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Robert O'Callahan - Personal Communication
Written Communication, 15 March 2002Robert O'Callahan sent me information about skiing at Mt Pilchuck, based on his own recollections and on the 1980 writeup by Goldthorpe and Berndt. This information later appeared on his website at http://www.roc-cfo.com/Pilchuck.htm.
To Lowell Skoog
The Mt Pilchuck ski area was located 34 miles east of Everett in Mt Pilchuck State Park. There were two double chairs (one above and one below the lodge) and four rope tows. The top of the upper chair was at 4,300' and the bottom of the lower chair was at 2,500'. Lift passes were $1-2 in 1958 (with one rope tow) and $3.50 in 1962-63 (with three rope tows). In 1963-64, when the upper chair opened, there was fifty-two feet of snow at the top of the lift. The lower lift, installed in 1967, was lighted for night skiing.
The area was operated in 1970-71 by Franz Gabl and Dick Mahlberg then taken over by Heather Recreation, Inc., led by Steve Richter and Joel Burke. An extensive building program added a new lodge and other facilities. In the late 1970s, problems renewing the ski area operating permit led to the area's closure on May 30, 1980.
The author mentions noteworthy people associated with the area including ski school director George Savage, instructor and eventual area operator Steve Richter, 1948 Olympic silver medalist Franz Gabl, and 10th Mountain veteran Dick Mahlberg. In the 1970s, the Pilchuck Ski Patrol was the team to beat in regional patrol competitions. Finally, the author recalls the personal challenge of skiing at this area. He went directly from Mt Pilchuck to a season at Aspen in 1972, where he won Dick Barrymore's pioneer freestyle mogul contest on the Ridge of Bell, Ajax Mountain:"With the area closed, people won't understand the challenge involved in skiing Mount Pilchuck's main chair. The forested areas and clearings on both sides of the chair were effectively off limits because of the upper chair cliff line. The cliff line was only milder at The Funnel, where skiers could generally negotiate the terrain, with that section of the run followed by a short gentler section before The Headwall cliff line and a major cross-slope ravine separating the top half from the lower half of the chair. The lower section of the main chair posed interesting problems, as the sharply-ravined slope was webbed by creek drainages. The awesome wet snowfalls, unpacked steep grades and frequent rains provided often-difficult snow surfaces. With no choice of named runs on the main chair which was free of trees in a wide swath under the chair line, the area might appear simple from a map until actually skiing it fast and non-stop. At that point the rolling, rough and constantly changing fall line presented significant challenges."
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