerman, Clayton Obrien-Smith, Gary Vogt, Dorothea Driggers, Holly Rydel, Geoff Cram, Doug McDonnal, Lowell Skoog. Front row, L-R: Garth Ferber, Tom Skoog.


In 1909, the Pacific Northwest was the showcase to the world.  The Klondike Gold Rush had made Seattle a boom town, and the city celebrated its prosperity by hosting its first world's fair, the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition.  Between June and October, nearly four million people attended the A-Y-P.  To dramatize Seattle's growing importance, the first transcontinental auto race across North America started in New York City at the moment the A-Y-P opened.  Twenty-three days later, four cars rumbled into Seattle, with the climax of the race being the rugged crossing of Snoqualmie Pass.

Professor Milnor Roberts of the University of Washington was one of the A-Y-P planners. Roberts first proposed that the A-Y-P be held on the U.W. campus. After local boosters endorsed his idea, he organized sports events for the exposition and helped design the stadium and grandstands.  At 32, he was young and energetic and, as Dean of the U.W.'s College of Mines, well traveled throughout the Northwest.  During spring break from the U.W. in 1909, Roberts took a break from his college and A-Y-P organizing duties to enjoy an unusual holiday in the Cascades.

On March 18, 1909, Roberts and a small group of friends arrived at the National Park Inn at Longmire on Mount Rainier for a week of skiing.  The inn had opened just three years earlier.  In winter, at that time, it was necessary to walk 13 miles from the train station at Ashford to reach Longmire.  For the next week, the Roberts party enjoyed skiing day-trips from the inn to the slopes of Eagle Peak, the Ramparts, and Paradise Valley.  He later wrote:

Quote

"As we traversed the open slopes, now smooth with a great depth of snow, our skis hidden deep in the powder snow slid quietly along to make the only marks of man's presence even for a day, or at least the only visible one.  The possibilities of Paradise as a winter resort so impressed us that I wrote an article for the National Geographic Magazine, with the title: 'A Wonderland of Glaciers and Snow'."


As the first major article published about skiing on Mount Rainier, Roberts' story announced the birth of a new sport in the Pacific Northwest.



Thumbnails (click to enlarge). Left: Then and now - Skiers at the National Park Inn at Longmire, 1909 and 2009. Center: Tacoma News Tribune article, March 19, 2009. Right: Scene from "Skiing Above the Clouds" by Bob and Ira Spring (courtesy of The Spring Family Trust For Trails).


I learned about Milnor Roberts in Mountaineer publications while researching the history of backcountry skiing in the Northwest.  Roberts was a charter member of The Mountaineers, yet club historians have overlooked him as the club's first skier.  Ruth Kirk's book Sunrise to Paradise (p. 123) mentions Roberts' 1909 National Geographic article, but implies that Roberts and his friends were snowshoers.  I knew better.  In the course of several visits to the University of Washington, I obtained a copy of his 1909 article and found unlabeled photographs of his party in the Special Collections Library.  I had rediscovered the lost grandfather of recreational skiing in Washington.

Milnor Roberts faded to the back of my mind as family, work, and other projects sidetracked my writing about Northwest ski history.  But my attention was yanked back to him a month ago by a newspaper story about the upcoming A-Y-P centennial celebration.  I realized that 2009 also marked the centennial of recreational skiing in the Cascades.  I started a thread on Turns-All-Year.com proposing to celebrate the event.  TAY readers expressed enthusiasm for the idea so I contacted Craig Hill, a reporter at the Tacoma News Tribune.  Craig and the News Tribune put together a nice story about the centennial, and I let the Park Service know about the event.



Scenes from 'Wonderland' in 2009 - Upper-left: Gathering on Mazama Ridge.  Upper-right: The author turns edgeless skis with toe-strap bindings.  Lower-left: Steph Subak telemarks in a skirt.  Lower-right: Garth Ferber with his father's skis and make-shift bungie bindings.


On Sunday, March 22, about twenty backcountry skiers converged at Longmire and Paradise to celebrate a century of skiing on Mount Rainier.  The group was loosely organized, and I never got a precise count of the number.  Many stopped for a half-hour at Longmire to reenact one the photographs from the 1909 Roberts outing, a picture of five women and three men standing on skis and snowshoes outside the National Park Inn.  (See the thumbnail above for the reenactment, and the opening shot of this story for a larger group photo.)

Then we continued to the Paradise visitor center, where we picked up several more skiers.  I handed out a flyer to commemorate the event, and we soon regrouped on the snow-covered road descending to Paradise Valley.  Our goal was Sluiskin Falls, the high point of the Roberts party ski outings.  Several in the group had brought old-fashioned clothing and equipment.  As we set out from the parking lot in stormy weather with wool clothing and fragile skis, we instantly gained a more intimate respect for the pioneers.



