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Author Topic: Rudy Amsler, Washington's Swiss Ski Pioneer  (Read 3330 times)
Lowell_Skoog
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Rudy Amsler, Washington's Swiss Ski Pioneer
« on: 12/11/16, 07:26 PM »



Rudy Amsler at Van Trump Park in 1933.



The Mountaineers recently received an unexpected donation of a photo album created by Rudy Amsler, a Swiss immigrant who became one of Washington's earliest ski experts in the 1920s and 1930s.

According to my friend Eric Lindahl, whose family provided a room for Rudy in the 1960s, Amsler served as a Swiss border guard on the Italian frontier during World War I. He moved to Seattle after the war and joined the Mountaineers in the 1920s.  He worked as a dental assistant and later as a gardener and he lived simply.



Rudy Amsler on skis, circa 1929.



In the 1920s, Amsler joined the Mountaineers on winter trips and he was among the first Europeans to teach local skiers how to descend slopes under "ski control." Before that, as one old-time Mountaineer recalled, "We herring-boned up and ran it straight."

In January 1927, Amsler led a Mountaineer trip from the Snoqualmie Lodge toward Silver Peak.  Based on my research, this appears to have been the earliest ski tour ever scheduled as such by the Mountaineers.



On the trail between Snoqualmie Lodge and Silver Peak, circa 1933.



In February 1928, Amsler skied with five other Mountaineers (Andy Anderson, Bill Maxwell, Art Marzolf, Alex Fox, and Lars Lovseth) from Snoqualmie Lodge to Stampede Pass, where they joined a Mountaineer outing based out of shacks near the railroad tunnel.  This 18-mile trip was made prior to construction of Meany Ski Hut and it established the route later popularized by the Mountaineers Patrol Race.



Lunch stop near Baldy Pass on the Snoqualmie Pass to Stampede Pass cross-country route, circa 1934. Rudy Amsler is at far right.



In 1939, Amsler published Mountaineer Ski Guide, likely the first guidebook to backcountry skiing in Washington state. The excerpt below shows tours north and east of Snoqualmie Lodge to Denny Mountain (current site of Alpental ski area), Commonwealth Basin, and Mt Margaret.



Ski tours north and east of the Mountaineers Snoqualmie Lodge, from the 1939 Mountaineer Ski Guide by Rudy Amsler.



The page below shows a tour south from the lodge to Ollalie Meadow, Tinkham Pass, and Mirror Lake.  Note the location of potential avalanche slopes, including one called "Little Paradise," probably because of its open slopes for skiing.



Ski tour south of the Mountaineers Snoqualmie Lodge, from the 1939 Mountaineer Ski Guide by Rudy Amsler.



Amsler led tours outside the Snoqualmie Pass region as well, including the south and east sides of Mt Rainier, Chinook Pass, and less traveled sites like Corral Pass and Crystal Lake.



Skiers at the old Storbo mining cabin in Glacier Basin on the NE side of Mt Rainier, 1930. From left to right: William J Maxwell, Paul Shorrock, Norval Grigg, unknown, unknown, and Rudy Amsler.






Mountaineers ski party near Cowlitz Rocks on Mt Rainier in 1933.






"Believe it or not!"  An energetic Mountaineer demonstrates an alternative style for skiing the trees.



Amsler also played a small but important role in the birth of REI in the 1930s.  After his friend Lloyd Anderson ordered an inferior ice axe from a local sporting goods shop, Amsler told him how to order better (and cheaper) equipment direct from one of the European suppliers.  Lloyd Anderson took Amsler's advice and Recreational Equipment Co-op was soon born.



Paul Shorrock (left) and Edna (Mrs Stuart) Walsh. In 1930, Edna Walsh became the first woman to ski from the Mountaineers Snoqualmie Lodge to Meany Ski Hut, later popularized as the Patrol Race route.






Letter delivered by "U.S. Ski Mail" from the Mountaineers Snoqualmie Lodge to Rudy Amsler at Meany Ski Hut (near Martin at Stampede Pass) on December 31, 1932.  Apparently, the letter was delivered on skis by Herbert V. Strandberg ("HVS") and Arthur T. Wilson ("ATW"). (I think Amsler is being addressed as "Head Sherpa," though it appears to say "Head Shersa" instead.)



A complete PDF copy of the Amsler photo album can be found on the Mountaineers Archives website.  Look for "Amsler" on the following page:

https://mountaineers.atlassian.net/wiki/display/ARCH/Collections

Enjoy!
« Last Edit: 12/14/16, 07:22 AM by Lowell_Skoog » Logged
Charlie Hagedorn
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Re: Rudy Amsler, Washington's Swiss Ski Pioneer
« Reply #1 on: 12/11/16, 08:15 PM »

Wonderful post -- thank you, Lowell!
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sprice
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Re: Rudy Amsler, Washington's Swiss Ski Pioneer
« Reply #2 on: 12/11/16, 08:17 PM »

Nice!

I like the pictures of Rudy guiding while wearing a tie.

We really need to upgrade our sartorial kit when we go out to visit mother nature
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Lowell_Skoog
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Re: Rudy Amsler, Washington's Swiss Ski Pioneer
« Reply #3 on: 12/11/16, 08:37 PM »

I like the pictures of Rudy guiding while wearing a tie.

We really need to upgrade our sartorial kit when we go out to visit mother nature

And don't forget your pipe.
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flowing alpy
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Re: Rudy Amsler, Washington's Swiss Ski Pioneer
« Reply #4 on: 12/12/16, 06:13 AM »

And don't forget your pipe.
Word!

Thanks for the history lessons, Mr Skoog.
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vogtski
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Re: Rudy Amsler, Washington's Swiss Ski Pioneer
« Reply #5 on: 12/12/16, 06:44 AM »

Wonderful photos, Lowell; thanks for posting them!

