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Author Topic: Ralph S. Eskenazi, 1913-2011  (Read 2522 times)

Posts: 2081

Ralph S. Eskenazi, 1913-2011
« on: 10/18/11, 12:25 PM »

Sigurd Hall (left), Ralph Eskenazi (center), and John James (right) enjoy skiing on Mount St. Helens in June, 1938.  Photo by Dwight Watson from Written in the Snows.

The Seattle Times carried an obituary this morning for Ralph Eskenazi, who died yesterday at age 98.  The obituary (linked below) has a nice early photo of Ralph:

Eskenazi was a longtime member of The Mountaineers and a pioneer backcountry skier in the Cascades and Olympics.  In their autobiographical books, Jim and Lou Whittaker both recalled that Ralph introduced them to ski mountaineering.  According to Jim Whittaker, Ralph (who in earlier years went by the name Sam) was a superb skier.

On Memorial Day, 1938, Ralph made the first ski ascent of North Star Mountain in the North Cascades with Dwight Watson and Sigurd Hall.

A few weeks later, Watson, Hall, Eskenazi, and John James made an early ski descent of Mount St. Helens.  Dwight Watson made a 16mm movie of that trip.  You can see an excerpt from Watson's film at the link below.  Near the start of the film, Ralph Eskenazi is shown rowing a boat across Spirit Lake.  Later, he skis down the mountain wearing a white cap:

I met Ralph Eskenazi in March 2001 when he was in his late 80s. He was one of the first people I interviewed for my Alpenglow ski mountaineering history project.  Ralph was a great guy, very friendly and generous.  He remembered with good humor how Dwight Watson encouraged him and his friends to ski roped for the movie camera on Mount St. Helens in 1938.  He was happy to know that Watson, who was a mentor to Ralph and several other early skiers, would not be forgotten.

Thanks to Dwight Watson's movies and photos, Ralph Eskenazi will also live on in the memory of Cascade backcountry skiers.  My condolences and warm regards go out to Ralph's family and friends.
« Last Edit: 10/19/11, 02:03 PM by Lowell_Skoog » Logged

Posts: 1222

Re: Ralph S. Eskenazi, 1913-2011
« Reply #1 on: 10/18/11, 04:47 PM »

Wow, I hung out with his son Danny for years (Danny used to own the vintage clothing store Dreamland in the U District), mostly talking punk rock and Hawaiian shirts. He may have mentioned once or twice that his dad was a skier but it probably didn't register . . .

Posts: 78

Re: Ralph S. Eskenazi, 1913-2011
« Reply #2 on: 10/18/11, 08:10 PM »

Lowell, that footage is amazing.  When I see these moving pictures, I wonder if Dwight Watson had any idea that these brief captured moments would carry such historical value.  The immediacy of the experience is all there: the shifts in weight, the falls, the sudden accelerations we have all been lucky enough to feel in the here and now.  It appears that in 1938, though the summit of St. Helens had a somewhat different appearance, the laws of physics were just the same.
ron j

Posts: 2602

Re: Ralph S. Eskenazi, 1913-2011
« Reply #3 on: 10/19/11, 07:18 AM »

Lowell - That is really great footage. Thanks so much for sharing it.

"When I stop having fun I'm turnin' around"
"Prediction is very difficult, especially if it's about the future." - Niels Bohr
"If a given person makes it a priority not to die in an avalanche, he or she stands a very good chance of living a long, happy life in the mountains." - Jill Fredston

Posts: 479

Re: Ralph S. Eskenazi, 1913-2011
« Reply #4 on: 10/19/11, 11:31 AM »

Really cool footage Lowell!  I enjoy the historical aspects of backcountry ski mountaineering and also enjoy your site immensly.  Thanks for posting this.

There is nothing more practical in the end than the preservation of beauty." - Theodore Roosevelt
Don Heath

Posts: 834

Re: Ralph S. Eskenazi, 1913-2011
« Reply #5 on: 10/19/11, 07:34 PM »

I sent these to a friend, Dick Schwaegler.  He remembers skiing with Ralph when he (Dick) was a young man.  Ralph was about 20 years older than Dick, but the age difference didn't matter then.  And I'm glad it doesn't matter much now, either.

The best part of summer skiing is napping on a warm rock.

Posts: 138

Re: Ralph S. Eskenazi, 1913-2011
« Reply #6 on: 10/24/11, 01:09 PM »

Lowell - thanks for all the info regarding Ralph. And it is interesting to hear of his connections to other skiers among us.
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