Thumbnails (click to enlarge). Left: Gary Vogt and Jeff Berrens climb to Mazama Ridge. Center: Jeff Berrens displays 240cm skis. Right: The author in Paradise Valley.


Jeff Berrens set the standard for authenticity.  His 240cm, mortised skis were real museum pieces and could have been used by skiers in 1909.  Jeff had a genuine alpenstock and his equipment was complemented by a German motorcycle jacket, leather gloves, and a vintage backpack.  My edgeless wood skis dated from the 1930s and were complemented by a bamboo staff and second-hand-store clothing.  Garth Ferber had his father's old poles and skis with bindings improvised from a couple of bungie cords.  Gary Vogt and a few others were on 1970s-vintage cross-country skis.  My wife Steph dusted off her old Karhu XCDs and was reminded of why she enjoyed telemarking once upon a time.  (Wearing a dress in powder, she also relearned why our grandmothers gave them up for skiing.)

Even though Paradise received over four feet of new snow in the past week, we found the trail breaking remarkably easy.  Warm weather on Wednesday and Thursday really settled the snow, and a few inches of new snow on Saturday added a nice surface.  With driving snow and poor visibility, most of us decided to stop as soon as we reached Mazama Ridge.  It's unlikely that the Roberts party went much higher than we did, if at all.  During the descent, we were grateful for the invention of kick turns. But really, the skiing was quite good.  Back at the visitor center, I got permission from the interpretive staff to show Bob and Ira Spring's film, "Skiing Above the Clouds."  The Springs' 1955 movie of skiing the glaciers from Paradise to the White River offered a nice way to transition from the world of 1909 back to the present.



Jeff Berrens climbs toward Mazama Ridge on ancient skis.


« Last Edit: 07/23/12, 06:01 PM by Lowell_Skoog » Logged
Marcus
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Re: March 22, 2009, Turns All Century On Mt Rainier
« Reply #1 on: 03/23/09, 01:34 PM »

Great stuff, thanks for the report Lowell.  Wish I had made it.
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joriew
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Re: March 22, 2009, Turns All Century On Mt Rainier
« Reply #2 on: 03/23/09, 02:30 PM »

Lowell, thanks so much for organizing this grand outing. Fun to get into the spirit of rememberance, and to wear a skirt skiing for the entire day! Might be my new spring skiing attire. I enjoyed the company, and seeing so many other folks' ancient gear and historic attire. Very impressive skiing by those of you on the old gear. Hopefully will post a few other good photos soon....
thx.......jorie
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Jim Oker
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Re: March 22, 2009, Turns All Century On Mt Rainier
« Reply #3 on: 03/23/09, 04:14 PM »

Those makeshift bungie bindings are awesome! I wonder if Mr. Rainey saw (or made) something similar to inspire the first generation of super loop bindings (basically a cable through the toeplate that connected to a big rubber tube that stretched around the heel). I loved the original super loop back when I was using lace-up leather boots.

As always, fun to read your history tidbits as well, Lowell.
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sheispiste
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Re: March 22, 2009, Turns All Century On Mt Rainier
« Reply #4 on: 03/23/09, 06:20 PM »

Lowell,
I had planned to make it out; even bought a new hat! A cold and cough kept me home. Tom filled me in a few things today. Glad y'all had fun.
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Garth_Ferber
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Re: March 22, 2009, Turns All Century On Mt Rainier
« Reply #5 on: 03/23/09, 07:09 PM »

That was a blast! The re-enactment photo is worth a million bucks.
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Teleskichica
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Re: March 22, 2009, Turns All Century On Mt Rainie
« Reply #6 on: 03/23/09, 07:15 PM »

Thanks so much for hosting this Lowell. I enjoyed the history lessons, meeting new friends and old... the video was great fun (Zoom!) and the mild nature of the ski itself made for a perfect "recovery tour", not to mention a whole lot of fun to ski in a skirt. Jorie, I'll join you for the spring fashion show... Cheesy
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Lowell_Skoog
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Re: March 22, 2009, Turns All Century On Mt Rainier
« Reply #7 on: 03/23/09, 07:19 PM »

Okay, here's where I get to make a fool of myself. I'd like to get the names straight in the group photo at the start of the thread. Here's what I know:

Back row, from left:

1 - Allison ?
2 - Arg... I've forgotten  Huh
3 - Steph Subak
4 - Scott Stugelmeyer
5 - Jorie Wackerman
6 - Oh... my memory is terrible  Huh
7 - Gary Vogt
8 - Dorothea ?
9 - Holly ?
10 - D'oh  Huh
11 - Doug McDonnal
12 - Lowell Skoog

