Alpenglow Ski Mountaineering History Project Home

Wolfgang Lert - Personal Communication

Phone conversation, 1 November 2004
by Lowell Skoog

These are preliminary notes. Wolfgang Lert was born in Germany to Austrian parents in March 1917. His family came to the U.S. in 1932. During the summer of 1933, the family planned a summer vacation to Glacier National Park. They drove from California and stopped at Mt Rainier along the way, staying at the Paradise Inn. They found eight-foot snowbanks along the road to Paradise in mid-summer. Wolfgang, his brother, and his parents fell in love with the mountain. They never got to Glacier National Park during their vacation.

Wolfgang had been skiing two or three years, so his parents hired Ben Thompson, who was Chief Guide at the time, to take him on a ski trip to Camp Muir. Thompson outfitted Lert with some ski gear from the Guide House. Wolfgang has photographs taken by Thompson of their 1933 ski tour to Camp Muir. He thought Thompson was probably in his 40's at the time. He didn't know much about Thompson's background, but he said that the following year Thompson started the A&T Ski Company to manufacture laminated skis. Later Thompson moved to the east coast where he became a political cartoonist.

During the Christmas holidays in 1933 and 1934, Wolfgang spent two-week vacations at Mt Rainier, staying in the Paradise Inn. I asked him about the "underground cabin" scene at Paradise and he was not aware of it, having been a short-term guest. He described a moonlight ski tour to Panorama Point on New Years Eve with Otis Lamson. They went skiing to get away from the party scene and the loud, drunken Norwegians.

One year, Ben Thompson and Darroch Crookes were dispatched to get a Christmas tree for the Paradise Inn. They couldn't cut a tree in the National Park (or at least not at Paradise) so they had to descend the mountain and bring a tree back up. On the return, Crookes played a trick on the bigger and stronger Thompson, who was carrying the bushy tree, slightly drunk, and unable to see very well. Crookes led Thompson repeatedly into tree wells during the hike up from Narada Falls. Thompson never caught on to the joke and arrived at Paradise completely done in. Wolfgang recalled the story of 1934 Silver Skis race (he was back in school at the time) in which Thompson collided with another skier, was knocked out, and "woke up in the snow with his teeth scattered around his head."

In 1934, while he was still in high school, Wolfgang got a summer job at Paradise working in the Guides department. He was the "telescope boy," operating the scope with which tourists watched climbers on the mountain. Wendell Trosper was his buddy that summer. He climbed the NE Face of Pinnacle and several other peaks with Trosper that summer. Later Trosper worked at A&T assembling steel ski poles. Wolfgang has photos of the Pinnacle Peak climb and also of skiing with Darroch Crookes, Paul Sceva, Jr. and others. Wolfgang graduated from high school in 1935. Despite macular degeneration which has rendered him legally blind in one eye, he still skis at age 87.

Return to the Alpenglow Ski Mountaineering History Project home page

Copyright © 2004 Lowell Skoog. All Rights Reserved.
Last Updated: Mon Nov 1 21:32:07 PST 2004