The last shot at Cowlitz Rock shows the ice thickness of the Ingraham and Cowlitz glaciers probably double what it is these days!
« Last Edit: 12/12/16, 07:52 AM by vogtski » Logged

I feel like I'm diagonally parked in a parallel universe.
Andrew Carey
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Re: Rudy Amsler, Washington's Swiss Ski Pioneer
« Reply #6 on: 12/12/16, 09:37 AM »

Wonderful!
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... want your own private skintrack? Better move to the yukon dude. (B'ham Allen, 2011).
...USA: government of the people by corporate proxies for business.

Andy Carey, Nisqually Park, 3500 feet below Paradise
nordique
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Re: Rudy Amsler, Washington's Swiss Ski Pioneer
« Reply #7 on: 12/12/16, 02:53 PM »

So many wonderful photos and history, Lowell!  Thanks!


* Nordique.jpg (72.01 KB, 398x800 - viewed 631 times.)
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Eric Lindahl
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Re: Rudy Amsler, Washington's Swiss Ski Pioneer
« Reply #8 on: 12/12/16, 08:08 PM »

Lowell,  what an unexpected surprise.  I do not think we have any shots of Rudi from our family photos so this is some nice memorabilia.  Coincidently I was just thinking of Rudi today as I was trudging out of Crystal Lakes Basin on my first tour of the season.  I'm very out of shape and I thought of him as I used the "rest step" that he taught me many years ago.  Thanks so much for bringing this to light.  I am very curious where this trove has come from.

I'll add a few more bits of (non-ski) history.  Rudi was very quiet and unassuming.  I remember asking Wolf Bauer about him and he had the same impression.  I often wonder if Rudy's experience in WW! caused that and was the reason he moved so far way from his home.  Rudi must have left his dental lab in the 1950s as my first recollection of him was walking to and from our little town of Bellevue every day for meals or groceries.  If my parents saw him we'd often stop and offer a ride but he almost always refused, prefering to walk and be by himself.  During this time he was an expert gardener and well known and sought after for his services.  He lived in a separate apartment at the home of one of our neighbors in exchange for taking care of the garden.  That home was sold and my family offered the small home that my dad had built for our family while the main house was slowly DIY constructed.  He lived with us from the early 60's til we moved away in 1971.  He stayed on with the new owners until his heart attack and death in about 1973.   I believe he was in his mid 70's then.  Incidently the buyers of our house (Stan and Ann Ditmar, now long gone) were quite involved in the outdoors and, I think, the Mountaineers.  Stan wrote a small booklet, maybe even publshed by them, titled something like Big Trees in Seattle Parks. 

Thanks again for posting this great history .

Eric
« Last Edit: 12/12/16, 08:20 PM by Eric Lindahl » Logged

It pays to be avid
Eric Lindahl
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Re: Rudy Amsler, Washington's Swiss Ski Pioneer
« Reply #9 on: 12/12/16, 08:26 PM »

Is that rocker in Rudys skis in the pic of Van Trump Park?   
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nordique
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Re: Rudy Amsler, Washington's Swiss Ski Pioneer
« Reply #10 on: 12/12/16, 08:48 PM »

Wonderful to hear more about the skier with the tie!  But he died so young, mid-70's!  What did he die of?  I'm mid-70's too, and had my own wartime injuries in Vietnam.  Among my weekly hiking group of just over 200 hikers, I am far from the oldest, but we lost quite a few of our group this year, mostly to cancers.  Many were also longtime skiers.
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Garth_Ferber
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Re: Rudy Amsler, Washington's Swiss Ski Pioneer
« Reply #11 on: 12/13/16, 01:34 PM »

Great post. So worthwhile to learn of skiers before us.
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rlsg
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Re: Rudy Amsler, Washington's Swiss Ski Pioneer
« Reply #12 on: 12/13/16, 05:14 PM »

Wonderful post!!!  love how they were 'gettin' after it' in the earlier days...
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Griff
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Re: Rudy Amsler, Washington's Swiss Ski Pioneer
« Reply #13 on: 12/15/16, 10:49 AM »

And don't forget your pipe.

WOW, this is so awesome. Hell yes they were gettin' it. Man, how amazing so long ago with the equipment. True pioneers. I feel so soft it's ridiculous.

Thank you Lowell!!!!

And BTW - some things never change.........I never forget my pipe.
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jtack
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Re: Rudy Amsler, Washington's Swiss Ski Pioneer
« Reply #14 on: 12/15/16, 11:59 PM »

Lowell, thanks for the great post, and for keeping the Patrol Race alive, It's fun to have skied in the tracks of these Pioneers.
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Eric Lindahl
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Re: Rudy Amsler, Washington's Swiss Ski Pioneer
« Reply #15 on: 12/20/16, 10:46 AM »

I got the link to the Album to work on my wifes newer computer.  Took some time to look closely at the Crystal Lakes Basin photos, an area I'm very familar with.  Interesting to see the standing dead snags and lack of trees from an old burn, maybe 50 or so years previous to these 1936 pictures.  It will make an interesting tour this winter  to locate the places where some of these photos were taken from.
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samthaman
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Re: Rudy Amsler, Washington's Swiss Ski Pioneer
« Reply #16 on: 12/20/16, 09:44 PM »

great post Lowell, I really appreciate the history
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bbrelje
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Re: Rudy Amsler, Washington's Swiss Ski Pioneer
« Reply #17 on: 12/22/16, 12:47 PM »

Lowell, thanks for taking the time to curate this and add the historical commentary. The context really brings the photos to life, way more than the raw album scans can.
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