Front row, from left:

1 - Garth Ferber
2 - Tom Skoog

I'm really terrible at remembering names the first time (or two!) that I meet someone. My apologies!
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Teleskichica
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Re: March 22, 2009, Turns All Century On Mt Rainie
« Reply #8 on: 03/23/09, 07:53 PM »

Here's a little bit of help:  Smiley

2. Jeff Spann
8. Dorothea Driggers
9. Holly Rydel


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Robie
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Re: March 22, 2009, Turns All Century On Mt Rainier
« Reply #9 on: 03/23/09, 08:03 PM »

What fun !
Lowell we don't care about your short term memory just keep giving us more of the long term !
Thanks
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alison
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Re: March 22, 2009, Turns All Century On Mt Rainier
« Reply #10 on: 03/23/09, 09:11 PM »

Lowell your memory is not that bad, it is Alison Kilroy at 1, far left (third from left in the re-enactment shot).  It was great fun, thanks for giving me a reason to dig out the old stuff!  Beautiful day.
I'm posting a couple of casual photos (of Lowell and I think its Jorie and Gary).  If anyone wants a higher quality version (around 1mg), pm me.
I'd be happy to ski with any of you any time!

alison


* mt_rainier_100_years_of_skiing0001_2.JPG (152.55 KB, 1000x750 - viewed 1680 times.)

* mt_rainier_100_years_of_skiing0004_2.JPG (125.95 KB, 1000x750 - viewed 1669 times.)

* mt_rainier_100_years_of_skiing0011_2.JPG (128.31 KB, 1000x750 - viewed 1649 times.)
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joriew
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Re: March 22, 2009, Turns All Century On Mt Rainier
« Reply #11 on: 03/24/09, 09:43 AM »

# 6 is the group photo is Clayton Obrien-Smith.
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Stugie
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Re: March 22, 2009, Turns All Century On Mt Rainier
« Reply #12 on: 03/24/09, 11:42 AM »

Thanks again Lowell for the great pieces of history and putting everything together! 

Thanks to everyone who was there...what a great time!That video was awesome...long live Zoom!

I'll throw up some pics when I get a chance and a link to another article covering the event.
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"The mountains are not stadiums where I satisfy my ambition to achieve, they are the cathedrals; the houses where I practice my religion." - Anatoli Boukreev
Charlie Hagedorn
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Re: March 22, 2009, Turns All Century On Mt Rainier
« Reply #13 on: 03/24/09, 01:06 PM »

...long live Zoom!

It still lives - curiosity piqued by one of Lowell's presentations, I decided to see if one could still buy it. It tastes ok, if bland, and expands significantly more than oatmeal in one's stomach. Oh for the days when cereal manufacturers would sponsor amateur backcountry skiers...
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vogtski
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Re: March 22, 2009, Turns All Century On Mt Rainier
« Reply #14 on: 03/24/09, 01:14 PM »

Kudos to all the celebrants, especially Lowell, for a memorable outing!  I loved the costumes & old gear and thought it great that participants ages spanned the range from teenage Tom to Dorothea's 78.  A good omen for the continuing Paradise ski tradition.

Hopefully, this doesn't violate the commercial postings rule,  but check out   http://www.vintageskiworld.com    before you get rid of that really old gear.  I was stunned by the prices, such as $150 for bamboo poles with leather baskets! They'll even show up with a truckload of authentic period gear for those with deep enough pockets.

How about an future commemoration of an anniversary of the 10th Mountain Division's (actually the precursor 87th Mountain Infantry Regiment) training stint at Paradise back in 1942?
« Last Edit: 03/24/09, 01:22 PM by vogtski » Logged

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Lowell_Skoog
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Re: March 22, 2009, Turns All Century On Mt Rainier
« Reply #15 on: 03/24/09, 01:43 PM »

How about an future commemoration of an anniversary of the 10th Mountain Division's (actually the precursor 87th Mountain Infantry Regiment) training stint at Paradise back in 1942?

"Oh give me skis and some poles and klister
And let me ski way up on Alta Vista.
You can take your showshoes and burn them, sister
And everywhere I go you'll hear my war whoop. "

--from the "Ballad of Sven" by the 87th Mountain Infantry glee club, 1942
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alison
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Re: March 22, 2009, Turns All Century On Mt Rainier
« Reply #16 on: 03/24/09, 06:54 PM »

The person at #10 is Geoff Cram.
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Lowell_Skoog
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Re: March 22, 2009, Turns All Century On Mt Rainier
« Reply #17 on: 03/24/09, 08:33 PM »

The person at #10 is Geoff Cram.

Thanks!

I've updated my TR and everyone in the first picture is accounted for.

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