Alpenglow Ski Mountaineering History Project Home
Dorothy Egg - Personal Communication
Taped interview, 29 July 2002
Accompanied by Marion Hessey
At Dorothy Egg's home in Yakima, Washington
by Lowell Skoog
Getting startedDorothy Egg was born in 1910 and was 92 when we met at her home in Yakima. When she was a young girl in Walla Walla, her brother had a friend who skied. "I remember he came over to our house [on skis] one day," said Dorothy. "And they [the bindings] were just toe straps. And when he came in the house to visit my brother he left them on the snow. I think I was, oh, nine or ten years old and I went out and very carefully just stood in them. You know--wow!--that was something new and different. That inspired me to learn to ski. So I sent to Sears and Roebuck. I think I paid $3.98. Eventually the wood on the bottom just wore right down to the ridge."
Dorothy recalled that she was thirteen when she bought her first skis, in about 1923. "Yeah, that was seventy years ago," she said. "Also poles came with them. They were just bamboo, and I think the ferrules or the rings were tin. It was a pretty poor outfit. In those days, [the bindings were] just toe straps." The straps were installed through a mortise in the ski. Eventually, she improved the bindings by making heel straps using an inner tube.
"There was a place above town," she continued, "a pretty good hill. The dozen or so people--not even that many--we managed to get there and then we'd ski down the hill and then you'd carry your skis back up. Up and down, up and down. Of course, we built a little jump too. So if you got down to the bottom right-side-up you were a pretty good skier." Nobody knew how to turn.
Controlled skiingSki technique arrived the 1930s, when a little booklet describing Hannes Schneider's Arlberg technique became available. From it her friends learned about snowplowing and turning. Pete Eyraud got a copy of the booklet and became the pioneer of skiing in Walla Walla and the Blue Mountain region.
The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) built a lodge on the American River below Chinook Pass (used by Yakima skiers) and at Tollgate, near Spout Springs, in northeastern Oregon. The Tollgate area had been logged and had rather stumpy terrain. Pete Eyraud and his friends started the Blue Mountain Ski Club at Tollgate. Dorothy's first trip to Tollgate was in 1935. They parked at the end of the road where there had been a lumber mill. There was a large sawdust pile and when it was snow covered that was the steep part of their ski slope. The road was very narrow so they would sometimes wait for other skiers to arrive, then bounce the cars around so they could drive out after skiing.
They brought in an instructor from Mt Hood who gave lessons in the Buster Brown shoe store in Walla Wall on several weekday evenings. On the weekend, they went back to Tollgate and skied the sawdust pile and made turns around the stumps. That was the beginning of the Arlberg ski system in Walla Walla. Later in the 1930s, some members of their club went to Mt Baker and took lessons from Otto Lang. The Blue Mountain Ski Club took in people from Walla Walla, Pendleton, Le Grande and other towns. Pendleton put in a ski run but it was too low for reliable skiing so they joined the Walla Walla club. Their first rope tow in the 1930s was at Looking Glass Creek, where the ski run went from the road down into a canyon. It just about killed the ski patrollers hauling bodies up that hill so the next year they moved to Spout Springs, which just had a lookout tower at the time. They put in several rope tows and later a chairlift, after Dorothy had left. Spout Springs was a good family area, but didn't have enough of a hill to satisfy an avid skier, she said.
Toe irons and cable bindings came in during the 1930s. A hardware store in Walla Walla brought in some skis. Dorothy bought a car just so she could go skiing. She remembered driving to Spokane one foggy winter day to buy ski boots. Her car didn't have a defroster, so she drove with her head out the window. Before that she skied in work boots. Pete Eyraud helped get her toe-iron bindings to fit. They concocted a ski wax recipe using bees wax, pine tar and other wax and thought to sell it for $0.50 a cake. She thinks they sold one cake. Around 1937, she drove to Sun Valley and took lessons for a week, becoming a fairly solid Arlberg skier. She met Marion Hessey, 84 at the time of our meeting, through a friend who was a member of the Gold Hill Ski Club. Dorothy said she never became a good parallel skier like Marion. Chuck Hessey was self-taught.
White Pass to Goat Rocks ski trip
In late March, 1953, Chuck and Marion Hessey invited Dorothy on a ski trip from White Pass to the Goat Rocks and back, along with Tom Lyon, who was in high school at the time. The trip was something Chuck had wanted to do for several years. At the time, the White Pass ski area had just a rope tow and a crude warming hut. They carried army surplus two-person tents from the Aleutians, which had no rain fly. Dorothy and Marion shared a tent and remembered moving very carefully in the morning to avoid getting showered by hoar frost inside the tent. They carried no air mattresses, so relied on bough beds for insulation on the snow. The nights were cold, and Dorothy and Marion slept in all their clothes with their boots in their sleeping bags to keep them from freezing.
They skied from White Pass up Hogback Mountain and generally followed the Crest Trail south, camping near Tieton Pass the first night. On the second day they reached McCall Basin. They skied upper McCall Basin, which Chuck thought was one of the finest ski areas he'd ever seen. They climbed to the ridgeline between Old Snowy and Egg Butte then skied back down in perfect snow. "That was wonderful," remembered Dorothy. Dorothy recalled that they spent two days skiing in, three days in the basin, and two days skiing out. They had a couple of snowy days. They built a fire on a base of green logs and it melted into the snow deeply after several days at their basin camp. On the way out they had extra time before a friend was to pick them up at White Pass, so they played on top of Hogback Mountain for a few hours.
Dorothy made an 8mm movie of the trip, which she had transferred to videotape. (See de-1953-goatrocks.) We watched it together. Dorothy never skied at Lyman Lake with the Hesseys. She later did a memorable ski trip to the Mt Assiniboine Lodge in Canada with Hans Gmoser. Dorothy started a scrapbook in 1935 devoted to skiing in the Blue Mountains. She has considered donating it to Whitman College. We looked through the scrapbook, which has news clippings, cartoons, ephemera, and photos of Pete Eyraud and other Blue Mountain skiers. There were some good photos of Dorothy at Mt Hood and Mt Rainier in the 1930s. Dorothy was active in local ski clubs, instructing, and in organizing PNSA competitions. She is a National Ski Patrol member with NSPS number 47.
Return to the Alpenglow Ski Mountaineering History Project home page